WEBBERS FALLS, OKLAHOMA — As a little kid roaming these pastures south of town, Brent Madding must have skipped past hundreds of Elderberry plants growing wild.
“Normally you’ll find them along tree lines, old fence lines, or old road beds,” he says.
As a grown man, he’s still learning just how valuable they can be as a cash crop.
“This is a variety discovered right here in Muskogee County,” he says holding a big cluster of blooming, white flowers. “It’s just grown phenomenally.”
It’s been 8 years since he moved back close to home looking for something healthy to grow.
Madding continues, “We were interested in growing some type of super food here.”
He almost chose blueberries but switched course when he found out that a whole bunch of the commercial elderberry varieties came from eastern Oklahoma in the first place.
“The genetics of the Oklahoma varieties were at the top of the list,” he says, “So it just kind of snowballed from there.”
He’s got 14 different varieties growing now, no pesticides or herbicides needed.
Brent and his wife Valerie operate a greenhouse nursery.
Their aquaponic system grows elderberries and some other herbs from seed.
“These are elderberry cuttings that are in propagation,” says Brent in the greenhouse.
They ship small plants all over the country.
Valerie Madding points out, “I think the hardest thing we’re doing right now is choosing where to focus.”
They also pick the flowers and dry them in a special room in the barn.
Those dried buds make soap, skin care products, and lots of tea.
Elderberries are elder flowers are high in vitamin C and anti-oxidants.
Valerie continues, “We’ve discovered that the teas do a really good job of providing all the health benefits that people are wanting.”
The berries might be good too, but Brent isn’t waiting for them to come on this year.
He’s picking flowers as soon as the rain stops.
He’s shipping young plants, and 360 Farms is as busy as they can be in the old cotton patches and cow pastures along the Arkansas River.
360 Farms is also open for tours.
For more information go to www.360OKFarms.com
or on Facebook at 360 Farms.