Andrea Coombs and her family started Vitality Elderberry Farm, in West Brome, some seven years ago after deciding to make a change to their property. Their goal was to work with a plant indigenous to the area, that wouldn’t cause destruction to the environment, and that would add something beneficial to the community. Coombs and her husband decided on elderberry and they immediately knew that they found what they had been looking for. Vitality Elderberry Farm has been reintroducing and educating locals and visitors about the unique sambucus canadensis elderberry plant, native to our region, but in time had become lost in its use. With 50 acres of land and 25,000 plants, making it one of the largest single-owned elderberry farms in Canada, a bistro overlooking the country side, and the opportunity to self-pick elderberry, Vitality Elderberry Farm has carved a niche for itself within the agricultural community.
“We decided we wanted to do something with the land and we were looking at different emerging crops and my husband was talking about sureau. “What the is sureau,” I wondered? It turns out it’s elderberry. I had it in the freezer; I was picking it wild just for culinary use.”
Filled with healthy benefits, Coombs and her family landed on their passion project. “We decided on elderberry because of its benefits. As a family, we thought this would be positive for the body, the environment, and the community. It seemed like a good solution for our piece of land.”
The North American sambucus canadensis elderberry plant is indigenous to the Eastern Townships. The fact it is sturdy and can handle the harsh winter climate, and doesn’t require irrigation, pesticide or herbicide made the choice that much easier. “It’s also a nice complement to other farms in the area, without taking away from them.”
Coombs said that elderberry was used in the past for its health benefits, and for the unique flavour it can bring to dishes. “It’s a plant that sort of got lost and we are reintroducing it to people because of its many benefits. It’s an amazing berry, good for all ages and all diets, even diabetic. The farm is a place for people to become familiar with elderberry and learn to incorporate it.”
Low in sugar but high in antioxidants, one teaspoon gives 100 percent of our daily antioxidants, high in vitamins, minerals, magnesium, iron, potassium, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, amongst various other benefits, Coombs emphasized that it’s worth giving elderberry a try, especially those who are looking for more natural remedies. “People are always surprised that it is so simple to incorporate into their diet and bring such positive results. Everybody is different, it’s about conscious consumption, getting to know yourself, and what works for you.”
Vitality Elderberry Farm works the farm from start to finish with the help of extended family and a small staff. “We do everything here. We did the planting in the larger fields with our own cuttings, we do our transformations in our own factory. We have our own little processing factory where we do our processing and bottling, so all of our products are farm to table. We do lemonades, elderflower honey, jellies. We take the time with our clients to explain the berry so it’s a bit of an educational curve.
Vitality Elderberry Farm has three harvests a year. “We harvest the elder flowers, we harvest of some of the green berries, and we have a large harvest of our ripe fruit, which is where we do the majority of our work with and what we our most passionate about.”
A part of their project is their boutique and bistro housed in a former barn they on the property. “When we opened our boutique, people were so memorized with our vie they wanted to stay a while, so we started our bistro. Our bistro fare is from our garden to the table so it is a small menu. People can come eat with us and have cocktails made from elderberry and elderflower.”
Visitors are also provided the opportunity to pick their own elderberry usually until the end of august. They can freeze it and use it in their own culinary creations.”
Coombs described the project as giving the farm “a second breath of life” and providing something important to the community. “It was originally a cattle farm so it’s given the farm a new direction. It’s also a new addition to the community that isn’t taking away from anybody else but adding to what the community offers. We are big supporters of other businesses and agro-buisnesses. We love being a part of the community and sharing the community experience with other people that
Their goal is to continue to put elderberry back on the map.