A long, long, long time ago in a tomato field not so far away, Charley and Paul Parks decided that there had to be a better way to raise tomatoes. After contemplating the problem, the Parks Brothers decided that they could grow their own tomato plants to transplant in the field. In 1964 the Brothers built their first greenhouse and grew their first tomato transplants.
After a successful harvest, the other row croppers saw how well that worked for them, and the Brothers began growing vegetable plants for their neighbor farmers.
This went on for a few years until one day the man who sold them their seeds said, “You guys should be growing petunias.”
The Brothers looked at each other and replied, “What’s that?”
“Petunias. You know, those pretty flowers that all the women plant in front of their houses.”
After contemplating the suggestion, the Brothers decided to give petunias a try.
Now, over forty years later, Parks Brothers Farm, Inc. has grown to become Arkansas’s largest wholesale greenhouse. Parks Brothers has over 670,000 square feet of production space along with 10 acres of field production space and our own fleet of delivery trucks with rolling racks.
Parks Brothers specializes in producing top quality ornamental bedding plants, premium annuals, patio containers and deco pots, and superb hanging baskets in the spring.
In the fall, Parks Brothers produces the toughest and the most beautiful fall annuals which include pansies, violas, panolas, petunias, dianthus, calibrachoas, ornamental cabbage and kale and garden mums.
In the winter, Parks Brothers grows florist quality poinsettias in a wide selection of popular colors in #4, #6, #8 and #10 sizes.
After the success of the petunias, the Brothers added ageratum, begonias, impatiens, rose moss (portulaca) and salvia. The bedding plants were grown in wooden flats with a field dirt and barnyard soil mix. During this early time in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, petunias accounted for half of all the production. After growing a spring crop of bedding plants, the Brothers continued to farm in the summer.
They started delivering plants to fruit stands in Northwest Arkansas in the early 70’s then expanded to deliveries to Tulsa and Oklahoma City to the TG & Y stores. By 1975, the Brothers were making a better living growing bedding plants than they were farming so they started focusing less on the farming and more on the greenhouses. One added benefit of this decision was that the spring bedding plants were all grown and sold by the middle of April. This allowed Charley and Paul and the rest of the crew to take off a few weeks and go crappie fishing.
Business was good and more greenhouses were built. The first greenhouse were wooden structures that were built from scrap lumber. Needless to say, they were not pretty, but they were cheap and they worked. Later houses were metal and much sturdier.
In the late 70’s, the Brothers started selling to a small department store chain called Wal-Mart making Parks Brothers one of the first if not the first plant vendor for Wal-Mart. In those days, the Brothers worked with the stores individually, and the stores would pay cash for the plant deliveries.
Also during the late 70’s, Parks Brothers began servicing the Houston and southern Louisiana markets.
During the 80’s, we experienced phenomenal growth and to keep pace with demand, more greenhouses were built until the Brothers did not want to get any bigger. At that point, we began taking on what we call satellite growers who built greenhouses to grow plants exclusively for us. All of the satellite growers are within a two-mile radius of our farm and nearly all of them are related to us. The ones that aren’t related to us have been with us for so long that they feel like family anyway. On a farming side note, 1985 was the last year Parks Brothers grew any field crops until 2005 when we started growing sweet corn to sell locally.
At one point in the late 80’s we were selling to all the Wal-Mart stores in the US (some 400+ stores at the time) while simultaneously servicing garden centers from Baton Rouge to Kansas City and Oklahoma City to Memphis.
The 90′ started out great, but ended with some tough years. Changes in the industry with more chain stores entering the market, decreased margins and more competition along with our own policies of not getting in too deep with any one customer forced us to run much leaner and meaner in all aspects of the business.
One good thing that came out of the 90’s was the new plants that were introduced that have revolutionized the bedding plant industry. The new plants along with the chain store’s increased interest in selling bedding plants caused the whole industry to surge and led to more people being introduced to new plants that drove demand.
During the 90’s, the second generation of the family joined the business and introduced new concepts and ideas to the business. New products along with new perspectives proved to be a good combination.
