WilMor Farms grows
which change with
the season. The farm
holds many memories
for Rita as it originally
belonged to her
by American consumers. WilMor Farms owners, Rita and Mike Williams, are members of four
important organizations that foster this turn toward home: Slow Flowers founded by Debra Prinzing;
Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers; American Grown Flowers and Georgia Grown.
Both Rita and Mike graduated from the University of Georgia. After college, Rita went to work
as a registered nurse in the hospital in Athens. Mike, a horticulture major, worked with a large
landscaping company in Athens. They married in 1998, and three years later moved from Athens to
Statesboro where Mike established his own landscaping company called Olive Branch Landscaping,
and Rita went to work at the East Georgia Regional Hospital.
The move to Statesboro in 2001 was a step closer to home, and home was the old family farm on
the outskirts of Metter. Even though Rita grew up in Lyons, Georgia, she spent entire summers and
nearly every weekend exploring the land and playing with her cousins.
“The Queen of England granted my ancestor 5,000 acres of land,” said Rita. “His name was
John Dekle, and my grandmother was a direct descendant of his.” By the time Rita came along, her
grandparents, Orita and Clifford Morgan, owned three hundred acres of the original land. Clifford
Morgan built a house from wood on the property with the help of his brothers. The best anyone can
54 Toombs County Magazine
figure, the old farmhouse was built sometime in
the 1930s. Although her grandfather died when
she was young, Rita still has distant snapshots of
him in her memory.
Rita’s mother, Gen Morgan, taught school at
Lyons Elementary for over forty years. Her father,
Jimmy Morgan, worked for Nesmith Oil for many
years and farmed a little on the weekends at the
old homeplace. “My dad was young, in his fifties,
when he died of lung cancer,” said Rita. She was
only in the 8th grade at the time.
Not long after her father passed away, Rita’s
grandmother had to move into an assisted living
facility. After her death, the land was again
divided, and Rita inherited forty acres and the old
farmhouse. By the time she moved to Statesboro,
the house had sat vacant for over twenty years.
Rita and Mike worked every spare moment
and moved in after three years. “We’re still doing
renovations,” laughed Rita. They moved in just
before their first child, Mary Gen, was born.
Within six years, they had all four children.
Today, Mary Gen (14), Josie (12), Mason (10), and
Morgan (8) are the seventh generation of Rita’s
family to live on the land. The room in which
their son Mason sleeps once belonged to Rita’s
father. It’s the one room in the old farmhouse that
Ashe’s kept the same. s Mike’s landscaping business continued
to grow, Rita took a job auditing medical
charts from home, which allowed her
the flexibility to be with the children and
homeschool. Although “buying local” is a message
and mission of WilMor Farms today, it was not the
catalyst behind their venture into flower farming.
About four years ago, Rita and Mike decided to do
something to help prepare their children for the world in a very real way.
“So many children today are growing up with no concept of how to work,” said Rita. “Even
worse, they don’t see the value in it. Whether our children choose to work is up to them, but when
they leave home, they will at least know how to work.” What better way to learn the principles of
work ethics than with farming?