Mississippi Horticulture With their history of working in their parents’ horticulture business and then taking over the operation after their mom and dad retired, siblings Bill Rivers and Joy Faulkner know about the importance of family. And as they continuously discover in their day-to-day running of Rivers Greenhouse and Garden (RG&G) and Rivers Plant Farm in Brandon, Rivers and Faulkner also know plenty about the importance of teamwork. Faulkner says that has been a huge part of their operations, which began more than 35 years ago with Willie and Glynda Rivers. Rivers works the wholesale end of the business, while Faulkner and Rivers’ wife, Rhonda, oversee retail management. “What makes this work is the two of us together,” Faulkner says. “For the wholesale side [Rivers Plant Farm], our strengths are growing and production, getting the plants out. The team does that really, really well. And then our strengths on the retail side [RG&G] are merchandising and customer service. The two businesses together make a great team because we hit both areas of this type of work.”

Starting Early

This type of work – the horticulture industry – is a big part of Mississippi’s overall agriculture revenue. Horticulture’s commodities account for some $114 million annually. Willie and Glynda Rivers became a part of the state’s horticulture arena when they moved with their four children to Rankin County from Dothan, Ala., in 1979. They soon started a small nursery business and eventually built their first greenhouse. Within seven or eight years, they had an established wholesale operation and around 16 greenhouses. A retail mart was added in 1987.

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Though two of the Rivers’ children went on to other careers, Bill and Joy developed their interests in the business at a young age and carried it through to adulthood. “A lot of our time was helping them get the business started – planting, loading, watering, doing the office work,” Faulkner says. “I helped keep part of the books. I just enjoy the outdoors, and watching things grow was really fascinating for me, so I felt like that was what God was calling me to do.” For his part, Rivers says he had more of “a passion for construction, production and customers,” adding that the business does all its own building, maintenance, electricity, plumbing and the like. Most importantly, he takes to heart what his dad insisted was the key to success.

“Daddy’s motto was customer first, growing plants second and the rest would fall into place,” Rivers says. “We’re customer-oriented people, and that goes a long way.” Mississippi Horticulture

Family Ties

The two Rivers locations now have a total of 70 greenhouses. Rivers Plant Farm grows 2 million vegetable transplants, 100,000 trays of plants and 30,000 hanging baskets, and sells to farmers markets, farm supply stores and garden centers throughout Mississippi and part of Louisiana. The retail outlet has an abundance of annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables, hanging baskets and roses, as well as shrubs, trees, fountains, pottery, soils and mulch. Just as Rivers and Faulkner learned the business from their parents, they are passing on the “green thumb” to their children. After all, they realize the significance of family. “It was so valuable to have Mom and Dad start the business,” Faulkner says. “They worked 30 years before they retired. They were able to learn things along the way that they were able to teach us, so we took what they taught us and ran with that. That’s priceless, when you can take someone else’s knowledge and experience and build on it. That has enabled us to grow so much.”

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