By Lakin Whatley
Dr. Jeremy Pickens has been providing research, knowledge and guidance to greenhouse and nursery crop farmers across Alabama since the mid-2000s.
His work across the state earned the assistant Extension professor the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Rittenour Award for Excellence in Production Agriculture and Forestry Research, which includes $10,000 for program support funded by the Alabama Farmers Agriculture Foundation. Pickens received the award during the organization’s Farm & Land Expo in Montgomery Aug. 5.
“I am truly honored to receive this award,” Pickens said. “It validates everything I do. It is a great feeling to know my stakeholders think this highly of me and that the work I do has a positive impact on their farms.”
Jon Hegeman of Calhoun County, whose greenhouse operation produces container plants, nominated Pickens for the prestigious award on behalf of the Federation’s State Greenhouse, Nursery & Sod Committee.
“Dr. Pickens has consistently been one of the most visible and impactful Extension researchers I have ever met,” said Hegeman, also the Federation’s Central Area vice president. “He asks what we need and works tirelessly to share his results with related groups to help improve the industry. He presents his work to us and is willing to accept feedback that will help producers.”
Pickens uses applied research methods and conducts trials to answer farmers’ questions and concerns about pest control, plant nutrition and other issues. Most of his research is conducted at the Ornamental Horticulture Research Center in Mobile.
What started as a summer job at a nursery in high school turned into Pickens’ passion.
“I value the relationships I build with farmers and growers,” Pickens said. “When I receive calls from growers in distress, I can hear it in their voice, and I am ready to help. Being able to use my knowledge and research to help them succeed is rewarding.”
The horticulture researcher constantly searches for new ideas to make farms more efficient. His research includes growing food crops in greenhouses or other protected structures and finding ways to reduce costs and inputs for ornamental crops.
Pickens splits his workload between Extension programming and applied research for the nursery and greenhouse industry. While his primary responsibilities revolve around ornamental horticulture, he also works with a variety of specialty crops, including greenhouse vegetables and Christmas trees.
Pickens, 38, is an Auburn University graduate with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture. His doctorate focused on aquaculture. He is a member of the International Plant Propagators Society and lives in Spanish Fort with his wife, Brittany.