After graduating from the University of Tennessee, Paul Meehan moved to New York and then Nashville for a career in the software industry. Today, he’s in Mississippi, growing 20,000 trees on his family’s farm outside of Memphis.
“You couldn’t script something as opposite as what I’ve gotten myself into,” Paul says. “But I’m so fulfilled. I love being outside all day, being my own boss and creating something. Whether it’s software or farming, it’s all about delivering a quality product.”
It turns out that Paul’s timing couldn’t be more perfect. He started his business in 2018. Fast forward three years, and there’s a bigger need for trees than ever—due to a range of causes from the pandemic to the Texas ice storm.
“I’m hoping we’re coming onto the scene at just the right time,” he says. “This summer, we’re going to have thousands of trees ready for harvest—we specialize in Grade 1 shade and evergreen trees for the Southeast and South Central landscape.”
Paul says starting a new business has its share of challenges, especially entering a brand-new industry. So before starting Natchez Tree Company, he reached out to top landscape contractors and farmers for advice.
“Two things stood out,” he says. “There was a shortage of Grade 1 trees alongside outdated and inefficient production practices. With farming, you have second, third, even fourth generations still doing things the same way. That’s not always bad, but there have been a lot of improvements since then, too.”
One advancement Paul is especially familiar with is technology and software. With only five employees, he relies on a lot of data to assist him with everything from pest management to irrigation. Natchez Tree Company uses Tempest, a sophisticated onsite weather station, and Arbré Tech for inventory management and customer orders, which uses RFID tags.
“When a customer calls to place an order, I’m able to give real-time availability directly from the field, making the order process much easier and efficient,” Paul explains.
He admits that while there has been a steep learning curve, starting a business has its advantages, too. “We have a blank slate to start—we’re not trying to retrofit anything. And we can really grow trees the way they should be grown,” he says.
Paul has worked quickly to catch up on trends, listening to industry pros. “You can pick the best from everyone and set yourself apart,” he says.
Research also led him to Dr. Ed Gilman with the University of Florida’s environmental horticulture department. “He’s an excellent resource, and we’ve adopted his pruning model for healthy tree architecture as well as Florida Grades and Standards,” says Paul.
Natchez Tree Company strives to promote vigor, structure and health. “Trees need a better starting point when planted at a job site in order to be successful,” Paul says. “An unhealthy tree means an increased cost of care and replacement. Landscape contractors shouldn’t be spending their time babysitting trees.” Paul also went out to find the best container on the market. In his review, he found that plastic containers impeded the proper structure of root growth, and trees harvested ball & burlap leave many roots behind, requiring extra care for survival. Natchez Tree Company exclusively uses in-ground fabric containers from High Caliper Growing, an Oklahoma City company. “When done correctly, it’s the healthiest way to grow a tree,” Paul says.
A full range of trees can be found on their website, with 25 varieties from maples and magnolias to elms and oaks. Natchez Tree Company can ship all over the Southeast and South Central.
“There’s nothing better than watching a tree leave the farm that we’ve grown from a seedling,” Paul says.
By the Numbers:
100 acres | 20,000 trees | 25 varieties | Founded in 2018 | 5 employees