Georgia entrepreneur named 2012 Star in Agribusiness finalist by National FFA Organization

INDIANAPOLIS (September, 2012/National FFA Organization) - It all started with Bradley’s Pumpkin Patch. Then came Bradley’s Christmas Trees. Bradley’s Landscaping. Bradley’s Daffodils, Bradley’s Peanuts. And Bradley’s Daylillies.

Thirteen years after the first Bradley business launched, Bradley’s E-Commerce Site, which sells historical toys, natural soaps and honey, hit the Internet. And just last year, Bradley’s Pick-Your-Own Blueberries venture opened in Dawsonville, Ga.

The “Bradley” brand was born in 1995 when Bradley Weaver of Dawsonville, Ga., at age 5 started selling pumpkins from a road-side stand to earn money for college. At 8, he liberated a section of his family’s barn and turned it into a gift shop. That young, entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well today as this college junior and FFA member continues to own and operate eight businesses that bear his name.

For the successes he’s achieved in agribusiness, Weaver has been named a 2012 Star in Agribusiness finalist, one of the highest honors given by the National FFA Organization. He will compete with three other finalists at the 85th National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 24 - 27, in Indianapolis.

Each year at the national convention and expo, 16 national finalists – four in each category – vie for the organization’s top awards: American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience. These awards honor students who have developed outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through their supervised agricultural experience; demonstrated outstanding management skills; earned the American FFA Degree – the organization’s highest level of accomplishment; and met other agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements. Each finalist will be interviewed by a panel of judges, who will ultimately name the top candidate in each area. The winner will be announced in an onstage ceremony and will receive a plaque and an award of $4,000. The runners-up will also receive a plaque and $2,000 each.

“Through my experiences, I have developed a strong work ethic and ability to work steadily until a job is done to the satisfaction of the customer,” he said.

Weaver evolved his road-side pumpkin sales business into a pumpkin patch business for a supervised agricultural experience required by FFA. Supervised agricultural experiences are projects that students conceptualize with the help of their teachers that involve them owning and operating an agricultural-based business, getting an agriculture-based job or internship or planning and conducting an agriculture-related scientific experiment.

Their learn-by-doing project gives FFA members invaluable experience as they progress through their educational careers.

At first, he sold four acres of pumpkins, 100 Christmas trees and 100 pounds of boiled peanuts, all of which he grew. Then he added landscaping services and flower sales. Today, his businesses provide landscaping services, pumpkin sales, Christmas tree sales, more than 300 pounds of boiled peanut sales annually and sales of more than 300 varieties of daylilies and 30 varieties of daffodils. He even hires high school FFA members as employees at his pumpkin patch.

Weaver said his business goals are threefold: Diversify products for sale each year to increase sales, reinvest profits back into the company and give back to the community. "Giving back is also very important to me," he said. "Every year, I donate pumpkins and Christmas trees to charities and more than 1,000 daffodils to historical and charitable organizations."

Weaver, the son of retired teachers Tony and Karen Weaver, graduated from Dawson County High School in Dawsonville, Ga. The four-year FFA member’s chapter advisor was Reggie Stowers. He is currently attending North Georgia College majoring in business administration.

The American FFA Degree recognition programs, such as the American Star Awards, are co-sponsored by Alltech Inc.; Case IH; Elanco; Farm Credit; Pioneer Hi-Bred, a DuPont Business; and Syngenta as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.