In the summer, you may be surprised to find more than custom boat tops, covers, and cushions at American Boat Top Company. In fact, it’s something you probably won’t find anywhere else in Michigan, and that’s full grown fig trees.

Red Bickerstaff has owned and operated American Boat Top Company since leaving the army in 1961. He works six days a week, 12 hours a day alongside his hardworking staff. Having grown up on a farm in Alabama, Red enjoys gardening in his spare time. “I got a pretty green thumb. Everyone says that,” says Red.

Growing fig trees takes more than a green thumb and Red says that when he started about five years ago, he was told it was impossible in our unforgiving climate. Never one to back down from a challenge, Red used his years of experience to start his crop.

Today, Red has 60 trees, which have to be moved in winter via forklift into a temperature-controlled greenhouse. When the weather warms, Red brings his trees back out. One of the biggest challenges is that each tree requires about 15 gallons of water per day. To solve this, several water tanks are employed to collect rain.

In another greenhouse, Red grows a variety of organic vegetables such as lettuce, carrots, cucumbers and much more. “If I didn’t work this much, I don’t think I’d be in as good of shape,” says Red, who is 81 years old. Between his hobby and business, Red is a busy man.