Developing a market for locally-adapted organic fruiting plants in St. Louis

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $17,564.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Custom Foodscaping
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Matt Lebon
Custom Foodscaping

Information Products


  • Fruits: cherries, citrus, pears
  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Farm Business Management: market study
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    The goal of this project is to develop a market in the St. Louis area for locally-adapted organic fruit species. Climate conditions in the lower midwest challenge ecologically-conscious home gardeners, orchardists, and market gardeners who wish to produce fruit without harmful chemical inputs. Awareness of locally-adapted cultivars (such as grafted pawpaws) and climate-suited exotics (such as bush cherries) is low. 


    Partnering with EarthDance Organic Farm School as its educational partner and provider of a nursery space, Custom Foodscaping will create a line of foodscaping fruits to be sold at local retail stores. Each product will be packaged with a link to an educational video and care instructions. The line will focus on low-maintenance nativars and exotics suitable for the limited space of urban and suburban customers. It will also reduce the skilled labor and knowledge needed to bring these trees to fruition. 


    While maturing at EarthDance, the foodscaping nursery will provide a unique educational tool for EarthDance apprentices, volunteers and visitors, including underserved populations. EarthDance will host Foodscaping Day (June 2020), a half-day foodscaping workshop taught by Matt Lebon of Custom Foodscaping. The workshop will educate participants on foodscaping practices with an emphasis on well-adapted nativars and exotic fruiting plants.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Promote adoption of organic practices among home growers and small orchards by increasing the local availability of fruiting foodscape plants in St. Louis retail nursery market.


    1. Educate the public on the ecological value and caretaking process of fruiting nativar and exotic trees and shrubs though educational videos and instructive product materials.


    1. Create value-added fruit tree products by maturing bareroot transplants for a year, then selling them as potted branching trees. This product line will eliminate skilled labor for the customer while delivering well sized, locally-grown and aesthetically-pleasing trees and shrubs ready to plant.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.