Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. Celebrates 200th Anniversary

This Stark Bros Catalog is from 1923.
This Stark Bros Catalog is from 1923.

This growing season marked the 200th anniversary for Stark Bro’s Nurseries & Orchards Co. in Louisiana, MO. Stark Bro’s 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.

The Missouri-based nursery was founded in 1816 by James Hart Stark, a young Kentucky pioneer who homesteaded on shores of the Mississippi, about 90 miles north of St. Louis, MO. Stark brought with him a bundle of apple-tree scions, which he grafted and planted in the area that would become Louisiana, MO. 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 morning of Sept. 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, shade trees and other garden plants. The company mails out 2 million catalogs each year to home gardeners, and ships more than 1 million trees and plants to consumers and commercial orchardists nationwide.

Stark Bro’s corporate offices are still located in Louisiana, MO, along with its retail Garden Center, warehouses, greenhouses, and main test orchards. Nursery stock is also grown across the Mississippi River in Illinois.

“It is a significant milestone for a company to survive just one century — to reach 200 years in business is almost unheard of,” says 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.”

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,” says 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.”

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.”

 

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