By the late 90’s we began to see the writing on the wall in regards to the chain stores. During the whole time that we have service chain stores, Parks Brothers has always grown retail garden center quality product. While other greenhouses pursued the chain store business at any price. We maintained our expected level of quality and service. The late 90’s started the parting of the ways with our relationships with chain stores. Our refusal to kow tow to them led to some short term set backs that we were able to over come.
The first eight years of the new millennium had us refocusing and working our tails off to provide our garden centers with the best quality and service at the best possible price. During this time we experienced positive growth seven of the eight years. Our success was due in part to better marketing and improved efficiencies, but mostly it was due to the exceptional staff and crew that we have here at the farm.
2008 has presented us with more changes and new challenges. In the summer of 2008, we learned that we would no longer be a vendor for Wal-Mart. There was simultaneous sigh of relief and a churning of butterflies in our gut. We were relieved to be out of the belly of the beast but simultaneously concern about how we would replace those sales in an economic down turn.
In 2009, we stuck to our guns and planned on having a good year despite the economy. Spring was very wet, but we were still able to pull off a decent sell through despite it raining every weekend for 8 weeks (in one market in April it rained for 21 straight days). We made up about half the sales volume we lost with Wal-Mart. The fall season was flat with mums selling slow and no late pansy sales in the deep south. We sold out of all out poinsettias except for a few hundred 8″ and 10″ which was due to a large customer changing their order at the last minute. All in all we rate 2009 a mediocre year.
In 2010 Parks Bros. became the authorized Stepables® grower for the south. Confetti Gardens were the big hit in 2010 along with ALL of our hanging baskets and our line of Charley Vegetables and Herbs.
For 2011 we expanded our delivery area to include Alabama, northern Georgia, Mississippi and central Tennessee. Spring started early and ended early then was followed up by one of the hottest summers on record. We worked hard that summer to keep our field mum crop and the poinsettias in the greenhouses from all burning up. We did a lot of extra watering. Our mum crop suffered some losses, but we had an excellent poinsettia season. We increased our poinsettia crop by 10% and sold out.
We also officially updated our name to Parks Brothers Farm, Inc. in December of 2011.
2012 presented it’s own challenges. Unfortunately, they were a lot like 2011. We started spring early again and had the warmest March and April on record followed again by a hot, but not as hot as 2011, but much drier summer and fall. Low rainfall amounts in 2011 and 2012 had us in a severe drought. We got just enough rainfall to get by. The dry fall was challenging for consumers who were hesitant to plant but again, we got just enough rain to keep them planting and us selling out in the fall. The poinsettias looked great this year. Based on some of the feedback we received from our customers that pre-booked poinsettias, the economy had a large effect on poinsettias sales and a lot of customers did not have any luck selling their poinsettias.
After the early warm spring in 2012, the spring of 2013 was…unexpected. We had several cold snaps and a couple of snows. The last snow was on May 3 which shocked everyone. However, the IGC’s and consumers forged on. For most of the spring of 2013 the weeks went like this: early in the week it rains, then gets cold or freezes mid-week, everyone wants their orders delivered on Thursday/Friday, Saturdays are cool but nice then Sunday is warmer and clear and repeat again. People planted their flowers and gardens. Some of them planted several times but they still persevered and got their gardens in. Spring managed to work itself out in May and June. Fall 2013 was solid and the weather was good. Same goes for the poinsettia season. We had some issues with an ice storm in early December that affected several states we ship to but we did not have any major problems.
Be sure to check out our New Plants page for spring 2013 to see what’s been changed or added. As always, we appreciate you and hope that we are doing all we for you.
Parks Brothers Farm, Inc. currently services a 600 mile range that includes all or parts of the following states: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. As always, we are excited about spring and are looking forward to working with each of our valued customers to have a successful spring! Help us help you have a great spring. Give us a call, email us, leave a comment on the blog or use the contact form on the site to let us know what’s going on with you and your stores.
Parks Bros. Farm, Inc.
6733 Parks Road
Van Buren, AR 72956
Email: info[at]parksbrothers[dot]com or Contact Us