From Seed to Sale

Published 10:52 am Friday, February 15, 2019

For Heather and Davy Wright, farming and agriculture is literally their livelihood.

The Plantersville based couple are third-generation farmers, but Davy’s family has come a long way from his grandfather being a mechanic in Selma who farmed on the side.

“Davy’s grandfather (Norman Wright, St.) was a mechanic in World War II, and when he came home, he was a mechanic at the Ford dealership in Selma and farmed on the side,” said Heather. “They did okra and other crops. They were saving money to build a mechanic shop so that he could do mechanic work on his own.”

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However, plans soon changed after a farming accident.

“It was Iron Bowl Saturday, and Davy’s grandfather got his shirt hung in the PTO shaft of a corn sheller, which was being used to shell okra seed to use for the next year,” said Heather. “When the PTO shaft grabbed his shirt sleeve it threw him across the shaft and it took his arm off. Davy’s dad (David Wright) rushed his dad to the hospital, but they weren’t able to reattach it.”

Davy’s dad was 14 when the accident happened.

After the accident, Davy’s dad suggested building a greenhouse instead of a farm.

“That was the fall of 1966 when the first greenhouse began,” Heather said. “They used a heater and a fan out of someone’s house to heat and cool it. That’s how it began and it has grown from there. Davy and I are third generation farmers here and we have owned the business since 2010 when we purchased it.

“It has been an entire family operated business,” said Heather. “It is not just the men it is the women, too. Our kids have been raised here and we try to teach them the value of hard work and show them that its plants that grow and not money. We try to instill an appreciation for what we do and what we have. It is not something that is given to you. The land is valuable. We have to take care of it and it in turn will take care of us.

“We try to also instill in our kids that we are here to serve and not be served,” said Heather. “That is very important to us.”

Heather married into the family, but is no stranger to hard work.

“I grew up with farming all around me outside of Clanton,” she said. “There were cotton fields on one side and peach orchards on the other, but my dad was a carpenter.”
The couple met in college where Davy obtained a degree in horticulture and Heather earned a business degree, but also took horticulture classes knowing that the couple was planning to come back to the nursery.

The couple has been married for nearly 19 years.

Their two children Abby, 16, and Noah, 13, also assist at the nursery.

“The spring is our peak time,” said Heather. “It is our busiest time of the year. The kids know that when they get out of school they have to come here and clock in and work. That is the make it or break tit time for the whole entire year from mid-March to mid-May. They know how it important it is and how they have to help. They are good helpers, too.”

While Davy and Heather hope their children will take on the family business, Heather said she wants them to do what makes them happy.

“Right now, they both have other plans,” she said. “I’m not sure what will happen if they don’t take it over. I don’t want to influence them either way because they need to be happy with what they do and I want them to appreciate it, but I don’t want them to take this over if they don’t want to. They need to pursue their own dreams.

“Abby is planning to go to Auburn for computer science, and Noah wants to do engineering,” said Heather. “Noah is very engineering minded. He loves to build things and he has since he was a toddler. He would take wrapping paper rolls and make guns or whatever. He is always building something.”

When the nursery is not in its peak time, there is still work to be done.

“This time of the year (winter) we do a lot of repairs and maintenance work,” said Heather. “It takes all year to prepare for the spring and the fall. We planned this whole spring that’s coming up in July and August … the tags, the plants purchased, the soil, the plastic. Everything is planted on speculation. We sell only to independent retail garden centers in Alabama. We don’t sell to chain stores, it’s a completely different scope. The place in Dallas County we sell to is Four Seasons Garden Center in Selma. They are one of our customers and have been for a very long time. They are a family business like we are.”

The community of family businesses is important to the Wright family.

“We are family business and the independent garden centers are also,” said Heather. “They are in this for their livelihood just like we are. We feel like they have the same mindset as we do, and we are here to help our customers because we take care of each other. We want to have lasting relationships with our customers.”

The couple has divided up responsibilities between each other concerning the business.

“You have to learn and work together, but how Davy and I do it is that I have a set of responsibilities that I take care of and he doesn’t worry about and vice versa,” Heather said. “We work together on certain things, but we depend heavily on each other.”
Heather and Davy both agreed that one of the hardest aspects of the business is the weather.

“It is the unpredictability of it,” said Heather. “We are so dependent on the weather to be right at the right time. It’s not like we can put the plants on the shelf and wait to sell them. It is something that is consumable.”
Heather said there’s not much that can be done to accommodate bad weather.

“There are a few small things that we can do, but nature is in control. God is in control. We just have to try and do our best. We are at the mercy of the weather, but it is like any other farm.”
Recent storm catastrophes like the 2018 hurricanes did not impact the nursery or their customers.

“Our customers are from Montgomery to Auburn to north of the state line, so we don’t deliver anything below Montgomery,” said Heather.

With not being on a contract growing schedule, Davy said it helps the customers that do not know what they want.

“We usually take a three, four and a five-year average,” he said.

Davy said there is always new information to learn.

“We keep up with plants that are popular and there’s always new technology to learn about,” said Davy.

Davy also said that worldwide events can have local impact.

“There was a disease problem in Europe, and it came over here,” said Davy. “The next year it was in the lower states. It all goes back to breeding and the genetics.”

The nursery also is highly regulated.

“There’s always something to watch out for,” said Davy. “We are regulated by the Alabama Department of Agriculture, OSHAA and EPA, and we want to comply and we want to do what we’re supposed to do. It keeps everyone on a level playing field.”

Including the family members, there are five full-time employees and nearly 12 seasonal employees.
“Many have been here over 30 years,” said Heather. “We count them as family. One employee has been here for 40 years starting when he was in ninth-grade. We want to treat our employees like we would treat our family. If we don’t have them then we don’t make a living. We are dependent on them and they are dependent on us as well.”

Outside of the nursery, Heather is a member of the Selma-Dallas County Leadership Class XXV, the PTO President of Dallas County High School, Treasurer for Plantersville Baptist Church, Treasurer for Plantersville Volunteer Fire Department, Secretary of Dallas County Farmers Federation and serves on the Board of Directors for Alabama Agribusiness Council and the ALFA Greenhouse, Nursery and SOD Committee.

Davy maintains the Alabama Nursery and Landscape Association website and has been a member of the Plantersville Volunteer Fire Department for 10 years.

For more information on the nursery, visit