While today, Wishon Evergreens and Appalachian Produce Company have several hundreds of acres dedicated to growing high-quality Christmas trees and fall produce, it's been a journey to reach this point!
Building a Farming Foundation
Johnny Wishon, founder of Wishon Evergreens, the Christmas Tree Company, and co-founder of Appalachian Produce Company, seemed destined to dedicate his life to the land. While he didn't grow up on a farm, his father, a game warden did, and he recalls, "“We had a little over five acres of land, and my dad always had the biggest garden in the county. He would let me grow extra vegetables to sell to the local grocery store.”
The love of growing and land continued. In high school, Johnny was active in Vocational Agriculture, joining Future Farmers of America and taking agriculture classes, which led to majoring in Agricultural Education at NC State University. Summer breaks were spent working at a nearby Christmas tree farm. Here is where he discovered his true passion was in growing trees.
Upon graduating in 1988, he started Wishon Evergreens, planting a few hundred trees on his family's land while also teaching Agricultural Science at Alleghany High School. He balanced both roles for ten years, moving away from teaching in 1998 to focus on farming full time.
Planting the Seeds of Success
Moving to a full-time focus has been successful due to years of strategic planning, but there have been challenges, including the Great Recession of 2007-2008.
Fortunately, difficult times led to new opportunities. Most years, some trees had to be burned if they were unable to be sold. However, after 2008, Wishon Evergreens saw an opportunity to reduce waste and create a new avenue by launching a greenery business!
He says, “At first we subcontracted with another grower to make wreaths for them, operating in a rented building. We also began making our own garland. So we eventually moved out of the rented building and purchased one in 2012. The greenery business now is approximately 40 percent of our wholesale business.”
The building purchase also opened a whole new business opportunity - Appalachian Produce Company, which provides autumn produce and pumpkins at a wholesale level, plus warehouse space and room to operate the Christmas Tree Company, the online tree and wreath division of our business.
Between 2007–2017, Wishon’s farm recovered fully, expanded its customer base to over 150 wholesalers, and diversified its products. He adds, “A lot of times, good things will come from bad, and I try to remember this as obstacles arise.” Whether facing ice storms, deer, pests - these trials that all farmers face, Wishon farms perseveres.
A Flourishing Farm and a Community Staple
Today, there are three successful companies operating on our farm: