Production and Value-Added Processing of Cultivated and Wild-Harvested Elderberries in West Virginia

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2021: $29,700.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2024
Grant Recipient: West Virginia University
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Lewis Jett
West Virginia University

Information Products


  • Fruits: berries (other)


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

       Elderberries (Sambucus canadensis L.)  are native to Appalachia and are a potential, non-timber forest crop for small farms and landowners in West Virginia. The demand for elderberry products continues to increase, and the majority of elderberries consumed in the U.S. are imported.  Despite the strong market demand, there has been very little evaluation of elderberries as a commercial horticulture crop in Central Appalachia. There are numerous wild plantings of elderberries across West Virginia  which could serve as a supply for wild-harvested elderberry products.  In addition, evaluation of  cultivated elderberry varieties has not been done in West Virginia.  Increasing elderberry supply from either cultivated or wild-harvested from private lands would prevent overharvesting on public land areas in West Virginia.  Elderberries are processed to add value to the final consumer product.  Partnering with a new farmer and food entrepreneur, Chris Yura, WVU Extension will evaluate organic and conventional cultivated elderberry production for marketable yield, quality and profitability.  WVU Extension will identify landowners in a 9-county region with native planting of elderberries to create a wild-harvest elderberry supply chain for value-added elderberry products sold under the West Virginia Harvest brand founded by  Chris Yura.  The production goal will be to source at least 1000 pounds of wild-harvested elderberries per year.  An economic analysis of organic and conventional cultivated elderberry production and wild-harvested production will be conducted.  Workshops, tours and educational classes combined with fact sheets and multimedia, educational tools will provide information to small farms wishing to produce and market elderberries.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This SARE Partnership Project will increase knowledge and skills related to elderberry as a cultivated and wild-harvested non-timber forest crop for small farms in West Virginia.  This will be accomplished by:

    1. Establishing a replicated cultivar trial at two locations in West Virginia which will evaluate cultivated (i.e., tame), commercial elderberry cultivars as well as wild-harvested, native plant germplasm with promising horticulture traits.
    2. Evaluating organic and conventional production of cultivated elderberries.
    3. Creating a sustainable supply chain of wild-harvested elderberries that can be replicated in other regions across West Virginia.
    4. Evaluating the economics of (organic- and conventional-grown) cultivated and wild-harvested elderberries in West Virginia.
    5. Expanding the knowledge of landowners and small farmers on elderberry production, value-added processing and marketing as a commercial crop.


    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.