More than 300 baskets hang from poles in the greenhouse — wandering jews, rose moss, ivy and begonias are among them.
The 20-by-80-foot space serves as a home base for Brackston’s growing business, the McKnight Plant Farm.
Brackston, a Jacksonville High School junior, started the business four years ago when he was in the eighth grade. He said he has turned a profit every year and expects it to continue rising.
“Very few times, especially on the tomato orders and things like that, have we had to call someone and ask them (to buy),” Brackston, 16, said. “Word spreads fast. Everyone was just eager to support me and what I was doing.”
Brackston got his start in horticulture through his involvement with Jacksonville ISD’s FFA program.
Through it he has found a passion and a possible future profession. But for now, he said, he just enjoys working and seeing the fruits of his labor.
Brackston said he traces his interest in horticulture back to his middle school years when he would go to job sites with his dad, Kenneth McKnight.
McKnight, a jack of all trades in his son’s words, is skilled in the carpentry, electrical and plumbing trades and often worked on greenhouses.
Through his father’s work, Brackston was introduced to greenhouses and, in the eighth grade, when he got involved with the FFA, he had the opportunity to try his hand at working in one.
Brackston decided to start a greenhouse and sell the plants he grew in it. He said the greenhouse route seemed easier to manage than having a garden. It allowed him to be more organized with his time and resources and avoid the weather variable that otherwise would be a factor.
With 40 acres on his family’s property, the greenhouse sits across a driveway from the house. In it, he grows three types of plants: bedding plants, vegetables and those in hanging baskets.
About 300 hanging baskets fill his greenhouse at this time. In January, he will start the tomatoes and grow them from the seed to customer specifications.
The bedding plants will be started later this month or in early January. All of the plants will be sold in the spring, he said.
Customers come primarily through word of mouth. Brackston periodically sells outside of a real-estate agency in Jacksonville and at community events around the county.
His greenhouse alone is representative of the potential people see in his enterprise.
A property owner donated the frame and heaters for the greenhouse, which replaced two smaller greenhouses Brackston previously used.
The owner had heard about Brackston’s project through the father of one of his teachers.
“It’s very satisfying to work and put your work into something and just get the gratification that you’ve done all you can and got the fruits of your labor, especially for the project,” he said.
Customers are quick to praise him.
“The quality’s great, everything I’ve seen,” said Darrell Dement, 44, a Jacksonville business owner who’s been buying from Brackston for years. “I deal with different greenhouses. He’s more hands on and does it himself and manages it himself. So he tends to do a good job.”
Cherokee County Judge Chris Davis, who lives in Alto, heard about Brackston from another county resident.
“He raises a kind of tomato plant that I love: Celebrity tomatoes,” Davis said by phone.
Davis said he usually buys several flats from Brackston every year and is pleased with how they turn out.
“They’re just always good,” he said.
As far as the future, Brackston said he plans to continue his business next school year and possibly into his college years. But, he is not sure if he wants to make a career out of it.
“It will definitely be something I can always go back to, something I have a skill for,” he said. “And, it will always be there for me.”