Elderflowers and elderberries are particularly promising crops for our farm and our region. Both the flowers and the berries have value as retail products. The delicate white flowers can be sold fresh for cordials and, when dried, can be ingredients in infusions and teas. Elderberries are valued in syrups and juices because they are high in antioxidants.
For our commercial efforts, we focus on the harvest of flowers instead of berries in hopes that this can reduce the habitat for Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) -- a small fruit fly that is quickly becoming a major pest species in Minnesota. We are testing innovative and low-cost equipment to dry flowers that adds value to our farm products and strengthens our local food system by offering neighboring farms an opportunity to use the equipment.
Over 5,000 hazelnut trees call Sharing Our Roots home. Neo-hybrid hazelnuts (European crossed with North American), like those at the farm, are closely related to the native hazelnut species present in the Upper Midwest. As a native species, hazelnuts are winter-hardy and also tolerate drought well. Hazelnuts have tremendous potential to provide nuts and oil from a plant that is native to the Midwest
In addition, we are evaluating the economic and nutritional viability of hazelnuts and comfrey as soy alternatives in free-range poultry feed. There is a growing urgency for soy-free poultry feeds as consumer demand shifts away from traditionally raised and fed poultry products. Hazelnuts, as perennial and deep-rooted plants, offer a sustainable and regenerative solution that builds soil while producing a high-value product.
Botanicals and more
Other cash crops on Sharing Our Roots Farm include small grains and beans, botanicals, garlic, asparagus and small plots of vegetables for seed. Small grains have been helpful for transitioning the land from conventional agriculture to our diversified perennial system. Winter wheat, for example, is a great multipurpose crop that can be used as a cover crop, grazed, combined for grain and/or baled for straw mulch and bedding.
Asparagus is a high value perennial vegetable crop that is harvested early in the growing season, while garlic is our annual cash crop that is harvested late in the growing season. We grow high-yielding food and seed grade garlic for local consumers and growers.
Native and cultivated botanicals are a new endeavor on our farm. We have conducted trials on several different botanicals known for their medicinal qualities, such as calendula and echinacea. We are developing on-farm drying capacity to scale our botanical production.