Kenton Abrams was born and raised in Oldham County, Kentucky, where many of his neighbors earned their living on family farms. Kenton’s family also worked the land, but in a different way: His father owned a residential landscaping company. Like many young people, Kenton was eager to learn about his dad’s business and started helping out at age 9. He liked to edge beds, lay mulch and trim hedges, but what fascinated him most were the trees, shrubs and flowers that made green spaces truly come alive. Kenton didn’t know it back then, but a seed had been planted that would later bloom into a hobby and become his life’s work.
Kenton started Abrams Nursery in 2007, just months before the financial crisis that triggered one of the worst recessions in American history. With careful financial planning and a willingness to innovate, he defied the odds. He now has more than 300 acres in production and employs 30 people on farms and at a full-service wholesale operation that ships plants to contractors throughout central Kentucky and garden centers across the country. According to Kenton, a large portion of his success can be traced back to the lessons he learned as a member of FFA.
Joining FFA as a high school freshman led Kenton to discover his passion for agriculture and to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. FFA helped him expand his skills in nursery management, landscaping and plant identification. By high school, Kenton had started his first LLC, offering services such as grass cutting and hand-digging shrubs. His hard work earned him the 2001 Kentucky State Star in Agribusiness award during his last year of high school.
“FFA was a really important experience for me,” says Kenton. “If I hadn’t joined, I don’t think I would be in this career today. FFA doesn’t just get kids interested in agriculture, it sets kids up with the entrepreneurial skills they need to be successful.”
With more than 1 million students and alumni, FFA is one of the largest youth organizations in the United States. Through experiential, project-based learning, FFA students actively participate in their education and develop real-world agricultural proficiencies and leadership skills. Farm Credit Mid-America invests in organizations dedicated to developing future leaders in agriculture, including FFA.
Applying FFA to the real world
Kenton continued to work in this industry before purchasing his first 75 acres in 2007. He attended trade shows in Kentucky and neighboring states, where he was often the youngest farmer in the room.
When the financial crisis hit, he had to adapt to keep growing. According to Kenton, “Building a business during a recession makes you think outside of the box and constantly figure out how to set yourself apart from everyone else. Lots of nurseries specialize in just one type of plant, so I started growing container plants, shade trees, shrubs, flowers - anything I thought would sell.”
It wasn’t just products that he focused on. “We also ship 80 percent of the freight in-house,” Kenton explains. “I can have a customer call me in the morning and the order will be shipped out by the afternoon, which is pretty unique.”
Not done yet
Abrams Nursery grew steadily as Kenton bought several small plots of land scattered throughout the county. In 2013, Kenton purchased an additional 95 acres of land, making his operation even stronger. Throughout this process, Kenton has worked hand-in-hand with Farm Credit Mid-America. “Farm Credit understands how we operate our business,” Kenton explains. “This business is very seasonal, with influxes of revenue in the spring and fall. Farm Credit supports that. They’re just good people.”
For Kenton, the most rewarding part about owning a business isn’t being the biggest or the best, it’s getting to do what he loves every single day. “I started with a hobby that turned into my business, and now I get paid to do what I’m passionate about. I feel really fortunate.”