|Hunter Trees LLC in Shelby County is the 2014 Alabama Farm of Distinction. Seated from left are Leslee and Will Hunter and Phillip and Robin Hunter. Standing from left are program sponsors Lynne Morton of TriGreen, Chris Cline and Kevin Robinson of Snead Ag, Jimmy Parnell of Alabama Farmers Federation, Jim Allen of Alabama Farmers Cooperative and Lester Killebrew of SunSouth.|
Talladega County landscape tree nursery was named Alabama’s 2014 Farm of Distinction April 3 at the Alabama Farm-City Awards in Birmingham.
Hunter Trees LLC was chosen from four finalists. As this year’s winner, brothers Phillip and Will Hunter received $10,000 in prizes. Phillip will represent the family farm and Alabama in the Swisher Sweets/ Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year contest at the Sunbelt Ag Expo Oct. 14-16 in Moultrie, Ga.
Located near the town of Alpine, Hunter Trees is known throughout the country as a trusted source for high-quality landscape trees.
"Quality is very important to us," Phillip said. "Our business, our nursery, is specified a lot by landscape contractors or landscape architects, so they are getting the kind of trees on their jobs they know are going to look good and make them look good. It’s all part of making us all successful."
Ten years ago, however, the business was just a dream for the Hunter brothers. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Phillip was working as a landscape contractor in Birmingham, and Will would soon graduate from Auburn University with a degree in ornamental horticulture. Together with their father Bill, they set out to build one of the South’s leading nurseries.
Today, Hunter Trees covers 300 acres of a former sod and row crop farm. It 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 that are so big only two will fit on a semi-trailer.
Phillip says maintaining a clean nursery and good conservation practices are important to the farm’s success.
"God gave us this land to work with, and we try to be good stewards of it," he said. "We’ve done the majority of the work ourselves, and we take pride in that."
Like most farmers, Phillip and wife Robin say the things they like most about agriculture are being around family and nature.
"I love to see things grow," he said. "We love to be able to start with a small tree and see it grow to a big tree. It’s a great place to work with my family."
Phillip is chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Committee and serves on the Alabama Agriculture and Industries Board.
As this year’s Farm of Distinction winner, the Hunters received a John Deere Gator from SunSouth, TriGreen and Snead Ag dealers; a $1,250 gift certificate from Alabama Farmers Cooperative; $2,500 from Swisher International and an engraved farm sign from Alfa Insurance.
AFC also provided $250 gift certificates to the other finalists, which were Kyser Family Farms in Hale County, F&W Farms in Madison County and Aplin Farms in Geneva County.
Mary Johnson is with Alabama Farmers Federation.