by Bethany Snyder, with Dawn Larson
When Kelly Lane and Dawn Larson purchased their nearly 40-acre farm in Bloomfield, New York, it was with the intention of giving their horses – former foxhunters who had been living at a boarding facility – a permanent home. Over the course of the next nine years, that home evolved into a business called Elsewhere Farms.
The partners started off simple, with a vegetable garden, fruit trees and perennials, and then – as Larson and Lane became interested in natural health, wellness and herbalism – shifted to growing plants that can be used for food and wellness. “Foraging on the land and learning about the plants we discovered was eye-opening,” Larson says. “We learned about regenerative agriculture as we explored our land and considered what we wanted to do as stewards of it.”
While incorporating permaculture and regenerative agriculture practices on the farm, Lane and Larson added medicinal plants and pollinator-friendly flowers, shrubs and trees. And central to Elsewhere Farms is the elderberry orchard. American elder, or Sambucus canadensis, is native to the area and can be found in roadside ditches and near streams and creeks. Elderberries like water and spread fairly easily. They are easy to spot in June and July, when their white flowers are blooming, and again in August and September, when tiny berries form.
Why elderberries? “Wellness is an important aspect of why we farm,” explains Lane. Elderflowers and elderberries can be used as food, and are well known for boosting the immune system. They are used in over-the-counter supplements and made into syrup and gummies for daily use.
The vast majority of elderflowers and elderberries used commercially are grown in Europe, and American makers are clamoring for American-grown elders. The demand is much higher than what’s available; only 2000 acres are currently in production in the United States, compared to about 25,000 acres in Europe. “The need is there, we enjoy growing plants that can be used to promote wellness and we have available land,” Larson says. “So why not elderberries!”
Elsewhere Farms prides itself on being a chemical-free operation. “Starting our farm was about respect for the land on which we live, the desire to grow chemical-free food and wanting to share local food and wellness products with others,” Lane explains. They added skincare products to the mix thanks to Larson’s 20 years’ experience making natural soaps, and now sell balms, salves, soaps and other skin care products made with all-natural ingredients and infused with oils from farm-grown herbs and flowers.
Even the horses are in on the regenerative agriculture practices of the farm. “The boys eat chemical-free hay grown here,” says Larson, “and we use their manure waste hay and bedding to make compost, thus recycling and reducing our waste stream.”
What does the future hold for Elsewhere Farms? Larson is now a Master Gardener, thanks to Ontario County Cornell Cooperative Extension, and hopes to continue learning – and passing her knowledge along to others. “We have our sights on opening the farm to agritourism, too,” says Lane.
For now, the elderberry orchard continues to grow under the watchful eyes of George and Hawthorne, munching their hay at their forever home.
For more information, visit elsewherefarms.com.