The cold and flu season is around the corner and I’m trying my best to avoid catching either one. In addition to getting my flu shot a few weeks ago, I regularly take Vitamin C and try to eat healthy. Another item that I’ve added to my morning routine is drinking one tablespoon of Carmel Berry Company’s fresh-pressed elderberry syrup.
Did you know that communities around the world have used the elderberry for its potent nutritional benefits and traditional immune support? The elderberry is a nutrient-dense food that contains more polyphenols with antioxidant activity than the blueberry! What’s great about Carmel Berry Company’s elderberry products is that they are always freshly pressed and certified organic, unlike some companies that use dried and imported berries.
I’m the type of person who likes to build up my immunity with a mix of traditional methods (flu shot, eating healthy, staying active), combined with a holistic approach (taking Zinc, drinking elderberry syrup, etc.). I’m hoping that with these efforts, I can avoid the flu and colds that afflict so many during the winter season.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Katie Reneker, the founder of Carmel Berry Company. I was intrigued by this woman-owned, WBEC-certified and farmer-focused business and wanted to learn more about what inspired her to build this company.
How/why did you begin your business?
Katie: Preschool germs are where it all began! I learned of the mighty elderberry when seeking natural ways to keep my family healthy in the face of the plethora of germs coming home from school. Yet all the elderberry syrups from the health food store we tried either tasted awful, used imported berries, or contained thickeners and other preservatives and ALWAYS had “water” as the first ingredient. Upon learning that native elderberries grow literally all around our Carmel Valley community, I jumped right in fresh-pressing local berries picked at friends’ houses and WOW, what a difference in flavor! No longer did we feel like we had to choke down medicine, this fresh-pressed version was delicious! I realized no one else was creating elderberry syrup with fresh elderberries and Carmel Berry Company was born.
I think it’s great that you source directly from a network of organic farmers. Was this readily available or did you have to work with the farming community to get elderberries grown?
Katie: Well over 95% of elderberry goods sold in the US are imported, or use dried, imported berries. When I decided I wanted to bring our fresh-pressed elderberry goods to market, I could not find a single commercial elderberry grower in all of California! It grows wild here but isn’t farmed. I found a strong network of elderberry growers in the Midwest but also wanted to build a supply chain of my own out here in the West.
So, I partnered with a local farmer and we put in 3 acres of our own here in the Salinas Valley! Since then, I’ve developed strong relationships with established farmers and university researchers throughout the US. I’ve implemented my own mentorship and grant programs to help get new growers going. Over the last three years I’ve given over $12k in grants, equipment trials, conference scholarships, and online workshops to over 300 participants. This work with farmers is so rewarding and I now have a robust supply chain without importing a single berry or flower!
What is one tip or piece of advice that you would give to other female entrepreneurs?
Katie: Support each other! We are all stronger when we lift each other up. Look into getting certified as a women-owned business, as this opens so many opportunities for business support.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you began your business, what would that be?
Katie: When you own your own business, you wear SO many hats. It’s perfectly ok to not be good at everything, to give yourself grace to not ace every aspect of the business. It’s a long game!
Carmel Berry Company sells a variety of elderberry goods, from syrup to balsamic vinegar, teas and preserves. These items would make a great hostess gift for an upcoming party or to enjoy on your own.
Disclosure: No monetary compensation was received for this post. I received complimentary syrups which helped facilitate this review. All images are my own unless otherwise noted. As always, my opinions are 100% my own.