17th century coffehouses, portable farms, and your local garden center

We are at the cusp of a gardening revolution. Every where we look new ideas and people are invigorating the field of horticulture. Some feel threatened by the changes, others look forward to the next development. As a nurseryman for over 30 years that I have felt both feelings lately. There is no better time to be in the garden center business than right now, yet that does not mean there are not great challenges to be faced. There will be many more small, medium, and large nurseries that will go out of business. Anytime there is a revolution the world as we know it gets turned upside down. Rather than pine for the old days of the garden center world, better to ride the wave into the future. What does the future hold for us? Ideas that at first seem outlandish, then come to make sense. My last post dealt with window farms. Window farms? How can you have a farm in a window? The idea that it is even a farm is a revolutionary idea. We all have a picture of what a "farm" is, and most of us would not think of a small window garden as a farm. This is one of the big changes we are talking about. It's the change we make in our own minds. A farm is a state of mind. Yes, you can be a farmer and live in the city. How about portable farms?

Check out the website, Portable Farms. They claim, "A Portable Farms& Aquaponics System is a onsite, food-production facility that ensures food security." Key words,"food security". One of the reasons we are seeing a resurgence in home-grown food gardens is concern about how commercial food is being grown and distributed. By growing your own you are in control. Just the idea of "portable farms" is intriguing. The use of hydroponics is growing by leaps and bounds. The necessary changes are coming that will allow us to grow tasty food hydroponically. The taste of commercial grown hydroponic (hot-house) food has been poor, just as commercially grown in soil food is never quite as tasty as home-grown.

Portable Farms makes use of hydroponics and aquaculture. I cannot vouch for the results of this system, yet it seems to me a great idea for producing food using modern technology. Here is a description of the system, and the inventor Colle Davis.  Colle and his wife Phyllis claim, "they enjoyed all the organic table vegetables, berries, tomatoes, and fish they could possibly eat with enough surplus to feed 50 people daily vegetables and one serving of fish per week, per person, for an entire year."

This is only the beginning. As Colle says, "Sometimes, all it takes is one simple idea that leads to other ideas and then on to other answers . . . it is in that collaboration that people will solve the problems of the world". In my last post about window farms the idea of collaboration was key. One person has an idea, its spread through the internet where someone else improves on the idea, and so on. The pace of change is what is so exciting. Ideas that took years to find an audience in the past now just take days, if not hours.

Just as coffee houses in the 17th century became places for discussion and world-changing ideas, the small local garden center should become its 21st century equivalent.  Places for the community to gather and share ideas that will change the world. It's coming sooner than we think.