With two locations in the college town of Auburn, AL, a 30-acre seasonal farm in Andrews, NC, and a number of contract growers who produce crops for the more than 500 retail stores it serves, Young’s Plant Farm, Inc., has a lot underway. The operation recently added 3 acres of greenhouses to its total of 1,705,000 square feet, and paved an additional 7 acres of greenhouse bays that will be used for outdoor growing until Young’s encloses them.
The operation has a mix of state-of-the art structures from Cravo, VanWingerden, and Rough Brothers Greenhouses. All of the structures at its second location are naturally ventilated, open-roof greenhouses.
Young’s has been on the cutting edge of water retention and recycling for more than 25 years. Since then, the operation has installed drain pipes into all of its greenhouses, where the water from the crown of the greenhouses flows down into retention ponds. Water is then cleaned and filtered before being reused to water plants. At its original facility, where the greenhouses are all enclosed, the operation waters 100% of its plants with recycled water. At Farm 2, where it has outdoor production, Young’s uses some water from wells onsite. The only city water used is for its seed germination chamber, and restrooms and drinking water.
Innovating Processes for Soil Mixing and Production
Young’s Plant Farm has received some industry-wide acclaim for its innovation in using pine bark in growing media for the past eight years. The operation grows, clear cuts, chips, and processes its own Loblolly pines on timber farms in the area, saving money on peat shipments from Canada. The process requires special equipment, but Young’s has found that a 25% to 30% mix of pine in its growing media is a happy medium for both plant quality and cost savings. Young’s has been working with researchers, companies, and other growers to help promote the use of pine bark as a sustainable, renewable resource.
The operation upgraded its soil-handling equipment to include a Pack Manufacturing peat moss bale shaver and growing media mix line, and a crane to pick up and empty its 65-cubic-foot tote bags of wood pulp into the mix line. It’s also installed two Pack Manufacturing pot fillers onto its planting lines, which include TTA Pack Transplanters.
Young’s has also recently moved its trucking department into its own entity, called PTP Transport, invested in a new Agriware software system that will be implemented this fall and ready for spring sales January 1, and is considering centralizing its shipping department at its Farm 2 location.
The operation is efficiently and cleanly run by the humble yet proud Young brothers — Rob, Greg, Burt, and Cale — and two partners from the third generation, Bryan and Drew Young. The family’s philosophy is to continue to invest in the operation to keep up with demand, run it well, and focus on efficiency, quality, and happy team members, customers, and consumers.