Customers buy fresh produce and plants from the fifth and sixth generations on DeMange Family Farms, near East St. Louis in St. Clair County. Those shoppers also bump into the fourth and fifth generations who remain actively involved in the specialty crop farm.

Off Route 15, the DeMange family sells about 150 different specialty crops, as well as vegetable and bedding plants and hanging flower baskets in the spring. Visit the farm’s Facebook page. They also farm near St. Jacob.

Fifth-generation farmer Eric DeMange proudly notes his grandparents, Vince and Shirley DeMange, along with his parents, Vince Jr. and Lori, and aunt, Jean Gass, carry on a family tradition that started in the 1800s.

Their retail farmstand opens in April and continues until just before Thanksgiving. The stand is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The DeManges’ spring starts with plants for home vegetable and flower gardens. Early during the pandemic, gardeners “really came out and supported” the farm’s greenhouse production, making it one of the best seasons, DeMange said. “We were happy to see people come out. We had a lot of new customers.”

The farm crops started with strawberries and asparagus and moved into zucchini, squash and many varieties of greens. Later crops will include tomatoes, green beans and peppers. The major fall crops include sweet potatoes, pumpkins and fall greens, including turnip, mustard and collard greens.

Last fall, the family launched its first corn maze at the St. Jacob farm. DeMange said the corn maze will return again this fall.

In addition to the retail stand, DeMange Family Farms also sells products at the Maryville Farmers’ Market, the Land of Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville and the O’Fallon Farmers’ Market.

The COVID-19 pandemic surfaced new customers and new opportunities to collaborate with other farmers.

“People came out and depended on farmers to provide them with food. I think people appreciate knowing where their food comes from, but convenience and availability will play a role” in the continued demand for local food, DeMange said.

To expand the customer base, DeMange is working with other farmers’ market vendors, including Red Barn Farm Meats of Highland, to offer fresh vegetables along with the others’ products in a vendors’ choice box that makes a complete family meal. The boxes offer convenience along with a tasty meal, he noted.

“We’ve known for a long time that every time you work with other people you have success,” DeMange said.