Original article here: http://voyageaustin.com/interview/hidden-gems-meet-flint-fancy-of-lone-star-nursery/
Today we’d like to introduce you to Flint Fancy.
Hi Flint, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
I am a South Dakota native, who moved to Austin in 1999. Many of my plant exploits were initially sparked through traveling in my youth. Hopping freight trains and hitchhiking through less-traveled paths, gave way to curiosity about all the "weeds" along the roadsides, trails, ditches, and fields.
I am a self-taught herbalist and have been practicing herbal medicine since shortly after the birth of my first child in 1997. Having temporarily lost my sight in the summer of 1998, and having exhausted all western medicine methods for a potential cure, I turned to Chinese medicine for results. This naturally progressed into a passion for western herbalism, natural birth, and eventually growing all medicine for my venture "Age of Flint Apothecary" now known as Lone Star Nursery Medicinals/Botanicals.
In 2006, I joined forces with my current business/life partner Jay Beard and began selling my herbal wares alongside his plants at Farmer’s markets. The two of us eventually started selling plants wholesale to Austin area nurseries, which eventually turned into a direct-to-consumer grow/delivery operation.
Lone Star Nursery is currently the only certified organic grower, that sells direct to customers, (with free delivery no less!) in all of central Texas, and possibly beyond.
Being our current focus, along with our children, Lone Star Nursery has quickly become a household name in the Austin and surrounding areas. With a combined passion for plants and plant medicines, we continue to grow our knowledge on our ten-acre forest, just east of Austin. Jay’s mother, father, great-aunt, and 97-year-old grandfather have taken many turns voluntarily lending their time to our day-to-day operations. All 5 of our children are involved in the operations of LSN. Whether it be transplanting, organizing, building structures, making deliveries, creating online content and videos, we are very much a family business.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Lone Star Nursery was started in 2004, on 1/4 acre in East Central Austin, not too far from Boggy Creek. Jay Beard and his brother Aaron Beard, having grown up in the welding business, designed and executed the first greenhouse structure for Lone Star Nursery. Some of the challenges along the way, especially living within city limits, were damage control. Pests like rats, squirrels, and other seed-seeking critters, posed many setbacks for production. One day we would have hundreds of seedlings, the next they’d be demolished by "visitors in the night".
Along the road to a successful growing business, we encountered other minor setbacks, but none as cumbersome as figuring out how to make this a sustainable business model. How do we raise a family, grow a business, and make a living at the same time? Getting to where we are today, definitely coming with a fair share of hard times, doubts, and crossroads.
We started out with local plant sales in our yard, or at the neighboring taqueria. This led to our “Farmers Market days”. Jay’s Pawpaw, George Beard, had an old antique horse trailer, and we had plants to haul. Jay built up the inside with shelves, hitched it to the pickup, and off we would go. I’ll never forget that rickety rusty bucket on wheels, with all its "charm" and quirks. Eventually, we upgraded to a couple of box trucks and pickups, but that old horse trailer is LSN legend.
We did the local farmers market circuit for a couple of years, making friends and connections along the way. This led to our next venture, wholesale growing. From 2012-2020, we slowly built our reputation as an organic grower for many Austin (and surrounding) area nurseries. In 2016, we sold that little farmhouse in East Austin, left behind Jay’s hand-built greenhouses, and traded up for a raw piece of land in the outskirts of Manor. We basically started from scratch, built new greenhouses. and continued our wholesale operations.
As we cultivated our skillset and expanded our quantities and varieties, we never seemed to be able to get ahead of the finances of running an organic wholesale nursery. Many do not realize the extensive attention it takes to source, cultivate, grow, and maintain a successful nursery operation. We grow everything we sell and do not cut corners on production or organic grow standards, fortunately, we have skilled horticultural industry gems such as Adam Rainer, working with us to keep the business humming. Along with Jay Beards’ vast knowledge of botany and growing, we knew we had such great potential. However, to keep our growing staff interested and happy, we needed to either miraculously expand beyond our means or continue to accrue debt.
With elements of weather and nature constantly challenging our day-to-day activities, there were certainly times we thought about throwing in the towel. By this time, we had expanded our wholesale business beyond our city center. We had our plants in nurseries in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville, Georgetown, and most surrounding hubs.
Then the spring of 2020 came…this changed e v e r y t h I n g.
At the risk of using "the P word", the pandemic brought our spring growing groove to a halt. As order after order from our wholesale customers canceled, one after the other, we realized that we were facing a major crisis with the nursery business. We sent our employees home, not knowing if they would ever return.
We quickly hatched a plan. Within 24 hours, we had reached out to the community via social media, letting them know that they could buy plants directly from us via email. Word got out, The Austin American Statesman wrote a small article, and news of our plant delivery spread like wildfire. Within 3 days our emails were overflowing with requests, questions, needs, and above all very appreciative folks looking to maintain their gardens.
The order by email format was swiftly replaced by an online ordering website. Our talented friend and employee Erin Reimer, with her extensive knowledge of online market platforms, built us a fantastic website. Already knowing we had a great product to offer, we basically figured the rest out organically. With the help of the keen mind of Rachel Collier, data analyst and logistics whiz, we have been able to streamline our delivery system to what it is today.
We’ve been impressed with Lone Star Nursery, but for folks who might not be as familiar, what can you share with them about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Being one of the very few exclusively organic growers in Texas, we have a responsibility to our customers to maintain the highest practice standards, while also "keeping it interesting".
We like to find organic heirloom seeds that one would typically not find in the general retail setting. We specialize in native perennials, adaptable and hardy annuals, succulents, houseplants, medicinals, and tropicals… all popular and/or rare.
We are known for our unique and vast selection, friendly customer service, and of course wide-spread free delivery. Some folks like to schedule a pickup for their plants and soils, and we accommodate them too! Even though our nursery is not open to the public, we have accrued a large customer following. We’ve become known as a trustworthy source for plants, without the hassle of shopping.
Not only do these things set us apart from others, but the fact that we are deeply passionate about plants shows in our product. No other retail nursery grows every single plant in-house. We do not outsource the plants we sell, and we have no plan to ever breach that method.
We only use natural pesticides, such as neem oil and soapy water, which is a very challenging yet rewarding side of organic cultivation. We expanded our offerings to the richest organic bagged soils and mulches on the market, making those readily available on our website for those looking for a "one-stop-shop". We mix and bag our own branded fertilizer "LSN FRUIT FLOWER FLOURISH", modeled after exactly what we use to enhance our own gardens.
We stay in contact with each customer that reaches out to us, making it our mission to meet each individual need. Customers keep informed by signing up for our weekly email, following us on Instagram and Facebook, and watching our website for our WEEKLY "new arrivals" and seasonal offerings.
We grow. We deliver. We are 100% organic.
Let’s talk about our city – what do you love? What do you not love?
I love so many things about our city, it’s hard to pick just one. When I first visited Austin in the early 90s, I somehow knew I would be living here. The trees, the creeks, the music scene, and the eclectic mix of creative people, rang true with my heart. Jay Beard, founder, and co-owner Lone Star Nursery is a fifth-generation Austinite. With his local roots and my natural adaptation, Lone Star is essentially a classic Austin establishment. If you know what there is to love about Austin, you just know, you know? Though it feels strange to stroll through the older parts of our city and see the immense growth and changes that have transformed the lots and old structures, the vibe remains. With growth becomes responsibility, the responsibility to be diligently “Austin”. We are fortunate to live in such an evolving city, that still pushes for sustainability and authenticity. We are “Austin’s Original Green Thumb”.