• Gabrielle West

Lily Farm flourishes after 34 years in business #readhere

Lily Farm flourishes after 34 years in business

The Lily Farm, located 12 miles west of Center on State Highway 7 West, is a Shelby County institution. Started 34 years ago by Jack Carpenter, a Center ISD teacher, it originally had 14 daylilies. Jack’s nephew, Mark Carpenter, bought The Lily Farm from his uncle 10 years ago, and its growth has been phenomenal.

Jack Carpenter was world-acclaimed for his daylilies. “He was a hybridizer,” Mark said. “Not exaggerating, he would be one of the ten most-famous in the world. He did, and we do, create our own plants. We have varieties that you won’t see anywhere else. We don’t wholesale our plants; we want people to continue to come and enjoy the farm in person.

“We now have over 50,000 daylily plants and are one of the largest daylily farms from here to Florida,” Mark Carpenter stated. “We have an online site, www.lilyfarm.com, and we sell daylilies from our online catalog. The peak bloom time for daylilies is from Mother’s Day through Father’s Day, and we welcome people to tour the farm and tag their blooms.”

The Lily Farm has expanded beyond just daylilies. The Carpenters carry over 100 varieties of roses, shrubs, hanging baskets, and full-size trees, as well. “The nursery part of the business has brought a lot of people here that had not been here before,” Carpenter said. “This year, we added concrete fountains, pottery, and windmills. We’re trying to carry things that people can’t get elsewhere.”

Mark Carpenter worked for H-E-B and Procter and Gamble for almost 30 years before he took on The Lily Farm full time. “I worked in marketing, so when I go to a trade show, I look for things that people might like. We have the bagged soils, really, we have a little of everything. We have people who come from all over – Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and other states. We get two or three buses a year, and this is good, because they come here and are helping the local economy by staying at hotels, eating at our restaurants, and visiting other local businesses.”

Mark said that they try to do local events. “This year for Mother’s Day, we’re going to give a portion of our sales that day to the Meals on Wheels program. Our local County Extension Agent, Jheri-Lynn McSwain, is going to head that program up. She’s going to have an information booth at our annual Mother’s Day Breakfast at the nursery.

“But the Saturday before Mother’s Day, my mom comes in from New Braunfels and spends the whole day cooking breakfast food. We’ll have orange juice, free coffee. It will be from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, the Saturday before Mother’s Day. The last two years, the cars have been lined up outside the gates. This year for everyone who brings their mom, or anyone who buys anything, we give a daylily to.”

In the fall, the Carpenters sell mums as a fundraiser for local organizations. “We sell a lot of those mums for almost no profit, because we want the churches to make a profit,” Mark shared. “It’s really important that we do community-based things – not just a business.”

Besides the website, www.lilyfarm.com, the Carpenters maintain a Facebook page, The Lily Farm Nursery, where they post photos of plants and Mark answers questions that followers post. “I answer every question that our customers post,” Mark shared.

Mark’s wife, Jill, is her husband’s partner on The Lily Farm, too. Winter is the “off-season.” The Carpenters spruce up their property and do any traveling during this season.

The general nursery usually opens about March 1. Nursery hours are Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The nursery is closed on Sunday.

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