Twelve years ago I was living in St. Petersburg and working nights at the post office, a job so boring watching hair grow would be riveting in comparison. Sleeping days wasn’t much fun either. As if that wasn’t miserable enough, I often spent the morning hours, after I got off work, poisoning my own small patch of the planet. I probably should have known better, but nobody I knew back then ever talked about organic methods. It didn’t help either that the owner of the plant nursery in the neighborhood never met a chemical he didn’t love and love to sell. I would bring him a sample of sick grass or chewed foliage, and he would grab a box or bottle off the shelf. ‘Spray (pour, spread, dust) this on it.’ But for all that (and now I realize because of that) my yard was a mess. I found myself making more and more trips to the nursery; but no matter what product I bought and blasted at the problem, it only got worse.
After a few years of this my yard looked as barren as a moonscape and so did my life. Working nights and sleeping days kept me so mind-numb I felt like a spectator watching life go by. Then I’d wake up to my dead yard and my boring job and I’d waste another day. I knew I had to make some changes or someday I’d look back at a wasted life, and since I tend to be one of those all or nothing kind of people . . .
I quit my job, moved to Tallahassee and enrolled in a course in horticulture (of all things!). It was fascinating. Among other things, we learned a lot about the correct and legal use of pesticides; and as we did so, it became clear to me just how irresponsible (and illegal) my previous actions had been.
And then I came to work at Native Nurseries.
Native Nurseries is not your average nursery—they have a different view of what the world (and your yard) should look like; and frankly, it took some time for me to adjust to ‘a different way’. One morning shortly after I was hired, we were having a problem—we were overrun with caterpillars. Well that’s no problem for a recently graduated certified professional . . . I got an ‘A’ on this test . . . Dipel! It’s a safe way to kill caterpillars without poisoning your yard, your family, your pets or the planet . . . right?
‘No, no, no Mary! Go to New Leaf Market and buy some organic parsley for all these Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars! Hurry they’ll starve. No, no . . . not that stuff at Publix . . . it can kill them!’
On my way to New Leaf, I laughed when I thought about how the nursery owner in St. Pete would react to the notion of paying for organic food (and the employee salary and gas to get it) for caterpillars. I stopped laughing when I considered the notion of the parsley most of us eat as ‘quasi-pesticide’.
That was ten years ago, and I’ve come to realize that change is one of the few constants in life. Change . . . metamorphosis . . . it’s not just a process we watch in the <a href=”butterflyrearingcage.html”>butterfly cages</a> we build and sell here at the nursery. It’s a process we are all going through. We all change over time and so do businesses. Thirty years ago, Donna and Jody saw a small ad in the newspaper. It was placed by Mr. Salter, a grower of native plants. Who could have guessed when they took that trip to Madison, Florida, to check it out that the result would be Native Nurseries (some called it Naïve Nurseries back then).
Back then there was only Donna and Jody and their dog, Sam, until they hired a neighborhood teenager to help out. But then life happens and things change. Donna and Jody had two babies; Vanessa and Joseph have both graduated from college and are working at the nursery. Sam’s gone, but Pansy is the perfect shop dog; and there are now fifteen employees.
A lot of you already know all this, because there’s one thing that has not changed. From the beginning, this nursery has been very good at attracting loyal customers and hanging on to them. Whether you’ve been with us since 1980 or two months ago, our customers and friends tend to stay loyal. And so we’ve been able to watch you change and live and grow and have children, some of whom bring their own children in now.
We’ve also watched as some of our friends have passed on to whatever comes next. Change is usually good, but sometimes it’s also sad.
For myself, I’ve come a long way from the Pesticide Queen of St. Pete. I’m very thankful for the changes that have led me to work in this industry, in this nursery, with and for these people . . . Donna and Jody, my fellow employees, our customers . . . friends. For me, the change has been a good one.