Saturday, we took a short road trip over to Salem, Iowa to check out an elderberry farm.
The delightful young man who showed us around the place is Kurt Garretson. After traveling a bit and working on an organic farm, Kurt came home 3 years ago to work on and eventually take over the family farm. He introduced us to his proud parents, Joel and Marlene, as well as a few cousins who were getting things ready for a wedding in a couple of weeks.
East Grove Farms is the oldest continuously owned and farmed family farm in Iowa. Kurt's great-great-great grandparents (Hope I have the correct # of greats there!) settled there in 1837. Wow!
Only a few of the 900 acres are currently in elderberry production, but they have ambitious plans to put many more acres in and to transition to an all organic farm in the years to come.
These are some of the elderberry cuttings that Kurt has potted to take to farmer's markets, but he says he never pots or even roots the cuttings that he plants on his ground. He just cuts them and puts them back in the ground, usually in the same week in February.
He showed us two ways that he has tried planting the rows. This row was covered with cardboard and wood chips.
This row was covered with plastic, then holes were cut in the plastic where the elderberry cuttings placed.
Here's a close up view of that. Kurt says the elderberries do much better with the plastic than the cardboard and eventually the plastic degrades.
Then in February, they cut the previous year's canes down and use those cuttings to plant the new rows.
The machine uses this tine to punch a hole in the plastic. Then a it fills the whole with water.
Two people sit on the back and stick the cuttings in the holes as they ride along.
Grampa Tom asked all kinds of questions about elderberry varieties, fertilizers, what kind of ground is best, etc. Kurt was very knowledgeable and I think Grampa Tom feels confident he can do this so we are hoping to put in a few rows next year.
Then Kurt showed us the old family home that they are turning into a winery. This was Kurt's great-great grandmother's home. He showed us the upstairs which is extremely rough. I probably should have gotten some pictures to show just how much work they have done, but I'll just tell you, they've worked some miracles here!
This is the kitchen.
The wine tasting room.
And the party room. His cousin is planning to get married on the front porch of this home in a couple of weeks. Isn't it a beautiful place for a wedding? They will be renting it out for events soon.
If you'd like to know more about elderberries or you are interesting in having an event at the farm, contact Kurt at: http://www.eastgrovefarms.com/East_Grove_Farms/Welcome_Home_Page.html
God Bless You All!