High-quality landscape trees earned Hunter Trees in Talladega County a national following and a chance to compete for the 25th annual Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 14-16 in Moultrie, Georgia.
Phillip and Robin Hunter qualified for the regional contest when their family operation was named Alabama’s 2014 Farm of Distinction at the Farm-City Awards in April.
“Quality is very important to us,” Phillip said. “Our nursery is specified a lot by landscape contractors and landscape architects. They know they’re getting the kind of trees that are going to look good and make them look good. It’s all part of making us all successful.”
Another component of the farm’s success is the combined expertise of Phillip, his brother, Will, and their father, Bill. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Phillip worked 12 years as a landscape contractor in Birmingham, and Will graduated from Auburn University with a degree in ornamental horticulture. Throw in Bill’s accounting background, and the trio had the necessary components to transform a 300-acre row crop farm into a tree nursery.
That was 1999. Today, Hunter Trees includes 225 acres of production with 125 varieties of trees. On any given day, there are about 65,000 trees growing at the nursery, including some are so big that only two will fit on a semi-trailer.
Phillip said maintaining a clean nursery and good conservation practices are important to the farm’s success. Hunter Trees was nominated for Alabama Farm of Distinction by Alabama Farmers Federation Area Organization Director David Farnsworth.
“Hunter Trees, LLC is rooted in excellence,” said Farnsworth. “They do things right. Their commitment to quality, cleanliness and conservation, along with their state of the art custom-designed marketing ideas are proof their farm is one of distinction.”
Phillip is chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation State Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Committee and serves on the Alabama Agriculture and Industries Board. He and Robin worship at Asbury Methodist Church and have two children, Carolyn and Patton.
As the Alabama winner, the Hunters will receive a $2,500 cash award and an expense-paid trip to the Sunbelt Expo from Swisher International, a $500 gift certificate from the Southern States cooperative, the choice of either $1,000 in PhytoGen cottonseed or a $500 donation to a designated charity from Dow AgroSciences, and a Columbia vest from Ivey’s Outdoor and Farm Supply. He is now eligible for the overall prize of $15,000 cash and other prizes.
For information about Farmer of the Year contestants, visit sunbeltexpo.com.