Michael’s Humble Beginnings
As a child, Michael LaBelle loved working on his grandfather’s farm in Meridian, Mississippi. He learned much working alongside Pa … and even became familiar with the practice of using animal manure for fertilizer. One fall, Michael got the idea to gather manure from where the cows were bedding. He built a bin and composted the manure over the winter. The next spring, Michael ran an ad in the paper and sold his entire inventory, one pickup load of compost, for $20. The family gets a big kick out of this story, realizing that Michael’s first entrepreneurial enterprise was not too far removed – in practice or location – from his present one.
Getting Started – Michael and Anne LaBelle share a passion for growing nutritious and delicious food. So when the economy and the construction industry began declining in 2007-2008, they began making plans to build a soil amendment business that exemplified their values and passion. After more than a year of intensely researching organic fertilizer manufacturing options and the rapidly expanding organic food market, they developed a formal business plan, secured a few initial investors, closed their construction business in Dallas, formed MightyGrow, Inc. and moved back to the southeast to start a new business manufacturing a mineral-rich, poultry litter-based organic fertilizer.
The LaBelles spent 2009 in central Mississippi unsuccessfully trying to find an appropriate site for their business. Michael then found an ideal property just across the state line. It was just what they were looking for, and they soon became the newest residents of Fruitdale, Alabama. The warm welcome and support of the Washington County Commissioners confirmed their decision, and they loved the fact that their products would say, “Made in Fruitdale, Alabama.” With the help of investors, Anne and Michael began converting chicken litter into an OMRI-listed organic fertilizer that could be used by certified organic growers as well as conventional farmers.
Growing – In 2011, the father-son team of Bill and Will Sanderson joined MightyGrow as major investors, and Will joined the company in sales. Realizing that they needed some big-business, real-world corporate expertise to take MightyGrow to the next level, the LaBelles persuaded Bill to join the company as President. MightyGrow has seen impressive growth in both production capacity and sales under his leadership. Almost immediately, he planned and implemented a major pelleting plant expansion to more than double capacity, and hired a professional sales rep to aggressively pursue large distributors. MightyGrow’s AgBlend and Living Organic pelletized poultry manure fertilizer with trace minerals are now available at through BWI Distribution and at retailers throughout the southeast.
MightyGrow’s Fruitdale fertilizer plant has evolved from proof of concept to a full production facility. After working closely with Bill on the production expansion, Will became the Operations Manager and oversees all of MightyGrow’s manufacturing. With production in the capable hands of the Sanderson team, Michael, CEO, is able to spend most of his time doing what he loves most—exploring new markets and conducting ongoing research and development to keep MightyGrow products on the leading edge of organic agricultural advancement. Anne is the Administrative Vice President and also serves as President of the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network.