John and Lucy Buehler began homesteading their land in Mt. Vernon, MO, in 1899. Buehler Farm remained virtually unchanged for four generations, raising row crops and dairy cattle until 2007.

That is when David Buehler and his wife Ann made some major changes. They realized that continuing row crop and dairy farming as the family had been for years was not propelling them forward, nor did they feel that their farm would last for another generation.

“In 2007 things went from bad to worse,” said David. “The recession hit and corn suddenly bottomed out, creating a financial hardship on the farm.”

The Buehlers made the decision to sell the dairy herd, but David did not want to leave the farming life that he knew and loved. He began to research other crops and farming opportunities.

David began to consider elderberries. When asked why he chose that particular plant, David explained that he researched crops that were regenerative and good for both the environment and people.

“Elderberry is native to the North American continent and is a hardy and prolific shrub,” he said. “It has been used by both Europeans and Native Americans as a remedy for illness, due to its antiviral, anti-inflammatory and highly antioxidant properties. It is sustainable, environmentally sound, regenerative and produces a number of products good for a person’s well-being.”

American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a perennial deciduous shrub that is hardy and can thrive under harsh conditions. They also grow other therapeutic crops such as cannabis (hemp).

The Buehlers created Elder Farms, which they run alongside Buehler Farm (now Buehler Organics), to market their value-added products. Both businesses are based out of David’s parents’ farmhouse, which has been converted into an office and warehouse.

The Buehlers started with a planting of select varieties of elderberry on 10 acres. At the time, less than 800 acres of American elderberry were being grown in the U.S., whereas in Europe farmers were growing over 30,000 acres.

Dave Duncan (front), farm hand, does everything from planting elderberry fields to carpentry and repairs to running the tractor – and anything in between. Photo courtesy of Elder Farms

“Europeans were centuries ahead of Americans in the elderberry game,” David pointed out. “They had research, production, marketing and products dialed in. Americans had been importing European elderberries for years.”

As luck would have it, the University of Missouri’s agricultural research farm was located just three miles away. David was able to get valuable help and advice from Andy Thomas and Patrick Byers, who had already been working to encourage the development of elderberry in the Ozarks as a viable and sustainable farm commodity.

“At Elder Farms, we strive to produce plant-based wellness products of the highest quality to empower health and growth,” said David. “With a deeply held belief that everything on this earth has a purpose, and that we are all connected, our commitment to environmental sustainability ensures that our farming and business practices keep people and the environment as our primary focus.”

Between the two companies, David and Ann currently employ two full-time and five part-time employees. They now farm over 60 acres of elderberries. David and his crew travel across the four-corner region of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma providing custom plantings to help others begin raising American elderberries.

The Buehlers also offer farm tours to help educate potential farmers and anyone interested in learning more about American elderberries. David dedicates a portion of every year to attending conferences and teaching classes on the growing, producing and selling of the crop.

Elder Farm’s products are made at a production facility located on-site. This facility is state certified and inspected on a regular basis to ensure they are producing the highest quality of wellness products for their customers.

The current product line includes elderberry immune syrup and immune shots, wellness syrup and shots, Herbal ReLeaf salve (available with CBD or CBG), elderflower honey, elderflower hemp honey, natural hemp extract CBD oil, dried American elderberries and dried elderberry powder.

In 2023, Elder Farms released its line of spa products. These offerings include pain relief cream, pain relief roll-on, elderflower bath soak, face soap, lip balm, face serum and face lotion and an elderberry blend tea.

According to David, “Our number one seller is our elderberry immune syrup, but our pain relief cream and elderflower infused facial soap, face lotion and face serum are quickly becoming favorites.”

The staff at Elder Farm is currently working on ways to incorporate American elderberry into foods as both a nutritional additive and a natural dye. Also in development are more natural skin and body care products using the inherent antioxidant properties in the American elderflower and elder leaf.

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by Enrico Villamaino