People come from around the country to visit Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards Co., which is now the world's oldest fruit-tree nursery. People want to see what's behind the famous catalog that arrives in their mailbox each spring and fall, and now that the company will be celebrating 200 years in business, it will be a significant attraction.
Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards Co. is located in rural Louisiana, MO, about a mile from the Mississippi River. The corporate headquarters, warehouse buildings, the retail Garden Center and the orchards themselves - are all set on rolling hills in a beautiful, pastoral landscape. Here you will also find the famous Stark Bear Barn and the historic James Hart Stark cabin.
The Garden Center sells an enormous variety of fruit and nut trees, shade trees, ornamentals, berry plants, and garden tools and supplies. In season, there are baskets of fresh fruit from the vast orchards nearby. The staff is Missouri-friendly and very knowledgeable about the nursery stock; they will tell you all you need to know to grow your tree or plant with success.
Spring, Summer and Fall
Locally or Family-Owned Business Notes
Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards Co. has been in business for 200 years.The company is currently celebrating its Bicentennial Anniversary with a full schedule of grand events. It is the oldest business in the state and is the world's oldest fruit-tree nursery.
It was near sundown on October 10th, 1816, when the band of 20 pioneers, bone-weary after days of travel in wagons and on horseback, crossed the Mississippi River at a point where the town of Louisiana is now situated. They hastily made camp at the spot James had chosen a year before. On this trip, James had stuffed his saddlebags with bundles of Jeniton apple scions from his father’s Kentucky orchard.
Little did James imagine how important those scions would become — not just to him, but to future generations of the Stark family, and to the whole world of horticulture. When grafted to wild crab apple trees, those scions would grow some of the first cultivated fruit west of the Mississippi, and eventually grow into an international dynasty of forward-thinking nurserymen.
Many people don't know that Stark Bro's is responsible for discovering both the Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples, grocery-store favorites around the world. In 1893, when the Delicious apple first appeared, it drew the attention of "The Wizard of Horticulture," Luther Burbank, a luminary of his time and probably the world's greatest plant-breeder. He bred the common Russet potato and Santa Rosa plum, along with the Shasta Daisy and hundreds of other fruits, edible plants and flowers. Luther admired what the Starks were doing, and they formed a "fruitful" partnership that lasted until Luther passed away in April of 1926.
Upon his deathbed, Luther instructed his wife Elizabeth to see that the Stark brothers took custody of his plants, notes and ongoing experiments and continue expanding upon his considerable knowledge base. They did, and the company became even more successful as a result. Many important horticultural discoveries have been made since, including dwarf fruit trees, which allow city and suburban gardeners to enjoy home-grown fruit in small spaces.
After six generations of Starks, the company is now in the hands of the Brown family, who purchased Stark Bro's in 2001, along with Tim Abair. As Stark Bro's looks toward the next 200 years, the history and integrity of the founding family is front of mind.
The Garden Center itself is not wheelchair-accessible, but the staff is very helpful and can take orders outside of the building. Any of the employees are happy to assist, just ask.
Pet Friendly Notes
Pets are welcome, although the very possessive "house cat" is likely to protest when visiting dogs are given any undue attention.