Upon crossing over the meandering Cedar Creek south of Ashland, you come to a family farm where wild birds are welcomed to eat elderberries at their leisure, milkweed is preserved for roaming monarch butterflies and the abundance of Missouri wildlife is diverse and abundant at every turn.
Along the gravel driveway to John Uhlig and his wife Heather’s elderberry farm and tasting room, bluebird birdhouses speckle every other fence post with care. The drive to the hand-built tasting room feels more like a nature preserve than a production facility. After tasting each of their elderberry products, it’s clear, the same care and consideration for preserving nature on their farm goes into every hand-made bottle of Elderblossom View’s offerings.
Like a phoenix, elderberry bushes are cut back to the ground each year to make way for a new spring crop. Being that the bushes are perennials, after a good amount of fertilizer is laid, the elderberry bushes come back thicker and healthier than the previous year. In just one season, the elderberry bushes can grow to a towering six to seven feet. According to John, “We sustainably grow around 5 acres of elderberry, which include 6 different varietals. We hand pick all of our berries and do all of our processing on our farm in a facility we constructed for that purpose.”
The 5 acres of elderberry bushes are harvested with the help of 12 spunky and hardworking Ashland FFA students. Anything lower than three feet of the bush is harvested in June for the elderflowers, which are transformed into elderflower nectar. Elderflowers are dried, de-stemmed and made into an extract which they use in a variety of ways. The elderflower nectar is a syrup used for flavoring.
The remaining flowers produce elderberries which are harvested in August using wagons and busy hands on both sides of the elderberry rows. Having picked 700 foot rows of elderberries in one day, the students are able to harvest approximately 1,500 pounds. After the berries have been picked they are, “De-stemmed, washed and frozen as not all berries ripen at the same time. Harvest takes around a month. The berries are thawed and pressed while still cold and the juice is processed into our products. Our juice is made from the pressed elderberries and is thermally pasteurized making a shelf stable product. Our relief’s are made from the juice and we add honey, cinnamon, clove, and elderflower to both relief’s, and add ginger to the relief with ginger. Both relief’s are thermally pasteurized and shelf stable.” The entire bottling process is also conducted by hand.
With the help of family members and several influential friends, Elderblossom View was born in 2012 and began selling at the Columbia Farmers Market in June of 2019. Heather is in awe of the success they’ve experienced at the market, “The farmers market has exceeded our expectations. It’s transforming how we can live the last phase of our active life in a way that allows us to engage with other like minded people. John adds, “We like the personal interaction with the people at the farmers market. We have met a lot of great people at the market, clients, vendors, and market staff have made going to the market enjoyable and we look forward to going. The new facility is amazing and we are proud to be a small part of the venture.”
There’s not much you can find on the farm that John and Heather haven’t engineered or built for the purposes of making elderberry juice, nectar or elderberry wines, “We enjoy working for ourselves and creating new products. We believe in our products and are always trying to improve them, which gives our lives a purpose and makes each day a challenge. I feel having a challenge in life keeps you going and makes life worthwhile. We value cultivating something that is healthy for ourselves and the environment. The birds are also quite happy we planted elderberry! We are planning to be certified organic soon and have not used insecticides or herbicides this last growing season.”
The challenge of growing elderberries not only provides food and shelter for migratory birds and wildlife on their property, but the land also feeds their thirst for knowledge and new projects. With only four of their products being sold at the market, which include elderberry juice, elderberry nectar, elderberry relief, and relief with ginger, they are anxious to invite folks to the farm to enjoy their full array of products. “We are excited to showcase our elderberry wine vinegar for shrubs in cocktails and for market customers to taste our dry and semi-dry elderberry wines.”
On the horizon, you can count on meads and ciders to be featured at Elderrblossom View’s tasting room and a full-service bar. John and Heather are inspired to reach new horizons and continue growing their business, “We are a licensed winery producing elderberry wine, focusing on full-bodied dry and semi-dry wine. We are looking into ways to make our products available locally.”
John and Heather invite you to enjoy their little slice of heaven every Sunday, starting in October, from 2:00pm to 4:00pm and by appointment only. You can also find their products at the farmers market every Saturday morning. Feel free to contact them at their website to make an appointment to visit the tasting room: ElderBlossomview.com