Six new varieties earn prestigious AAS Winner award

Longtime nurseryman Mark West has joined Hawksridge Farms as general manager.

Hawksridge Farms is a tree and ornamental shrub nursery in Hickory, North Carolina. It was founded in 1982, and outgoing general manager Rick Crowder was one of the nursery’s original employees. Rick is retiring at the end of February.

Mark West started January 3 at Hawksridge and says he is looking forward to another 20-plus years with an outstanding nursery.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, West earned a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from Oklahoma State University. He worked for the OSU Botanical Gardens and from there, began working for Dr. Carl Whitcomb at Lacebark, Inc.

West says Dr. Whitcomb was and is an outstanding mentor, offering real world experience with propagation, production, and plant breeding that cannot be found in the academic setting.

In May of 1999 Mark and his wife Tabitha moved to Ada, Oklahoma for Tabitha to work on her internship for Medical Technology. While in Ada, Mark was referred to an in-ground tree farm that needed help, Cedar Valley Nursery. Over his time there, Mark became the general manager and partial owner.

Cedar Valley evolved from a B&B farm to a liner operation. Cedar Valley has shipped millions of tree liners from seed, rooted cutting, and grafting all over the US and even to Mexico. After the economic crash in 2008, Cedar Valley branched out into annuals, perennials, grasses and groundcovers. Cedar Valley closed its doors in 2019 and became Cultivate Ada, a medical marijuana facility. Mark stayed on as the grower until a full-time grower was chosen.

In February of 2020 Mark and Tabitha moved to Oregon. After about 2 years they decided to try something different. Mark decided to join Hawksridge Farms. The North Carolina nursery grows a wide variety of trees, shrubs, grasses, perennials, groundcovers on 60 acres. Its main customers are landscape contractors, garden centers and landscape distribution centers.

Hawksridge’s shipping range extends south to Georgia and north to Connecticut.

Mark is a Past President of both the Oklahoma Nursery and Landscape Association and the Western Nursery and Landscape Association. Awards and honors include; FFA Chapter Farmer from Allen OK, Distinguished Horticulture Alumnus from Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma Nursery and Landscape Association Green Industry Professional award, and Western Nursery and Landscape Association State Association Leader award.

Mark loves reading about current affairs, running, CrossFit, serving his community as a Rotarian, football, and spending time with Tabitha and their two fur babies, Jett and Harley. He is also looking forward to reviving his long-time hobby of fishing.

Rick began his career at Hawksridge Farms in 1982 and became general manager and president in 1985. He’s always had a passion and interest in new plants for Southern gardens. He has traveled many times to the West Coast, British Columbia and Japan searching for and collecting new plants. He has made several trips to Holland, visited England and Scotland, as well as Germany, Italy, New Zealand and Belgium visiting various nurseries, arboreta and gardens. Several years ago thru IPPS Rick added China and South Africa to his extensive list of travels. Hawksridge Farms is well known in the industry for the evaluation, development and introduction of new plant cultivars to the trade.

Rick has served on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Association of Nurserymen from 1995-1999, serving as president in 1998. He served on the Board of Advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum for six years, and formerly served on the Board of Advisors for the NC Arboretum in Asheville, North Carolina. Rick also served on North Carolina’s Green Industry Council and the Exotic Plant Pest Council. He has been active in the International Plant Propagator’s Society since 1990, and was president of the Southern Region in 2010. He also served as an alternate delegate and delegate to the IPPS International Board.

In 2002, Rick’s commitment and service was recognized with the North Carolina Association of Nurserymen (now NCNLA) Copeland Award for Lifetime Achievement. Hawksridge Farms was awarded the Grower of the Year in North Carolina in 2012. In 2013, Rick was the recipient of the Don Shadow Award at the Southern Plant Conference.

Rick was honored with the Sydney B. Meadows Award in 2014, which is the highest award given by the IPPS Southern Region. In 2021, he became a Fellows award recipient with IPPS Southern Region.

Rick has been married to his high school sweetheart since 1977. Susie and Rick have two daughters and four grandchildren. He was active at the Mtn View Recreation Center for a number of years, coaching and serving on the board there, also served on various positions at Plateau United Methodist Church where he and Susie have been members for more than 40 years.

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