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Stark Bro’s Nurseries turns 200

Posted on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at 11:05 am

On January 4, 2016, the oldest fruit-tree nursery in the world began celebrating its 200th year in business. How do you like them apples?
Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co., founded in 1816, is best known for introducing Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples.
According to Stark Bro’s Chief Production Officer Elmer Kidd, those varieties still account for 40% of all apple sales, worldwide.
“It is a significant milestone for a company to survive just one century- to reach 200 years in business is almost unheard of,” said Ken Lane, Chief Marketing Officer. “We’re extremely proud of this achievement, and we plan to celebrate by sharing our heritage with our local community as well as our customers, vendors, and friends across the country.”
Lane said the company is lining up a series of events and activities for the big 2016 anniversary, most of which will be open to the public. Among the main attractions will be an extended version of Customer Appreciation Days in April, an annual event that draws shoppers from the entire region.
A Once-Every-Two-Centuries sale, along with a huge employee jubilee, will be held at the end of September. Details will be revealed in the coming months.
Bargain-hunters will be the beneficiaries of other goodies as well. “Our catalog and retail customers will see some ‘antique’ pricing of $18.16 on many items,” said Lane.
In conjunction with the anniversary, IngramSpark has published a history of the business and the six generations of Starks who have run it, up to the present day.
“200 Years and Growing: The Story of Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co.” is a definitive history of an important family,” said Ron Stewart, a Revolutionary War historian based in Virginia. “To read about the trials and tribulations of the business- and the brothers themselves-  is to get an education in perseverance, resilience, and the American spirit.”
And in response to the perennial customer question of “What can I do with all of this fruit?” local chef/author Karen Mitcham-Stoeckley has written a fruit-only cookbook, “Fabulous Fruits: Recipes for every season.” Both books are available on the StarkBros.com website.
Co-owner Cameron Brown boils down the longevity of the company to one thing: the employees. “For their unrivaled dedication over these many, many years, there is no adequate adjective to express my appreciation.”
About Stark Bro’s
Nurseries & Orchards Co.
The Missouri-based nursery was founded in 1816 by James Hart Stark, a young Kentucky pioneer who homesteaded on the shores of the Mississippi, about 70 miles north of St. Louis.
Stark brought with him a bundle of apple-tree scions, which he planted in the area that would become Louisiana, Missouri. Descendants of the original Stark family owned and operated the business until 1994, when they sold it to Foster & Gallagher, Inc., a large mail-order corporation. Less than a decade later, Foster & Gallagher filed for bankruptcy. On the now-historic morning of September 11, 2001, Stark Bro’s was sold at auction to Cameron Brown and Tim Abair, the current owners.
Today, Stark Bro’s offers more than 150 varieties of fruit, nut and shade trees, and other garden plants. The company mails out three million catalogs each year to home gardeners, and ships more than one million trees and plants to consumers and commercial orchardists nationwide.
Stark Bro’s corporate offices are still located in Louisiana, Missouri, along with its retail Garden Center, warehouses, greenhouses and main test orchards.
Nursery stock is also grown across the Mississippi River in Illinois.