News McKenzie Farms Continues Leafy Green Legacy

McKenzie Farms Continues Leafy Green Legacy

McKenzie Farms Continues Leafy Green Legacy
February 1, 2024 |

By Maggie Edwards 

Rows of leafy greens extend farther than the eye can see at McKenzie Farms in Baldwin County. 

Those greens carpet the Fairhope fields from fall to late winter. This includes broccoli, cauliflower and collards for the retail farmers market, plus heads of cabbage for the wholesale business, Mike McKenzie said.  

“Our cabbage season kicks off in September, with continual planting of green and red cabbage until early November,” Mike said. “We get in the field to harvest at the start of December. Because we plant in intervals, we cut our crop until March.” 

The harvest is done in two ways — hand cut and via mechanization, thanks to a special cabbage harvester added three years ago. 

“We’ve always been a family operation,” Mike said. “My granddad and dad started vegetable farming in the 1960s. We’ve continued the cabbage crop since then.” 

That original farm has grown to 1,400 acres of row crops and produce operated by Mike; his brother, Tommy; and other family members.

Cabbage harvest at McKenzie Farm in Fairhope.

With 25 acres of cabbage (around 250,000 plants), Mike and Tommy rely on their respective sons, Coleman and Austin, to take leadership on the farm. 

“We all have our certain jobs, but we can all do everything around here,” said Mike, who serves on the Baldwin County Farmers Federation board with his brother. “Coleman and Austin are involved in the day-to-day decisions. They are following in our footsteps and getting involved with the Federation and Young Farmers.”

A diverse operation, McKenzie Farms grows, packs and ships its own products.

“Cabbage comes out of the field and goes to its destination within 24 hours,” Mike said. “We truck our produce to distribution warehouses for restaurants, grocery stores, food banks across the state and local schools.” 

Those food bank and school deliveries are through partnerships with the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI).

“The Local Food Purchase Agreement (started in 2022) has allowed ADAI to purchase $11.38 million of products from Alabama farmers like the McKenzie brothers and donate it to food banks,” said ADAI’s Don Wambles. “They recently joined the Farm to School program, which helps incentivize those who are serving Alabama-grown items in their Child Nutrition Programs.”  

Mike McKenzie, right, delivered almost 40,000 pounds of cabbage to the Heart of Alabama Food Bank in Montgomery Dec. 12 through a partnership with Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI). He is pictured with ADAI’s Don Wambles.

Baldwin County’s year-round growing season allows the farm to produce red potatoes, watermelons and other summer fruits and vegetables. In 2018, the family opened McKenzie Farm Market. A year later, they joined Sweet Grown Alabama and continue serving the community with locally grown goods, said the Federation’s Blake Thaxton.

“It’s encouraging to see their farm continue this crop,” said Thaxton, also the Alabama Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association executive director. “We have very few cabbage farmers in the state. There is a demand for farm-fresh cabbage, especially in the winter months when folks are gearing up for their New Year’s Day meal.” 

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