Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Welcome to Covington, where organic farming practices go to die.

Ok, so maybe living on a farm opens one up to finding humor in some odd situations and circumstances. After all, it's not like we have a lot of water cooler gossip or a strange person in the cubicle next to us telling us "I believe you have my stapler." After four years of spending the majority of my time dealing with the issues of poultry, ponies and veggies it seems that my world has shrunk just a bit. Thank GOD.

Last year's garden was a success (almost, until I made a tactical error in leaving town for a few days), so we decided to put a larger one up this year. Because we broke ground on an area never before planted, we knew a soil test was in order. We got the results and recommendations for amendments back last week, and the search for an organic source of 15-15-15 commenced. Interestingly enough there was not a recommendation for lime. In this area of the country the soil is so acidic, the joke is if you bought a bag of lime here and had it sampled, the UT Extension office would recommend you add lime to it. I suppose starting from scratch with a fallow piece of land that was the secret. I'm just happy to have one less thing to add! I was grateful to be living in an area that is habituated mostly by farms because I just knew that finding my 15-15-15 would be a snap! I felt so sorry for all you "city folk" who probably have to search far and wide for an organic source of fertilizer. Some of you probably even have to resort to ordering it online, thus negating and environmental offset you hope to gain by gardening organic by having to have it shipped across the country. Such a shame! Tsk tsk tsk.

I popped in to our local Stockdale's Farm Supply, a subsidiary of the Farmer's Co-op and made a bee line to the gardening area. To my surprise, they carried no organic fertilizer of any kind! They do carry organic pest controls though, so good on them. In looking around at all their other soil amendments I noticed that there were no organics at all. It was no huge shock, as Stockdales caters to the local farmer, and this particular farming community is not exactly at the forefront of the organic movement. Change comes slow to places where life is slow. Just ask President Obama. But I digress. Next stop was Home Depot. As much as I prefer keeping my dollars in the local community, sometimes I'm left with no choice. I needed some organic potting soil anyway and knew they carried it, so it was not a wasted trip.

Now I don't know what things are like at your Home Depot, but let me tell you in ours it is looking pretty grim. We suspect they are going to go under any day now. What tips us off to this is there is no new merchandise coming in, the parking lot is almost always deserted, and every time we go in there are no less than five employees waiting at the front door to assault you with a manic "HI! WELCOME TO HOME DEPOT! WE ARE SOO GLAD YOU DROPPED IN! WHAT KIND OF HOME PROJECT ARE YOU WORKING ON TODAY? MAY WE HELP YOU FIND SOMETHING? PLEASE? PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE?"

I may have exaggerated that....a little. But not much. So in I go, this time happy that I can oblige them by actually having something they could help me with. I smiled back at the first attacker and said sure, I was looking for organic fertilizer. The helpful employee chirped merrily that they sure did have fertilizer, in all shapes and sizes and for any, any ANY GARDEN!!! I smiled back again (in case you ever visit Tipton County you should be aware there's a smiling requirement) and followed the aforementioned chipper employee to the garden section, where she pointed out the Miracle Gro.

Now, there's not-quite organic, and then there's Miracle Gro. Though they do have an organic line, their more well known products definitely take a "better living through chemistry" approach. Sure, you might get a pumpkin the size of a VW bug so long as you aren't concerned about sustainable agriculture, but more importantly, why?

Anyway, I reminded the employee that I was looking for organic specifically and was met with a blank stare. Eventually I just said thanks, and I could take it from there. Of course there was not anything available fertilizer wise, but they did indeed have organic potting soil for my potting projects. I went to the check out line and told the cashier I wanted ten bags of organic potting soil. The cashier was all too happy to ring in the potting soil. The Miracle Gro, of course. So I reminded her I wanted the organic potting soil. Blank stare before she actually said:

"I don't have a button for that. We must not carry it."

Now, considering the fact that I had just walked past the stack of organic potting soil in the gardening section, I just smiled (albeit this time through gritted teeth) and said I'd get them to ring it up in the gardening section.

As I walked for the third time past the slew of employees I was again barraged with "WELCOME TO HOME DEPOT! WHAT KIND OF PROJECT CAN WE HELP YOU WITH TODAY?!?!?!?!!"

I managed to not point out that I had just walked through their gauntlet not twenty seconds ago, and certainly had not come up with another project in the meantime that needed their urgent attention. But it was tempting.

By the time I got to the gardening center my patience was at an end. I approached the garden center cashier and told her I wanted ten bags of the organic topsoil. And...I swear I am not kidding...she looked up from the bag of organic potting soil that she was using to transfer seedlings with and asked her partner:

"Do we carry organic potting soil?"

After much explanation and my nearly frantic gesticulations towards the stack of organic potting soil I was standing beside, I was rung up for my ten bags of Organic Choice Potting Soil. Brought to you by the fine folks guessed it...Miracle Gro.

Oh, and that organic triple 15 fertilizer? Never found it. I did find a cocktail I will be mixing myself. Of course, I had to go all the way to Memphis to find it. It seems the only way an organic farmer can get their soil amendments is to order it online to be shipped thousands of miles, or drive to the "big city" we've all moved away from.

I suppose today qualifies as one of those "I wish I was David Sedaris" days. There's a Pulitzer prize winning humorous essay in here somewhere.

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