Tom Wheeler Of Bell Nursery Named Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Grower Of The Year

Tom Wheeler, Bell Nursery USA

Tom Wheeler, Bell Nursery USA

Greenhouse Grower named Tom Wheeler, director of growing at Bell Nursery USA, as its 2015 Grower of the Year during the Evening of Excellence program held July 13 at Cultivate’15 in Columbus, Ohio. Wheeler also received the Excellence in Leadership award for his work in the industry with neonicotinoids and his management skills at Bell Nursery.


Wheeler dedicated his award to the entire Bell Team, saying that he has been fortunate to be a part of a truly amazing team for the past 16 years.

“Sharing information, leading by example, acting like you own it, these are just a few of the ways we lead at Bell Nursery,” Wheeler said, upon receiving the award. “When you love the industry you work in, what you do and the people you work with, it is a real treat and a great honor to receive an award like this.

Wheeler manages Bell Nursery’s in-house production. He is also responsible for Bell’s network of farm families, which represent 50 acres of production in Maryland. Wheeler has substantially improved the quality of growing operations at Bell Nursery, to the point that shipped quality is the same from any Bell facility, regardless of location. Under Wheeler’s direction, Bell Nursery has been able to cut water usage at outdoor facilities by 70 percent by moving from sprinklers to drip irrigation. And he led the charge six years ago during Bell’s first ‘Veriflora Sustainably Grown’ certification, which the company continues to maintain each year.

In 2014, Wheeler designed a program to grow neonicotinoid-free to help Bell Nursery gain a better understanding of the difficulties this type of large-scale production might present. That experience has proved invaluable. Thanks to Wheeler’s leadership, Bell Nursery has been able to have a significant impact on the dialogue within the growing and retail community, as well as on a local, state and federal level. Wheeler has generously shared what he has learned with his peers, which has been instrumental in helping others gain a better understanding of the challenges they will face with less access to neonicotinoids and what alternatives are available to them.

“We wanted to prepare ourselves. But in no way do we want to send the wrong message to the industry,” Wheeler says. “We want the message from Bell to be to help fund the research, listen to what the research finds and support the science.”

Wheeler not only leads on the broader scale, he leads in a very individual way within his operation. He is a strong believer in developing employees for the long term. And he zeroes in on passionate, hardworking growers who are willing to learn.

“I definitely take pride in my part of the business — the growing side, the growing team and the product we put out,” Wheeler says. “I love the industry and hope it stays strong, all aspects of it.”

Greenhouse Grower’s Grower of the Year program is sponsored by BASF.









Leave a Reply

Avatar for Wes Cook Wes Cook says:

Congrats Tom, that’s a huge honor ! My son is graduating from Auburn in hort next spring. His plans are to become a grower at our farm in which we have some 1200 trees already potted. He is relying on myself to help him get started. I have done all my landscaping at our home, planted all the trees at 6 different farms we have owned and help him pot and repot tray plants given to him by Auburn. Any words of wisdom for a 22 year old that wants to jump in feet first without a lot of experience ?

Avatar for Laura Drotleff Laura Drotleff says:

Wes, thank you for your comment! Here is a response from Tom Wheeler:

“First of all, thank you Wes for the kind words! It truly was a great honor to receive the award. And congratulations in advance to you as well on your sons upcoming graduation from Auburn next spring!

It sounds like he comes from a great family that knows how to work! That is one great attribute that will always help him be successful. A great work ethic, and pursuing a passion are definitely key ingredients to success. These qualities keep it fun. I would also add to always take pride in your work and strive to be the best.

As for a few short words of wisdom, I would advise your son to determine his market, and then set out to produce a product that sets him and his product apart from everybody else. For example, producing a specialty product, supplying a niche market, or by consistently offering outstanding quality and service!

Will your son be primarily working with trees, or does he plan to expand into greenhouse production as well?

Good luck and thanks again for the note!”


Tom Wheeler
Bell Nursery USA