It’s impossible to miss the wall of organic seed packets in the Co-op foyer. It shows up mid-February each year, when serious gardeners begin planning and plotting their upcoming growing season. By April, organic seedlings from local growers Garden Dreams and Wilmington Gardens line the sidewalk. Lately, you may have also noticed houseplants, succulents, spring bulbs, and cut bouquets peppered throughout the Co-op.
Floral is a sub-department of Produce that has been growing (no pun intended) over the past few years. The goal is to have a variety of plants available year-round, and to keep the source of those plants as local as possible. Seasonally, shoppers can find houseplants from Premiere Foliage and Brenckles Greenhouse, native plants from Cutting Root Apothecary, cut bouquets from The Bloomery, perennial trees (like pawpaw and persimmon) from Winterjack Farm, and evergreen trees and wreaths from Maxim Farm.
Organic seeds and locally grown seedlings are long-standing signatures of the Co-op’s Produce Department. Last year, Co-op shoppers purchased more than 6,000 seed packets and nearly 15,000 seedlings.
“The local seedlings are a highlight of the season. I believe many people look forward to purchasing organic seedlings from the Co-op,” says Marc Rattay, Co-op produce receiver and “unofficial floral buyer.”
Each year on May 19, the Co-op hosts a Plant Something Day sale, when all local seedlings are 50% off. According to Produce Manager Evan Diamond, the event draws a lot of interest. Last year on Plant Something Day, the Co-op sold 2,964 plants!
Compost, soil, and amendments are also available. These come from local vendors Steel City Soils and Full Circle Farms, respectively. Steel City Soils has been processing food scraps from the East End Food Co-op since 2009. “It’s pretty cool that the compost is partially made up of stuff from the Co-op,” says Evan.
While organic cut flowers are nearly impossible to come by, the Co-op does strive to source florals ethically, seeking Direct Trade and Fair Trade flowers when local floral is not an option.
“Understanding how the flowers are grown and feeling like we can stand behind the ethics is important. We seek Fair Trade for cut flowers, but we must find a balance with the limited resources available to us. We have Fair Trade flowers during Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day,” explains Marc.
In the future, Evan hopes to have a designated area for floral and is in the process of creating space in the foyer for displays year-round. He also hopes to expand the offerings of soil amendments to accommodate specific needs of customers, particularly safe ways to manage garden pests.
Next time you are in need of something for your home or garden, stop by the Co-op for a unique collection of plants and friendly advice.
Produce Staff Favorites
“Flowers from the Bloomery. They dry well and are very pretty. Also Hudson Valley Seeds. The packages are so artful. They make great gifts!” – Marc Rattay, Produce Receiver
“Rick’s [Wilmington Gardens] seedlings. He always has such interesting varieties. And the poppy seed scatter can from Renee’s Garden.” – Evan Diamond, Produce Manager
“Any of our perennial herb seedlings. I have an eternal English Thyme plant from Garden Dreams that is in its 4th year. I can harvest from it in the dead of winter! I’m pushing 3 years on many other herbs. Also High Mowing Seeds Giant Coral Zinnia. They bloom forever and the blossoms hold up wonderfully as cut flowers.” – Beth Chiarizio, Assistant Produce Manager