MUSKOGEE COUNTY, Okla. — Brent Madding is spending his retirement years building a business based on elderberries.
"What we have growing here is a species of elderberry called American Black Elder -- Sambucus Canadensis."
Raised in southern Muskogee County, Brent left this part of the state when he turned 18.
"In 1976 I lit out in a dead run to get away from all of this," Brent says.
However, 11 years ago he got the itch to come back to the land that's been in his family for generations.
"That means my life came full circle," he says. "360 degrees."
Brent and his wife Valerie now run 360 Farms focusing on the benefits of elderberries. Used for centuries in Europe but forgotten here in the U.S. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, called elderberries "nature's medicine cabinet."
"(They're) extremely high in vitamins and minerals, but the main thing that a lot of people are looking for is the levels of antioxidants," Brent says.
Brent said some of the best are native to Oklahoma.
"The genetic diversity of elderberries in Oklahoma is tremendous," he says. "We have some of the best varieties that exist here in nature."
360 Farms makes and sells teas, tonics, vinegars, soap and skin care products in a rural store outside of Webbers Falls and online. All of the products are based on elderberry and elderflower which Valerie says is good for the skin.
"I had grown up with my grandmother using different plants as remedies for things that might come about with us kids," she says.
Three years ago, they expanded and launched The Elderberry Wine Company -- their biggest venture yet.
"We have elderflower wine, elderberry wine, then we have a sweet rosé that is a combination of both elderberry and elderflower," Valerie says
The three different wines have three different tastes.
"[The elderberry wine is] something between a port and a cabernet," she says.
"The rosé is really fruity and nice."
There's also the Elderflower wine.
"You have to say it's kind of like a dessert wine. It's really super sweet," she says.
Even though 360 Farms uses other local farmers to help them grow elderberries, limited availability and resources restrict capacity to about 600 cases of wine a year.
"[I'm often asked] what do you use for harvesting equipment? And my response always this - my left hand and my right hand," Brent said.
It's lots of work, but these two Oklahomans living their dreams in rural Muskogee County are Positively Oklahoma.
"I started this with the idea of it being my retirement," Brent said. "And I've never worked so hard in all my life!"