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Joe S. Washington receives coveted Headrick Award

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February 01, 2019
Joe S. Washington, Chief Executive Officer and owner of Black Fox Farms, Inc, and Black Fox Events, Inc. received the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award during special ceremonies at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The meeting convened Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America.
The Headrick Award is the highest award given by the Chamber of Commerce and honors the ideals of the late M.C. Headrick, a successful Cleveland businessman who staunchly believed in the concept of free enterprise: “Put men on their own to make economic decisions, and let them reap the rewards or lack of rewards from those decisions.”

“Joe Washington began his business in 1978 with six acres of land and two employees,” states nominator Lee Stewart, Regional President East Tennessee at Southern Heritage Bank.  “Forty years later he is a testament to the success possible with hard work, meaningful contributions to the community and exemplifies the values desired of the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award.”

In 1977, Mr. Washington purchased Varnell Nursery, which was originally established in 1899 and recognized as one of the longest active business in Bradley County. “Joe eventually sold the retail portion of the business and opened Black Fox Farms, Inc., to concentrate on wholesale plants. His initial 6 acre business investment has presently grown to over 55 acres along with 48 employees. Joe would be the first to recognize his success is attributed to his dedicated employees and considers them family,” shared Stewart. “He is truly outstanding in selecting employees and retaining them in a labor intensive business.” One relatively new employee commented, “It really makes a difference to work for a Christian man.”
Black Fox Farms, Inc. is recognized as one of the largest wholesale container-growth nurseries in East Tennessee, serving clients and customers within a 400 mile radius of Cleveland. The company has also provided plants to the Churchill Downs event venue in Kentucky along with special projects for SunTrust Park, to just name a few! In 2006, business sales were reported at $2.8 million and grew to $5.4 million in 2017.
Washington is known and respected by his peers and competition as a professional leader in the industry. Nurseries are challenged by extreme fluctuations in weather and new product demands in the marketplace. “Joe has demonstrated a unique ability to anticipate these challenges and thrive through them,” expressed Stewart.
In 2011, Joe and wife, Ellen opened Black Fox Events, Inc., as a venue for special events which have included class reunions, weddings, along with numerous fundraisers in support of community betterment. “This was  a unique opportunity to incorporate their primary business into this newer one,” said Stewart. “Events held at Black Fox Farms consistently receive extremely high ratings due to the personal care and interest Joe and Ellen offer each client.”
Washington has and continues to positively contribute in the community’s success through financial and volunteer support on various civic and non-profit organizations which have included; service on the Cleveland Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and active involvement for the First Baptist Church Music and Missions Ministry as well as a Sunday School Teacher and a previous member of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. 
Joe and Ellen, are the parents of two children, Joe Jr. and Sarah.
Joel Henderson, Communications Director

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