Hunter Trees, owned by brothers Phillip and Will Hunter, is Alabama’s 2014 Farm of Distinction. Phillip will represent the state and vie for the Swisher Sweets / Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year later this fall.

The announcement was made April 3 at the Alabama Farm-City Awards in Birmingham. As this year’s winner, the Hunters received $10,000 in prizes.

Located near Alpine, Hunter Trees is known throughout the country as a trusted source for high-quality landscape trees. “Quality is very important to us,” Phillip said. “Our business, our nursery, is specified a lot by landscape contractors or landscape architects, so they are getting the kind of trees on their jobs that they know are going to look good and make them look good. It’s all part of making us all successful.”

Ten years ago, however, the business was just a dream for the Hunter brothers. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Phillip was working as a landscape contractor in Birmingham. Will would soon graduate from Auburn University with a degree in ornamental horticulture. Together with their father, Bill, they set out to build one of the South’s leading nurseries.

Today, Hunter Trees covers 300 acres of a former sod and row crop farm. It includes 225 acres of production with 125 varieties of trees. On any given day, there are about 65,000 trees growing at the nursery, including some that are so big only two will fit on a semi-trailer.

Phillip says maintaining a clean nursery and good conservation practices are important to the farm's success.

“God gave us this land to work with, and we try to be good stewards of it,” he said. “We’ve done the majority of the work ourselves, and we take pride in that.”

Like most farmers, Phillip and wife Robin say the things they like most about agriculture are being around family and nature.

“I love to see things grow,” he said. “We love to be able to start with a small tree and see it grow to a big tree. It’s a great place to work with my family.”

Phillip is chairman of the Alabama Farmers Federation Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Committee and serves on the Alabama Agriculture and Industries Board.