Project Evaluating Elderberries for Florida Production

Farmers Heather Martin and David Jarnagin have been evaluating elderberry varieties for commercial production in Florida, with funding support from a Southern SARE Producer Grant. Over three years of testing, they’ve been looking for varieties best suited to Florida’s subtropical environment in terms of productive organic cultivation, insect and disease resistance, and flower and berry quality, while producing the highest antioxidant qualities and flavorful value-added products. From the study, roughly two dozen “finalists” were identified and later refined to 12, including three exceptional candidates. Martin and Jarnagin have received a $125,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant to expand on their work and explore marketing strategies. They also intend to explore whether using the native Florida elderberry as rootstock would improve the commercial crop’s drought tolerance and disease resistance.