A Cherokee County greenhouse business known nationally for its poinsettias and other plants was named Alabama’s Farm of Distinction April 4 in Birmingham.
Hank and Shelia Richardson of Dixie Green Inc. received more than $15,000 in prizes and will represent Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 15-17. Hank thanked the Alabama Farm-City Committee for the award but said growing plants people use to brighten their homes and businesses makes his work rewarding.
“What I like most about being in the greenhouse business is the satisfaction you get from growing a crop, seeing it finish and shipping it to clients who get to enjoy the plants,” he said.
Hank, who grew up on a cattle, hog and row crop farm, started growing plants with his brothers in a 28- x 96-foot greenhouse in 1974. Five years later, they merged with another local greenhouse to form Dixie Green.
Today, the family business has grown to include almost 12 acres of heated greenhouse space plus another eight acres of outside plant pads. The Richardsons grow annuals for Lowe’s and Walmart through a contract with Young’s Plant Farm of Auburn. Another 15-20% of their crop is purchased for fundraisers. Each year, they produce about 500,000 spring plants; 325,000 caladiums; 15,000 ferns; 250,000 mums; and 250,000 poinsettias. But it’s seasonal contracts with two customers which have garnered the most attention.
“We’re the major poinsettia supplier for Walt Disney World,” said Hank, who runs the farm with Shelia and sons John and Daniel. “We also do poinsettias for the Opryland Hotel in Nashville and ship all over the Southeast.”
As Alabama’s Farm of Distinction, the Richardsons received a John Deere Gator from AgPro, SunSouth and TriGreen dealers; a $1,000 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC); an engraved farm sign from Alfa Insurance; and $2,500 as the state’s representative at the Sunbelt Ag Expo. Dairyland Nursery of Mobile County was named runner-up and received a Traeger grill and supplies valued at $1,000 from First South Farm Credit and a $500 gift certificate from AFC.
Farms were judged on productivity, stewardship and management. Judges Samantha Carpenter of AFC, Tami Culver of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, and Andy Leslie of First South Farm Credit visited the farms Feb. 26.
Alabama Farm-City Committee Chairman Jeff Helms said Dixie Green Inc. demonstrates the hard work, resilience, stewardship and innovation that are hallmarks of Alabama’s farm families.
“We are pleased to honor Hank, Shelia and their family with this award,” Helms said. “For four decades, people all over the Southeast have enjoyed the products of their labor, and we are excited to have them represent Alabama in the Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest.”