For more than a decade, Crystal and Eric Stevens have grown food to sustain their family as well as their community at La Vista CSA Farm in Godfrey, Illinois, and EarthDance Farms in Ferguson, Missouri. Now, the family – including son Cay and daughter Iris – are sharing the fruits of their labor under a new name, Flourish, with a focus on value-added products, plant starts for your own backyard and gardening education.
The Stevens are currently renting land from La Vista, which is now managed by Phill Beile, and are raising their produce for Flourish in the farm's high tunnel and on a portion of its land. "Without [Beile], and the generous support of the Missionary Oblates and the La Vista Farm Core Group, we would not be able to make Flourish work this year," Crystal says.
You can find Flourish products at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market, which celebrates its grand opening for the 2019 season this Sat,. April 13, from 8am to 12:30pm. In addition to a range of spring produce – including spring radishes, spring mix and gourmet salad blends, baby bok choy, baby spinach and herbs – the Stevens will be selling plant starts such as heirloom tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and culinary and medicinal herbs, as well as pollinator attractors and native flowering plants like butterfly milkweed, swamp milkweed, Echinacea and bee balm. Value-added products range from spice and seasoning blends – think Tuscan herb seasoning salt and hot pepper powder – to elderberry syrup with Echinacea, small-batch botanical tea blends and locally tapped maple syrup.
“We’ve basically taken our 10 years of farm-management experience and distilled it down to really honing in on our passions,” says Crystal (who's also a former Feast contributor). “At the farmers’ market, you can get pretty much a complete grocery list when it comes to stocking your pantry and your fridge. I want to encourage people to look at the broad spectrum of their [grocery] list and find out who sources [those items] locally. If we want to see a robust food scene in this region, we need to encourage people to shop local.”
Crystal says she’s especially excited about the small-batch botanical tea blends, offered in flavors like hibiscus green tea and Gal Pal, a blend of red raspberry leaf, skullcap, rose petals, tulsi, red clover, stinging nettles and oat straw.
In addition to offering their produce and new product line under Flourish, the business also offers gardening education and edible landscape installation and maintenance services.
“We’ll be selling some permaculture-inspired plants such as comfrey, which is a dynamic accumulator, some nitrogen fixing plants like leadplant, and some fruit-bearing shrubs like aronia and elderberry. And then we’ll just have a variety of plants that work well in a permaculture guild.”
This Sun., April 14, from 9:30am to 5:30pm at La Vista, Flourish will host a gardening workshop focused on edible landscapes; the hands-on class will cover gardening basics, including composting, weed management and building soil health, as well as building raised garden beds, sheet mulching and how to choose the right annual and perennials plants for your garden.
“I think more and more people are realizing the benefits of planting diverse food systems to not only attract pollinators but to help feed the soil, fix nitrogen and create little micro-ecosystems,” Crystal says. “We’re helping to reduce our carbon footprints by growing our own food, we’re helping to preserve nonrenewable resources such as water.”
In addition to vending their produce and value-added products at the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in St. Louis, the Stevens’ produce appears on some of the freshest menus around town, including Kounter Kulture, Indie Eatery, Vicia and the soon-to-open Bulrush.
As the Stevens gear up for the grand opening of the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market this weekend, Crystal hopes that Flourish’s new line of value-added products helps inspire home cooks to experiment with new and fresh local product this spring.
“Using kohlrabi to make fries and taking all the lettuces that are in season and not just sticking to salads, but also blending them up in green smoothies,” she says. “Just encouraging people to branch out in terms of their existing food palates and being a little creative in the kitchen.”