History of Lantenn Farms

LANCO was incorporated in 1952 and for a short time operated a farm in West Virginia that grew hemlocks and other plants for its members. This innovative cooperative nursery approach was unique to the industry and yet due to several reasons was sold later.  During the mid-1970’s LANCO members discussed options for a cooperative nursery located in an area that would allow for faster production of crops and could produce quality plants for its members.

On the way to the 1978 annual meeting, Richard Ammon was visiting nurseries in Southern Tennessee and learned of land available in Franklin County that was near several other nursery producers. Richard Located a potential farm and placed a deposit on the farm selected and proceeded to the annual meeting where approval was given to purchase the farm. The farm was incorporated in May of 1978 and Lantenn Farms was born.  Lantenn Farms name is a combination or acronym of LANCO and Tennessee.

Founding stockholders contributed funds through stock purchase to fund the initial purchase of the land, equipment and initial plantings of the first crops.

For Tax purposes Lantenn Farms is a Corporation that operates as an Agricultural Cooperative, meaning that the overall goal of the farm is operate at a no net profit, allowing the benefit of profits to pass through to the member stockholders. Each stockholder is entitled to one vote in the corporation, regardless of the number of shares owned.

The initial purchase of 100 acres of land that now constitutes the main farm location is located on Davy Crockett Hwy just south of Belvidere Tennessee. Shortly after purchase of the farm, Mr. Wayne Milstead was hired as the first farm manager.  In the early years, Wayne was the only employee other than part time labor to help with planting and harvest.  Wayne operated the farm with limited equipment and the first tractor purchased is still a part of the farm fleet today. Wayne Milstead remained the farm manager until his retirement in 2010. 

Early crop production at Lantenn focused on production of smaller dogwoods, Viburnum, quince, arborvitae and juniper. Most of these were destined for retail sales. For example the dogwoods were sold as 4-5 foot size range.

Operations continued with complete line out and harvest over the years between 1980 and 1997 using piece work labor and limited staff. The farm remained profitable with all profits either invested in the farm operation and improvement or returned to the owner stockholders based on patronage.

In late 1996 phase one of the Crockett Farm was located and purchased by a consortium of Richard Ammon, The Wm. A. Natorp Co and The Siebenthaler Co. that land was then leased to Lantenn Farms for expansion. As that land was developed and planted, Phase two of the Crockett Farm became available and was purchased by issuing stock to members and a bank loan.

Improvements to the farm included development of a shipping area, a barn for storage, and most importantly a well and underground irrigation system that allows the entire farm to be drip irrigated.

In 2004 the corporation agreed to purchase the land held by the Ammon/Natorp/Siebenthaler group using additional bank financing and investor financing.

The Crockett Farm is named after Davy Crockett who lived in the area (his wife Polly is buried nearby) and is shown on survey maps as having a hand dug the well , attributed to Davy Crockett, that is located on the property.  We have not tried to document the history of land ownership, but the local historical society does agree that the well has historical significance.

In 1997 with the addition of the Crockett Farm, we hired Mike Milstead to become the assistant farm manager and over time assumed responsibility for full manager as his father cut back and later retired.

With the addition of the Crockett Farm and the change in the marketplace, Lantenn shifted production gradually from producing small retail ready B&B plants to providing landscape sized plants for the Landscape and wholesale distribution trade that our members now seemed to need.

Using the example from the early days our now typical dogwood is sold as a 2” tree and other plants are also larger than could be readily available in container plants.

The farm does have a full time workforce averaging 6-8 persons that work regularly at the farm. They include the manager ( Mike Milstead), an Assistant Manager( Josh Milstead), a field production manager ( Stephen Godinez), and Shipping Manager (Adam Stewart) as well as others.

Much of the production work including digging continues on a piece work rate employment.

Lantenn has invested in equipment and technology to improve operations and reduce labor on the farm. About 45% of our crops are now harvested by machine and the loading and shipping process is also mechanized as much as possible.

Lantenn has always prided itself on compliance with safety and regulatory issues. Because it is one of the more visible operations in the area, we are regularly inspected for our chemical treatments and other compliance issues. We regularly cooperate with Extension and USDA research teams to help find solutions to the issues facing the industry today. Lantenn has been the site of extensive testing for Fire Ant control and other disease and pest management practices.

A committee of members: Greg Ammon, John Korfhage, Kyle Natorp, Peter Scarff, Gary Wiedenbach and recently David Wells, guide the operations of the farm with twice annual visits to the farm in addition to other visits by the executive director and almost daily phone calls between the office and farm.

The committee is responsible for cultural practices, variety selection, pricing and the quantities grown of the plants at Lantenn. The Executive Director is responsible for overall management and compliance of the farm.

 

The order process for Lantenn is to:

  • A complete inventory is published in the late summer of each year.
  • Orders are taken from the members for shipments to be made in the fall and spring digging seasons
  • Any allocations of plants is made and orders confirmed and processed for digging
  • After allocations and orders then the inventory is available for purchase by the member s on a first come basis.

In recent years we have tried to perform summer digging of plants if the season allows.

We ask the members to remember that Lantenn Farms is a member owned cooperative and is an extension of your own nurseries. Before you consider outside purchases we ask that you look at the opportunity to purchase from your own operation and how you can contribute to the long term success of the farm.

 

 

 

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