A comment from anonymous, concerning late blight on tomatoes say's, "As a 24 year veteran of retail, farmerâ€™s market retail and box store wholesaling, Iâ€™ll take a big growerâ€™s product over the local backyard gardener any time. the required level of Knowledge, resources and investment make transmission of disease and pests much more unlikely. It was often with dismay that we discovered weâ€™d been assigned a stall next to 'Dirty' local plant material and were forced to risk our whole offering or give up our retailing spot." It may well be true that transmission of disease and pests is lower at well run, larger operations. Never the less, when something wrong does occur it can affect a much larger population than a smaller growers problems. This is the same argument we hear when someone comparesÂ McDonald's to a local hamburger joint. Sure, the food from McDonald's is normally quite safe to eat. The dinning experience is predictable from one store to another. And there is a time when a McDonald's Breakfast Sandwich is just right. Then again we have some local hamburger joints around here that blow away anything you can get a McDonald's. The burgers are just way better! There is a level of trust that occurs at both operations. You have to trust that they are doing everything correctly and serving safe food. McDonald's wins the award for being able to do that time and time again from store to store. The price however is a certain bland predictability.
The nursery business is the same way. The box stores, and their suppliers are basically following the McDonald's model. Predictability over uniqueness. Sometimes we want that predictability. The majority of gardening customers also like that predictability, which is why the box store nurseries are so popular. I have no illusions that the majority of people are suddenly going to give up shopping at the box stores. A smaller percentage want to shop at locally owned garden centers. Some of those locally owned garden centers are "dirty", as anonymous suggested. There in lies the quandary. Predictability equals a certain blandness, and lack of choice. There will always be people who take that route. Just take a look at almost any subdivision in America. The yards are all the same.
On the other hand I feel that there is wisdom in insecurity. Life is so much more interesting when we allow ourselves to experiment, and try new things. Maybe it won't be good, but then again maybe it will be fabulous! That's the interesting thing about Heirloom tomatoes. Some are fabulous and some are awful. Hybrids are predictable, but a great hybrid will never be as good as a fabulous Heirloom. You trade off some characteristics for others. My garden would not be as much fun if all I was dealing with was hybrids. Tomato wise I plant half my crop in hybrids, and half heirlooms.Â I would be unfortunate if all that was available at your local garden center were hybrids. Yet that is what is being contemplated at the box stores. Predictability over uniqueness. Your choice.