Outstanding Young Farm Family – Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division
For most people, “going to work” means getting in the car and driving to the office, to gray cubicles, drab halls and long days. But for Davy and Heather Wright, young farmers from Dallas County, heading to the office means stepping into a world of color and life, a place where spring is in the air nearly all year long.Davy and Heather own and operate Wright’s Nursery and Greenhouse along with Davy’s parents, David and Martha. Although their operation may not be a typical farm consisting of pastures filled with cattle or endless rows of corn, Davy, Heather and their young daughter, Abby, are proud to be considered among Alabama’s farmers. As this year’s Outstanding Young Farm Family in the Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division, Davy and Heather say being a part of the greenhouse industry is simply continuing a family tradition. Davy’s grandfather started the business in 1967 after Davy’s father lost his arm in a tractor accident. At the time, Davy’s grandfather had planned to open a business as a mechanic, but he decided to start a greenhouse instead–wanting to begin an enterprise in which his son could take an active part.”I like being able to make a living doing this,” Davy said, as he remembered growing up in the greenhouse environment. “Growing plants is what I’ve always enjoyed doing. Ever since I was little I was pulling my little red wagon around here, trying to sell plants to everyone that came in.”Heather, who did not grow up involved in farming, began helping out at the greenhouse in 1998 after she and Davy met at Wallace State Community College. In 2000, the newly married Wrights returned home from Auburn, where Davy had been finishing his degree in ornamental horticulture and Heather had supplemented her business administration degree from AUM with a few horticulture classes.Almost 40 years after Davy’s grandfather began the business, the Wrights’ greenhouses today cover approximately 90,000 square feet. Inside the climate-controlled structures, the family grows 100,000 flats of bedding plants and 14,000 hanging baskets each year. Carrying over 300 items during their busiest season, the spring, the entire Wright family is kept busy by the demands of their thriving business. Davy and his father look after the plants and are on call 24 hours a day if anything goes wrong at the greenhouses, and Heather and her mother-in-law Martha take care of the office work and marketing.With 17 full- and part-time workers during their peak season, the Wrights have become experts at organizing and managing. Continued changes in technology help the family, and they are constantly considering new ways to update their operation.
Indoor heating sources provide for young seeds which must be planted during cold winter months, and an automated watering system ensures the thousands of plants contained in their greenhouses have been watered before the Wrights even arrive in the mornings. They also have purchased state-of-the-art seed planters and transplanting machines, which help the Wrights be as efficient as possible.”Technology allows you to be more efficient,” Davy said, “and more productive with what you have.”Not only is the way the plants are being nurtured changing, but since returning from Auburn, Davy has put Wrights Nursery and Greenhouse on the Internet, and while 90 percent of their products are shipped to the Birmingham-area market, plants are now being shipped throughout the United States.”It’s interesting; it’s fun to watch,” Davy said. “Dad kind of wonders why people want to pay that much for them, but some people aren’t near a garden center and can’t find what they really want for their garden. That’s what I’m allowing them to do.”This year, the Wrights have copyrighted and begun to use “Alabama Grown,” a marketing tool they hope to soon share with other agricultural sectors.”It provides consumers with a base of where their products have come from,” Davy said. “There are so many different products from so many different places…we started Alabama Grown to allow them to know where their product is coming from.”While technology and new marketing techniques have enabled Davy and Heather to continue to grow and develop their operation, even more rewarding is the chance to work together as a family and the sense of comradeship that exists between greenhouse producers.Last year, when a tornado hit and demolished all of a friend’s greenhouses, growers from all over showed up to help out. With over 200 people pitching in, all of the plant material was moved to a new location in less than a week.”We have a very close-knit relationship with each other,” Davy said of growers, and added that in his business, the biggest enemy anyone has is themselves. “That’s really what sets our industry apart…everybody’s friends.” The Wrights look forward to raising their daughter in the same environment that Davy grew up in. “It will be good for her,” Heather said. “If you grow up seeing how things happen, you learn to appreciate it more. We want to raise her to be ethical in the workplace, and we want to raise Abby to know what work is and, if she so desires, to come back here.”And while they hold high hopes for their daughter, for now Davy and Heather are staying busy with the present, working hard each day in their vibrant world of color.”Our philosophy has always been to offer the best quality products that we have and honest, reliable services. Our plans for the future,” Davy said, chuckling, “are to stay in business. I have pretty big shoes to fill, and I want to be able to fill those shoes.”