The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that Mark Wilson of Greendale Nursery in Homestead, Florida, was recognized as the 2017 Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Florida Farmer of the Year. Since 1990, the Southeastern Ag Expo Farmer of the Year Award has recognized exceptional agricultural practices, innovators, and pioneers from 10 southeastern states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
As a Southeastern Ag Expo state winner, Wilson received a $2,500 cash award and a trip to this year’s Sunbelt Expo, which is Oct. 17-19. Each state winner was visited by a panel of judges prior to the expo and considered for the overall 2017 Farmer of the Year, which receives a $15,000 cash prize and more. Today, Virginia Farmer of the Year Robert Mills, Jr. was named the 2017 Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year.
Mark Wilson began his first five-acre nursery operation when he moved to the U.S. from Jamaica in 1972. Wilson now runs the 30-acre Greendale Nursery in Homestead, Florida, which produces plants that are sold throughout North America and exported to the Caribbean islands. Wilson’s major crops include Heliconias, gingers, Alocasia, Cordyline, Croton, Birds of Paradise, bamboo, ground orchids and orchid trees, ornamental and edible bananas, Philodendron, tree ferns, dwarf umbrella, several varieties of Schefflera and several flowering Hibiscus varieties. He also grows pineapples, avocados, jackfruit, ackee, and longan.
Championing water conservation, Wilson grows native desert and drought-tolerant plants and has begun converting from overhead to drip irrigation. Wilson has also reduced his chemical use by 80 percent by implementing air blast sprayers that atomize pesticides into fine droplets.
Throughout the years, Wilson has successfully adapted his nursery in response to extreme challenges, such as rebuilding after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and shifting product focus form household plants to more exotic plants after the 2008 recession.
Wilson has been a director of the Florida Farm Bureau, served on the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida and chaired the state committee for USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Wilson has also been active in the Boy Scouts of America, Dade County Farm Bureau, Dade County Public School Advisory Committee and the Dade Chapter of the Florida Foliage Association, and has also served as an advisor or member for multiple community economic development initiatives.
The annual Sunbelt Ag Expo is an agricultural-based trade show held in Moultrie, Georgia, that recognizes America’s farmers and brings awareness to agriculture’s impact on daily life.