Thursday, April 19, 2007

Urban Roots!

I can think of very few places where co-op retail operations are still popular (though I believe there are still many co-op credit unions, farm organizations, and other business associations). In Buffalo, we have a long-running and successful food co-op (the Lexington Co-operative Market, 36 years), and this weekend, our first co-op garden center opens for business. Urban Roots Community Garden Center will be one of only two nurseries operating within Buffalo’s city limits—and the other one has long been regarded more as a landscaping service than as a retail operation. A lot of city dwellers were sick and tired of making day trips out to suburban garden centers located in the far reaches of Western New York; finally a group of them got together a couple years back and have been working hard ever since to make a full-service, member-owned city garden center a reality.

What’s the advantage of a co-op? It’s member-owned, so presumably you can take part in the decision making. Members get discounts. And I think the main thing is that it will be more organic, with an emphasis on city and neighborhood-based gardening, where block clubs get together to beautify empty lots, help neighbors who can't garden, and fight urban blight. In other words, this is more about creating a community around gardening.

Do I think the prices will be lower? Probably not, but in some cases, perhaps, especially for expensive perennials—the prices have really gone up at most of the centers for such plants as heuchera, campanula, geranium, hosta (we depend on it here), even lamium. Do I think the selection will compare? I doubt it, but I'm sure I'll be able to do a good portion of my shopping here, if not all of it. I am hoping too for some interesting organic soil enhancements, as I don’t compost.

This weekend, they are selling a very nice range of trees from a vacant lot, located near the building they hope soon to occupy. As they explain on their website, “because of a series of events mostly having to do with banks being perplexed by the concept of cooperative businesses, we have hit a few snags with the actual ‘opening-of-the-store’ part of the plan.”

So good luck to them. Even though I’d just as soon pay them to take away my trees, I’ll still visit this weekend just to say hi. (If I had the room, I would definitely be picking up a Kouza dogwood.)

Because I was one of the first 100 members, I am receiving the signed print by Catherine Parker shown above.


Kate said...

That's one of the things I like about living here. We have a thriving co-op movement here - credit unions, large retail stores, food co-ops, gas stations ... provincial legislation helps encourage the co-op movement (although it never took off in the way that early co-op advocates hoped for.) I like the print- have the same name too!

EAL said...

Don't forget about that national health insurance too. Catherine is the daughter of the famous watercolor painter Charles Burchfield. She doesn't like to be identified that way and I don't blame here, but I do see affinities in their ability to make nature come alive on paper.

Also some affinities to some of the members of your Group of Seven, who are favorites of mine.