Pokey Creek Farm Elderberry Exploration

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $14,877.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Western
State: Idaho
Principal Investigator:
Cinda Williams
University of Idaho Extension
Ashley McFarland
University of Idaho Extension

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: berries (other)


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, youth education, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, e-commerce, market study, value added, agritourism
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public participation, employment opportunities, sustainability measures


    Pokey Creek Farm has produced organic vegetable and fruits for over thirty years in the mountains of northern Idaho. Hoop houses abound on the terraced slopes and, despite rugged terrain and harsh climates, an abundance of produce is harvested for market to farmers markets, restaurants and co-ops. Our interest in trying to cultivate and produce value-added elderberry products was a natural next step from harvesting native berries and making our own jelly. Though the project had several setbacks due to weather and poor seedling stock, two years later we now have a good start to our elderberry crop.

    Variation in growth rate was observed due to inconsistencies in soil from the amount of woody debris left after logging and also between the varieties planted. Earlier estimates on when elderberries will mature and the yields have been revised based on new research reports and our observations.

    An organized farm tour through University of Idaho Extension brought 18 farmers and students to the farm in July 2013. All attendees learned about sustainable production practices, growing in high elevation with season extension and the elderberry research project.

    Elderberry jelly has been tested and marketed successfully.

    Additional products are being researched for feasibility for value-added production and marketing potential.


    Pokey Creek Farm has produced organic produce for over thirty years and has been an exemplary model of how vegetable and fruit producers can utilize high elevation mountain terrain once perceived unusable. The farm, comprised of 24 acres of forested land, includes two acres on a southern slope. Green houses and hoop houses abound on the terraced slopes and produce an abundance of vegetables and fruits for direct marketing in local farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores and co-ops.

    We have always wanted to diversify our operation and add a value-added product. In 2009, unemployment in our county was 19.5%, timber companies had slowed production and Greg’s work as a forester was limited. The opportunity and timing were right to explore diversification and a potential value-added crop. We contacted Danny L. Barney, Professor of Horticulture with University of Idaho Extension, to discuss his research with the elderberry plant. He suggested potential cultivars and planting strategies he had developed through his work. We decided that diversification into elderberries would be an excellent choice for our operation.

    Elderberries grow wild in the mountains of north Idaho and we have harvested these berries to produce jelly and wine. Because of the potential health benefits of elderberries, we decided it would make an excellent plant to try and cultivate on our farm. Blueberries and huckleberries have been a mainstay in the local economy, but no one had explored the potential of the elderberry.

    Successful marketing of various elderberry products could generate necessary revenue local farms.

    Educational tours and workshops would showcase the elderberry production and demonstrate how people in this region can generate income off the land.

    Project objectives:

    1. *Successfully cultivate elderberries for a profitable and sustainable harvest
      *Open up our operation for tours and workshops to educate interested parties
      *Develop value-added elderberry products
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.