Every year around this time my thoughts turn to the future of my garden—looking through the catalogs for seeds, planning where I’m going to put all the plants, and wondering what the weather will bring. We have an exciting new technology to bring to you this year and we are displaying it right up front by our houseplants.  

LED grow lights
It’s a product brought to us by Infinity Green Products. They are some of the people who are developing LED grow lights. We’ve decided to carry the GL 2 model. I tested it last year and I‘d have to say I was completely surprised. It’s incredibly efficient—20 times more efficient than the 60-watt bulb! Right up on my desk in my office I sprouted a sunflower seed underneath it, and nearby I sprouted several other sunflower seeds. The difference in growth rate and appearance was very impressive, so impressive I decided to demonstrate it again this year right in front of the store. Look for the red and blue glow among the houseplants.

The bulbs have 35,000-hour life. It uses only two watts of energy and is 100% mercury-free. A bank of six running 24 hours a day for a year would cost under $15.00.

I’m sure many of you have at times experimented with long fluorescent tubes in your basements trying to get your garden seeds off the ground. This technology blows them away and at a fraction of the cost. The old saying “there is no free lunch” applies here. Getting set up with these bulbs is a little more costly than setting up your fluorescent tubes. But after that, the results will speak for themselves.

It’s very important to get these lights as close as possible to your plants. Researchers determined that red and blue are actually wavelengths plants really appreciate.

Attracting Native Pollinators
At Willy West, we also have a great book published by the Xerxes society. It is called Attracting Native Pollinators. Those of you who’ve been following the GMO issue know that the insect world is threatened by modern agricultural practices that encourage the use of pesticides. Pollinators all over this country are struggling to find their way in a human-made ecosystem that indiscriminately attacks them.

If the GMO train is never stopped it just might be that a bee could be safer here in Middleton than a few miles out of town. We want to help turn your garden into a refuge to help sustain the population of native pollinators.

Heirloom seeds
We will soon be bringing in our spring offerings of heirloom seeds. Many of these seeds are being chosen with urban gardeners in mind. Of course there are other considerations including drought tolerance, length of growing season, hardiness, and taste. I’ll be starting some of these seeds under the LED grow-lights up front so you can see how they’re doing when you shop. If any of you try these seeds or try the lights I’d love to know how it worked out for you!

The more we can grow for ourselves, the better we will feel about our food. It’s just good to get out in the garden in the sun. The more we do it, the more we appreciate what all the growers who serve our Co-op are doing for us.

Farm bill
By the way, those growers are going to need more support than ever because the extension of the farm bill in Washington did not contain funding organic farmers need.
That funding was to be used for securing organic certification, research, and support for sustainable practices. Instead five billion dollars will get handed out in direct payments for large producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, and rice—almost none of it grown organically.

The government seems more willing to hand out money to agribusiness than to small organic farmers committed to doing the right thing. If you get a little time, I suggest you write our representatives and ask them why that happened. In the meantime, keep supporting all our dedicated growers by choosing their products.

Our growers are wise, scrappy, and independent. They only want a fair chance to compete. At Willy Street Co-op we choose to reward them and ask you to do the same.
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