Meadows Farms, Inc. is one of the largest independently owned nursery and garden centers in the country, with twenty retail locations, employing over 750 employees, and a landscape facility housing 39 designers and sending out over 70 crews a day.
Meadows Farms Nurseries is managed from the top down, starting with owner and CEO Bill “The Farmer” Meadows and his wife Betty. Their son Jay Meadows heads up the daily operations as President of the company, with a staff of 17 working from the corporate office located in Chantilly, Virginia. Decisions are made there and passed down through the Vice Presidents, who also serve as regional managers over the nurseries. In this way, the nurseries are all managed in a similar fashion, with everyone working from the same blueprint.
The Meadows Farms niche is geared to the value-minded consumer, priced well below the local independent garden centers. From the beginning, Meadows determined there were several areas where he could outpace his competitors. In addition to his “Best Price” policy, he provides the types of service that doesn’t cost extra – informative signs, pictures, information handouts, carts, and teenagers to help load the cars. His appreciation for each and every customer is demonstrated in his requirement that each be thanked four times (by the personnel involved in the transaction as well as driving past a “Thank-You” sign as they leave the nursery).
Vice President Ron Meadows oversees all buying in the company, making frequent trips to various parts of the country to shop for the value that has made Meadows’ reputation. He is challenged by the need to locate enough plant material to stock more than twenty garden centers with premium products. Likewise, he is committed to the Meadows Farms philosophy of the best plants at the best price. His ability to buy in volume enables him to purchase at the lowest price and pass the savings on to the consumer.
Vice Presidents Dave Slack and Cindy Day act as regional managers, as well as buyers for seasonal plants, and mulch, respectively.
Meadows Farms Landscape, headed by Senior Vice President Dave Reed, and assisted by Vice Presidents Tim Pearson and Craig Holgate, specializes in residential design build throughout the 10,000 square mile Metropolitan Washington area. With a 27 acre site, located just a mile from the corporate headquarters, Reed, who does much of the buying, is able to stock an impressive display of large size specimens, unusual plants, and hardscape materials, satisfying the needs of his designers and installers, who put in more than 3,500 landscape projects a year. The landscape division prides itself on customer service, knowledgeable staff, and follow-up, leading to a high percentage of return customers and referrals. Providing quality plants as well as first rate service marks Meadows Farms Landscaping as an outstanding division of Meadows Farms. Meadows Farms Grounds Maintenance was born in 2006, opening the door to another arena for Meadows Farms to work its magic. With this newest department, you will have access to competent professional lawn and garden maintenance, delivery and planting of smaller plant orders, and garden enhancements using annuals and perennials. At this time, our service area covers Fairfax and Loudoun counties as well as portions of Prince William and Arlington counties in Virginia.
Since its inception in 1960, Meadows Farms has grossed over a half billion dollars in sales, with recent annual sales of more than $60 million, thanks to Meadows’ entrepreneurial spirit and tenacity. But he wasn’t always a businessman…
Bill “The Farmer” Meadows was born and raised near Beckley, West Virginia, where he married Betty, his childhood sweetheart, and enlisted in the Army. When his enlistment was up, Bill and Betty returned to West Virginia and enrolled in Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. After receiving their degrees in education, the Meadows’ moved to Fairfax County, Virginia where Betty worked as a librarian and Bill worked as a Physical Education teacher and football coach.
During his ten years of teaching, Bill developed a plan for keeping his students and himself productive during the three-month summer vacation. He would go to the Farmer’s Market in Washington, DC and buy tomatoes which his students would then sell, door-to-door, from little red wagons. The vendors in the market gave Bill the nickname “Farmer” and the name has stuck.
Several years into the peddling business, Farmer began setting up roadside markets in the Northern Virginia area, which eventually led to his first permanent produce stand in Sterling, Virginia. The produce business proved to be quite lucrative, so Farmer eventually gave up the teaching and coaching that he loved so much, in favor of being a full-time “Farmer”. Betty continued working in the school system for a time, keeping her husband’s books in the evenings after work. When it became too big of a job to do “part-time” Betty also resigned her county teaching job in favor of working alongside her husband. After more than 50 years of marriage, the two continue to work in tandem, discussing all aspects of the business and making decisions together.
The produce era was short-lived, however. Farmer began to explore other avenues of expanding his product line, including the addition of a line of nursery stock. When a trucker from the south approached Farmer and asked him to take a distressed load of plants that another nursery had refused, Farmer accepted, working past dark to get the truck unloaded and some rough signs in front of every group. It was a phenomenal weekend, and by Monday morning the till was full, the field was empty, and Meadows Farms Nursery was on the way to being born. Farmer began ordering plant material every week, and selling it at a very low mark-up, giving him his “discount” reputation.
The next year it was obvious that the nursery business was the way to go, and the produce side of things was eventually phased out.
As Meadows Farms grew in scope as a nursery, garden center, and landscaping business, Farmer developed his own unique philosophy based on his many experiences with people he encountered along the way.
In his years of teaching, Meadows was discouraged by the “tenure” concept that dictated what his standing would always be on the ladder. In the school system, it was considered “fair” that the longer you worked, the more money you made. This never seemed right to the Farmer, and he determined that if he ever had his own business he would treat people “right” rather than “fair”. He believed that in the private sector there should be no limit to how high a person could rise, as long as they were the best at what they did. This became an important precept that is the basis for promotions, raises, and leads for designers – the best people make more money.
In the fledgling state of the nursery business, Farmer noticed that local nurseries priced their stock beyond the means of many average homeowners, making the acquisition of landscaping a luxury. The possibility of working with a professional designer was unimaginable. Farmer’s dream was to make landscaping a possibility for everyone. In addition to offering the best plants at the best price to his retail customer, he pioneered the idea of free landscape consultation for his installation clients.
Farmer always thought it important that his employees were courteous and grateful. He had learned that many business people didn’t seem to appreciate his business, and that clerks and other staffers often neglected to say a simple “thank-you”. Meadows determined this would not be the case with any of his endeavors, and has a firm policy that each customer be thanked by three staffers they encounter in the check-out process as well as a 16 square foot sign thanking each person for being a “Meadows Farms Person”.