We Are Agriculture is a year-long series that will highlight the hard-work done by employees across the Department of Agriculture. Tony Haywood, Retail Marketing Specialist with our Marketing Division, is one of those employees. Stay tuned each Wednesday here on the blog or any of our social media accounts and join us in honoring those who continue to drive our state’s agriculture industry forward each day!
The North Carolina mountains can instill a sense of pride in agriculture and love for Christmas trees in anyone, including Retail Marketing Specialist Tony Haywood. Tony grew up in the middle of the state on his grandparent’s farm where he learned how to care for a variety of crops.
His love of agriculture eventually led him to pursue a degree at Appalachian State University in Boone where he learned how diverse our state’s agriculture industry is. He also fell in love with the Christmas tree industry there. “It’s funny that I work with Christmas tree growers today because I distinctly remember a time in college where I looked around at all the beautiful trees being grown in that area and thought to myself, ‘I bet it would be fun to work with those on a daily basis,'” he said, “and here we are!”
Tony began his career with the Department of Agriculture ten years ago, in 2012. Prior to working with Christmas trees, he had the privilege of helping the apple and tomato growers across our state.
Today, he has the opportunity to connect with and assist Christmas tree growers as well as raspberry and blackberry growers and professionals across the nursery industry. In fact, one of the projects he is the most proud of was completed through the work and transition between these two roles. “A few years ago, I was able to secure funds with the help of Kaleb Rathbone, current Assistant Commissioner of Western N.C. Agricultural Programs and Small Farms, for a beautifully wrapped trailer marketing our state’s tomatoes,” Tony said. “This trailer. along with one for apples was used at a variety of events and greatly helped the awareness of both industries. This year, we were able to transfer that success over to the Christmas tree industry when we had a trailer wrapped that same way promoting the hard work of our N.C. tree farmers. That trailer was used to transport the Christmas tree from Peak Farms in Jefferson to the White House. It was a huge honor to see the industry promoted in that way and know that I had a small hand in making that happen.”
Although there is no typical day on the job, Tony loves being able to work with growers and their supporters. He is on the Ag Options board that approves grant requests as well as works with trade growers and attends industry wide events to network with and promote growers in the industry, including the Green & Growing Show. “The biggest things that I have learned from Christmas tree growers throughout my years are faith and patience,” Tony said. “I’ve worked with various other growers and many of them are able to plant more of their commodity when demand is high, but Christmas tree growers can’t do that because it takes eight plus years to grow one tree. I’ve learned from them how to plan ahead, be patient and have faith that you will reap what you sow when you put hard work and heart into it.”
One of the upcoming changes he is noticing in the industry currently is the growing popularity of tabletop trees. Tabletop trees are live trees that are only grown to be about 3-feet-tall. “These trees are becoming increasingly popular amongst people who live in apartments or townhomes where a regular size Christmas tree just isn’t an option due to limited space,” he said, “which has worked out well for Christmas tree growers because it presents another niche market for them to target.”
When he is not on the clock, Tony can be found enjoying the beauty of the North Carolina mountains with his wife, either hiking, exploring the local small towns or cheering on his Mountaineers at an App State football game. Join us in thanking Tony for all of his hard work!