Greetings from the Plants Department (And the Scoop on Neonicotinoids)


Contributions to this article were made by: Brendan Kelly, Produce Manager; Stephen Quickenton, Store Operations Manager; and Rick Mausert, Chief Cooperative Officer

Welcome to the Honest Weight Food Co-op’s Plants Department!  Our knowledgeable, energetic, and extremely dedicated team of employees and member-owners strive to provide a diverse selection of plants to meet the wants and needs of our customers.  The Department encompasses areas within the Co-op year-round, and outdoors during the planting and growing seasons.  We base our purchases on several factors, including: what is in season, what is new, what customers are requesting, what we know our customers will want, what is simply intriguing, what our farmers/growers are featuring, along with other notes/requests gathered daily.  We are happy to also try to special order plants for people!

Inside the store, we stock a diverse selection of houseplants, including terrarium-sized plants, succulents and air plants, along with a wide variety of tropicals. Our succulents are mostly locally grown, and predominantly from a great grower in Mechanicville, NY.  We generally have a small selection of bouquets that we strive to source locally during the Northeast’s growing season.  During the fall and winter holiday times we feature locally grown wreaths, poinsettias and greenery as well as holiday arrangements, some of which are created in-house.

Outside the store, we stock various organic soils, with the bulk of our products coming from a long-time source in Millerton, NY.  We carry conventional straw year-round, and have added organic straw as an option this year.  We also stock a great organic poultry fertilizer for outdoor gardens, as well as organic fertilizers for indoor plants.

Our outside plants include wonderful offerings for those looking to add plant materials to their garden or home.  We offer organically grown veggies, herbs, and flowers from the same farmer we have been doing business with for over 20 years!  Our conventionally grown plants are purchased at the local farmers market, from farmers and growers who deliver their plants and plant products directly to the Co-op, and from local farms where we go ourselves to buy plants.  Over the many years we have carried plants at the Co-op, we have established great relationships with all of our farmers and growers whom we regularly engage in open dialogue with, so these farmers and growers know what our customers are looking for as well as what our customers’ concerns are.

One recurring topic of particular concern this year is neonicotinoids.  For many years now, neonicotinoids have been on the radar screen of the Plants Department, all of our farmers and growers, and many of our customers.  Last year, the Nutrition and Education Committee of the Co-op set a goal to have a written policy in place concerning neonicotinoids in the Plants Department beginning in 2018.  This policy is to be created this year, with the Nutrition and Education Committee members working cooperatively with the Plants Department Manager. As with all policy changes, this will be voted on by the Membership before it becomes effective.

Why Have A Neonicotinoids Policy?

Neonicotinoids are a family of synthetic systemic insecticides that were hailed as ‘wonders’ when first introduced to the world back in the 1980s.  Systemic insecticides are often far more effective than other insecticides because they are absorbed into the plant, and therefore more effectively target sucking insects.  Such insecticides may be applied to seeds, or directly to the soil.  Neonicotinoids are most often used to coat the seeds of corn, soybeans, and rapeseed in agricultural field applications.  Though neonicotinoids are far less harmful to humans, other mammals, and birds than the insecticides they have replaced, there exists a raging controversy over how they affect bee populations.

Organically grown plants, by definition, are never treated with neonicotinoids at any point.  So consumers that are concerned about neonicotinoids (or any synthetic fertilizer or insecticide) can buy any organically grown plant with confidence.

New York State has far more stringent rules than the federal rules governing neonicotinoid use. All New York State growers are required to follow these rules, and this includes our local farmers and growers. In the Plants Department, we strive to carry pollinator plants that have not been treated with neonicotinoids from our growers.  We are in direct communication with our growers about neonicotinoids, and about their growing conditions in general.  We are fortunate to have such amazing local resources that supply the Plants Department and afford us the opportunity to discuss our needs with them!

Here is a list of further links regarding the use of neonicotinoids, provided by David Chinery, Cornell Cooperative Extension Agent for Rensselaer County. He writes: “These range from scientific to layperson papers, plus pros and cons and food safety.”

Cornell University Articles

Center for Food Safety

EPA New Labeling for Neonicotinoids

Scientific Papers

Other Articles:

Pros and Cons of Use

NYS Bill to prohibit sale and distribution of neonicotinoids

NYS DEC Pollinator Protection Plan

NYS DEC Regulations

EPA Labeling