Anticipating spring, I recently sat down in the Co-op’s Teaching Kitchen to talk with Carol Surash, Honest Weight Food Co-op’s Plants Department Manager. The big news is that the Plants Department’s outdoor showroom is open for business! Though stocked at the moment only with those plants that can handle colder nights, once the growing season is upon us it will focus on a wide variety of vegetables and herbs, with lots of annual and perennial flowers. Provided primarily by local growers, the outdoor selection offers both organic and non-organic plants. While Carol reports that the Plants Department is still waiting to hear from all its local providers, she expects many will be returning. She is excited that a new supplier from Troy will be providing native plants grown from seed, with a concentration on pollinators. She also hopes to again offer “no-till and organically-grown” zinnias!
For growers who want to start their crops from seed, the Plants Department offers a large selection of seeds, located just inside the Co-op’s front door. The wide variety of seeds offered hail from Maine, Vermont, and New York State providers. Carol notes that most of these seed varieties are organically raised; some may be open-sourced, locally-raised, and/or heirloom varieties.
Whether you start with plants or seeds, you need good soil and here again the Plants Department can meet almost any need. It offers a variety of soils, from lite growing mix for starting from seeds, to a garden blend for raised beds. It also stocks soil enhancers, such as compost and poultry manure. Straw is carried year-round, with both organic and conventional choices available during the growing season.
While the month of May often proves to be the busiest month for the outdoor space, the Plants Department is busy year-round with its indoor selection of house plants. Those sold during the winter months include poinsettias, primulas, and succulents – all locally greenhouse-grown. The bulk of the other tropical houseplants available indoors come from Florida and Canada through our local wholesale suppliers.
The Plants Department also offers cut flowers year-round. Whether to add color to their homes during the black and white winter, or to decorate before their own flowers come in, customers can always find a wide variety of cut flowers and bouquets. Carol notes that those available during the growing season are nearly all from local growers. During the winter months, the cut flowers and bouquets originate from several states, and even from several countries, obtained through HWFC’s local supplier. Winter holiday greens, with few exceptions, are locally grown and created. Some other greens originate in Oregon.
Long a feature of the HWFC, and now part of the Produce Department, the Plants Department has two permanent employees, several temporary assistants, and many member-owners to help with the busy summer season.
Carol reports that the Plants Department is working with the Nutrition and Education Committee and with Management on a formal plant policy to be put into place later in 2018.
I, for one, am looking forward to the growing season. I know I will find a new selection or a wonderful new variety of an old favorite when wandering the Plants Department’s outdoor showroom! It’s also my personal experience that Carol will take the time to answer any question – stop by and say hi.