In the wake of Michele’s Home Depot blast, it seems only fitting to discuss plant shopping writ small. I don’t know how many of you have access to cooperative nurseries/gardening centers (I’d love to know, BTW), but it looks like one will be opening up here in Buffalo as of April 1. As far as I can tell, this would be a retail center where all shoppers would be members, paying a yearly membership fee for the ability to buy plants (or buy them cheaper). There would be meetings where members could help determine store policy and which products and services they’d most like to see. This is not a cooperative garden or CSA (community shared agriculture)—we’re talking retail. The fact that goggling “cooperative nursery” and a few synonymous permutations got me under 200 hits tells me that there are plenty of co-op gardens but not too many co-op garden centers. We’re fond of such sixties-esque institutions in Buffalo; we also have a retail food co-op (though anyone can shop there—it’s really more like a local co-op version of Whole Foods).
On one hand, the ability to participate in your own community gardening center sounds cool. On the other hand, the standard capitalist model has yielded some very good nurseries in the area, most owned by hard-working families, members of whom can be seen every day in their stores. Unlike the all-too-familiar “service” scenarios detailed by Michele, these people know everything there is to know about their offerings, and are happy to share that knowledge with their customers.
If our co-op can offer similar quality (and selection), I’ll shop at it. If not, not. Does this kind of operation make sense in the twenty-first century retail world? Can it compete? It might not be the ticket for an ultra-picky plant shopper to whom price matters little and location matters less (me) but it will definitely fill a gap for other urban gardeners here.