DRESDEN — A company producing herbal remedies from elderberries and other plants grown on 10 acres of Dresden farmland plans to open an expanded production plant at the former Ames Mill building in Richmond.

Geo Johnston, director of operations for Maine Medicinals Inc., said the company hopes to open the plant sometime this fall. The company plans to use 2,000 square feet to start, but it could eventually use the entire 5,000-square foot space in the third floor of the building along the Kennebec River that is the home of Richmond Contract Manufacturing.

Johnston and his mother Edie Johnston, president and CEO of the company, discussed the plans Monday at an event celebrating a U.S. Small Business Administration award given to their partner company, Eldertide LLC, for its research work related to the antioxidants in elderberries.

U.S. Sen. Angus King and Seth Goodall, SBA’s New England regional administrator, visited the research and development lab in the upstairs of the family’s farmhouse Monday, recognizing the companies for their growth and the 2014 Tibbetts Award.

Edie Johnston launched Maine Medicinals’ first product — anthoimmune, an organic elderberry syrup — at the 2009 Common Ground Fair in Unity. The company now has its products in all 38 Whole Foods Markets stores in the retailer’s North Atlantic Region, along with some locations in the specialty supermarket’s other eastern regions.

Maine Medicinals also distributes to natural food stores around Maine and to natural health practitioners all over the country, according to Geo Johnston, who lives in Portland.

The SBA awarded 25 Tibbetts awards this year to high-tech small businesses that have participated in or supported the federal government’s Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program.

Eldertide has received three SBIR research grants. The most recent grant that the company is finishing up allowed Eldertide to establish an elderberry growing network in Maine, Geo Johnston said.

Elderberries, often bluish-black in color, grow on shrubs that can reach 6 to 13 feet tall, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some of the 12-farm growing network will help supply Maine Medicinals and similar companies with berries, and other farms will use the berries for their own products, Geo Johnston said. Plants on the farms won’t be producing berries for two to three years, he said.

Anthoimmune, the most popular of the company’s four products, is used to support immune system health. The claims of the products haven’t been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but Edie Johnston said people using the elderberry syrup are less likely to catch viruses and less likely to feel under the weather.

“It keeps you feeling strong and healthy. That’s what it does,” she said.

An article published earlier this year in the Journal of Dietary Supplements reviewed three human trials on elderberry and found evidence for using it in the treatment of influenza, but said more research was needed.

Goodall, who took over his SBA post last year after serving as the majority leader in the Maine Senate, said he was impressed that Eldertide was the only New England business given the award this year, and that the company was based in the rural town of Dresden. He also said he was glad to see the business would be opening in the former Ames Mill in Richmond, Goodall’s hometown.

King said what he really likes about the company is it’s manufacturing products in Maine and selling them all over the country. He also said company is like other small businesses helping the economy grow by adding a few jobs each year.

The company plans to add two more full-time employees when it opens its facility in Richmond. Besides Edie and Geo Johnston, the business has one other full-time employee and three part-timers.

“The real growth in the American economy is small businesses growing one or two jobs, year by year,” King said.

The former independent governor even told Edie Johnston he would help with sales, calling any stores that don’t return the business’ phone calls. He said he does that type of promotion for Maine businesses “all the time.”

“The best thing about being a senator is people answer your calls,” King said, while talking with Johnston outside her house.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @paul_koenig

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