First off, this marks one full year of doing the newsletter. We have however missed the last couple months, which I’m choosing to believe that someone out there cares about — so, to that person: I am sorry.
We've been toying with the idea of transitioning this newsletter into a broader gardening newsletter shared with and co-written by others of our gardening comrades, rather than being tied specifically to our business. Hopefully that will be happening or at least will begin to happen soon. This being the case, I'd like to take the opportunity now to talk a little bit about Too Tall.
We have very much been in one of our two busy seasons these last couple months (the other being Fall), and boy have we been busy. In addition to the farmers markets and sales at the nursery, we trucked 1,000+ plants out to Baton Rouge for their big Spring Garden Show, as well as appearing once again at the always delightful (if not a tad stressful) New Orleans Spring Garden Show in the Botanical Gardens. So many Spring Garden Shows.
It’s weird scaling up (albeit modestly) as nursery growers because one can so quickly lose sight of the good/important/meaningful aspects of gardening, while simultaneously being absolutely absorbed by the associated tasks. We spend all of our days seeding and watering and tending and monitoring and zooming in so far on the minutiae that it’s hard to zoom back out.
I am thankful that we get to work with so many cool plants and obscure varieties — it keeps our days interesting and gives me endless pleasure — but at the same time I can see how a person or business or any endeavor might be tempted and guided to streamline and synergize and offer only the plants that sell the most and go only where the most plants sell, and jettison any soul from the enterprise.
If there is no ethical consumption under capitalism then there sure as hell is no ethical commercial production so who cares about any high-minded concept about what we’re “actually” doing, when at the end of the day we are actively participating in the broken and/or malevolent system of capitalist enterprise. So isn’t it more insidious to profess that we’re actually doing something cool and/or revolutionary (or even benign)? I gotta pay my mortgage, man. And the truth is people want tomatoes and basil that they can grow on their windowsill, and they like to buy them once in the Spring and once in the Fall, so why not just sell people what they want when they want it and cut out all the other feel-good hobbyist crap?
I feel that.
This is why now, before we've totally sold our souls, I’ve made it my new mission to put in writing all of our promises to each other, our customers and community, and to myself. With every season and additional dollar our interests and allegiances shift a little further away from our younger poorer and more generous selves and toward growth, consolidation and keeping what's “ours.” We've got to draw some lines in the sand while we’ve got the wherewithal. So I write our promises down and make them explicit.
This manifests in myriad ways. In some cases these are promises made among ourselves and all those with whom we are cooperating in our greenhouse and at the markets. These promises will be made in a more formal capacity, as bylaws and and operating agreements or even just shared google docs or what have you. Others are promises to you, which can be communicated here or in person or anywhere else. Some are between me and Maggie. Many more are to myself and fill my notebooks and need no witness or notary for me to know that they are real and binding.
Ok ok, I hear you asking so let's see some of those promises. Alright, money where my mouth is — here are just a few of mypromises to you:
We will always dedicate a meaningful portion of our growing space to mutual aid, restoration projects, etc
We will always find a way to get you some plants regardless of your ability to pay
We will always maintain a Free Plant Table or other means of distributing free, no-questions-asked plants
We will try always to grow and provide the plants and varieties that we are excited about and want to grow, as well as those that you want and ask for
We will do our damnedest to offer the varieties best suited to our climate in their most suitable season
We will grow out some of each plant that we offer, both to familiarize ourselves with their habits and foibles and to save our own seed wherever possible
We will always look to collaborate rather than compete
We will always be transparent in our practices, in both business and horticulture
I will not let my zany worldview or niche politics get in the way of providing the healthiest, most robust plant starts possible
We will ALWAYS do our best to steer this enterprise according to what will best serve the people and gardens of our region, and finally
We will always set our prices as low as we feasibly can while keeping the proverbial lights on.
At the risk of over-aggrandizing (who, me?), our ultimate goal for Too Tall is and has always been to be a community project rather than a private enterprise. To the extent that we continue to grow, our hope is that the nursery remains porous at its edges and bleeds into and out of a thousand larger and smaller projects and endeavors. To this end, while by necessity we are an incorporated and tax-paying business, we will continue to spread “ownership” of that business and its resources as far and as thin as possible, in the hope that at some point it (“ownership”) will lose meaning altogether.
My fondest wish is to see similarly decentralized nurseries and garden projects continue (because they already are!) popping up in regions all over the globe, sharing info, seeds and other resources, bleeding into one another. If you are a part of or wish to start up a similar project, I do hope that you will hit us up. Our edges are porous and we would be glad to overlap and interlock with you.
in my capacity as a licensed representative of all things Too Tall
Add me to the list of people that missed you these past months!