Whether you’re looking for a shade plant to protect your yard, a place for butterflies to thrive or a food and medicine source, elderberry is a versatile shrub that’s easy to grow. These shrubs perform well in most climates and require little maintenance, so they’re the ideal choice for any gardener.
Early Life and Education
John elderberry grew up in a small historic Mississippi River hamlet called Hartsburg, Missouri. He earned his bachelor of science degree in agriculture from Missouri State University and then began working at Eridu Farm, a pioneering organic farm in the area. He was an ardent advocate of educating consumers about the benefits of organic agriculture and helping to develop a new market for elderberries in the United States.
With a commitment to developing a new industry from the ground up, Durham founded River Hills Elderberry Producers (RHEP), the first dedicated grower-supported elderberry collective in the country. RHEP would work to recruit, educate and develop new independent growers and co-ops across the United States to expand the elderberry market. This was a challenging task given the fact that there was no existing elderberry market in the United States.
Durham’s journey began in 1978 in the tiny historic Mississippi River hamlet of Hartsburg, Missouri, where he grew organic vegetables at Eridu Farm. He was drawn to the organic movement as a means of improving the quality of life of farmers and their families, while also promoting conservation of resources. In the years that followed, Durham established himself as an industry leader in his field. During this time, he helped to develop a brand-new elderberry market in the United States.
In addition to his work with Eridu Farm, Durham founded Elderberry Farms in 2002. The business specializes in the cultivation of elderberry, a unique edible flowering plant that grows only in a few select places in the United States. The company’s mission is to “rewild” the elderberry plant by introducing the crop to an entirely new market and promoting the benefits of the fruit.
Achievements and Honors
John elderberry has received several awards for his work. He has also been recognized for his leadership in the development of the Elderberry Improvement Project. This project has involved the State Fruit Experiment Station (SFES) at Southwest Missouri State University, Andrew Thomas of the University of Missouri–SWREC, and Patrick Byers.
The project is dedicated to improving the performance of the native and European elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.). The project aims to identify superior germplasm and cultivars, and also perform cultural studies.
The project was launched in 2003 with ten selections and two commercial cultivars (‘Adams 2’ and ‘Johns’) planted at Mt. Vernon and Mountain Grove in southwest Missouri and Corvallis, Oregon (Byers and Thomas, 2005). Later plantings include six selections and three commercial cultivars (‘York’, ‘Wyldewood’, and ‘Bob Gordon’) at Mt. Vernon, Mountain Grove and Lincoln University in Missouri.
John Elderberry is a husband and father of three children. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his family, especially when hunting for elderberries, and is passionate about his craft of wood turning. He has been turning wood since he was 12 years old and has spent the past 15 years mastering his craft.
In addition to working on his craft, John spends a lot of time helping people in his community, and is particularly involved with an organization called The Refuge, which provides free discipleship to men and women who are struggling with drug addiction. A portion of all sales from Spoonful of Elderberry goes directly to The Refuge to help them with their mission. They also work with several other organizations that support families.
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