Native Floral and Culinary Perennials : A Guide for Specialty Crop Production, Agroforestry Systems, and Diverse Landscapes

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $20,840.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Three Creeks Farm + Forest
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Emily Wright
Three Creeks Farm + Forest


  • Fruits: berries (brambles), berries (other), paw-paws, persimmon
  • Additional Plants: herbs, native plants, ornamentals, ramps, nettles, fiddlehead fern


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, forest farming, no-till, pollinator habitat, varieties and cultivars, perennial crops
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, farm-to-restaurant, feasibility study, market study, farm-to-florist
  • Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, biodiversity, habitat enhancement, hedgerows
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health, reduced tillage
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    Our project aims to assess the role perennial plantings can play in specialty food, floral and agroforestry production systems. We have experienced a growing demand for culinary and floral products that are seasonal and unique to our region. These crops are unavailable through traditional market channels like wholesalers and distributors. Our area is a center for agroforestry research related to things such as chestnuts, elderberries, and pawpaws, but there are many potential native perennial plants or native cultivars that are largely unexplored as candidates for integration into specialty crop systems. As we’ve worked to expand our offerings, we’ve searched through catalogs, forums, books, and our own landscapes to identify 50+ perennial species native to our region that we believe could fit well into our operations. These plants have both ecological value for wildlife and product value for our markets. We have identified sources for the plants, but we are lacking details related to proven selections and production systems - including seasonal availability, post-harvest handling, and pricing. With this project, we plan to document our process of integrating native perennials on our farms so that it can serve as a resource for the many growers seeking to do the same.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    We plan to establish perennial plantings that will increase biodiversity and revenue streams on our farm. These plants have both product value (flowers, fruits, and foliage) for our markets and ecological value. Perennial crops can reduce soil erosion, conserve water, store carbon, and contribute to a more ecologically resilient working landscape. These plantings will attract beneficial insects (pollinators and predators) to our farm ecosystem, and in some cases they are also designed to function as windbreaks and buffers for water runoff during extreme weather events.

    Our current list of candidates for integration into our production systems includes 50+ species of perennial natives and native cultivars. (List attached below.) Cultivate Co. is committed to trialing and documenting 29 different species at their farm, and Three Creeks Farm plans to trial and document 42 species, with close to 2000 individual plants installed at both farms combined. There is some overlap in species selection between the two farms, but we see that as a positive for our collaboration and trials. 

    Trial and documentation will include:

    • Site prep, planting, mulching, and irrigation at both locations
    • Temporary fencing to support plant establishment at Cultivate Co.
    • Maintenance, monitoring and documentation
      • Weeding
      • Scouting for beneficial insects and pollinators and photographing for records and identification
      • Recording harvest season, duration, and yields
      • Tracking sales and price points by species
      • Photographing the salable product and/or its use in floral designs or culinary offerings

    We plan to organize two farmer/florist workshops, one in 2023 and one in 2024. The target audience will be flower farmers interested in adding perennials to their crop systems, along with local florists who may want to use those products in their designs. These workshops will feature a local designer familiar with sourcing and using local flowers and foliage. The workshops are intended to be educational, but also serve as a networking opportunity. Cultivate Co. and Three Creeks Farm are currently looking for ways to grow the local wholesale supply and help other growers find markets for their crops.

    On the culinary side, Three Creeks Farm will market perennial options directly to our list of wholesale restaurant customers, which includes approximately twenty local chefs. In the past, many of our offerings for them have been foraged, which can be time-consuming, inefficient, and if not done properly, unsustainable. We hope that by intentionally growing these crops in close proximity, we can address some of those concerns.

    Finally, we hope to share our experience via a digital guide (in website and pdf formats) that will contain the information that growers are seeking when trying to determine whether to add perennial crops to their systems. This will include details such as specific species, sourcing, seasonal availability, harvest/post-harvest handling, and floral or culinary uses. We need support to turn the extensive research we've done into a resource for fellow farmers.


    1. Identify native perennials and native cultivars for use in specialty crop production (floral and culinary)
    2. Trial and document production for 50+ species on-farm
    3. Track market demand, sales and uses for perennial native specialty crops
    4. Network with fellow growers through workshops
    5. Share findings through a digital guides (website and pdf), workshops, website and social media, and conference presentations.


    Plant List

    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.