Buy local?

ornamental cabbageOver at Garden Wise Guy, Billy Goodnick has a post on his visit to the Garden Writers Association meeting in Portland. What I found interesting is this comment by Billy, "Most everyone took off for a tour of production nurseries that were going to show off all their newest introductions. Not only was I uninterested in seeing plants I have little chance of growing in Santa Barbara, but the idea of using plants that are grown in Oregon, then shipped nationwide on trucks would give me a carbon-footprint guilt trip I couldn't endure. One more reason to use plants provided by local growers - they're not only adapted to my climate, but the impacts of shipping are miniscule." Now I would imagine that the folks that produce plants in Oregon would cringe if they heard that. Yet that doesn't change the fact that Billy, and more, and more people might start thinking this way.  That could have a effect on  lot's of wholesale nurseries that ship plants around the country. Here in northern California we have lot's of smaller wholesale operations that can supply us by not traveling very far. I know that there are many places in this country that depend on shipments from warmer climates to start their spring.

So as we independent garden centers try to use sustainable practices in our businesses how do we address the issue of where our plants come from? At the grocery store the other day they had asparagus for $1.29 a pound. A great deal. Could be the lowest price of the year! The asparagus is from Mexico or Chile. Quite a trip, yet it was selling out! So apparently the fact that this food came from far away didn't matter as much as the low price.

My questions are, if using sustainable practices  means buying from local suppliers does that mean that we smaller garden centers should buy local, and let The Depot and other chains be the ones that buy from anywhere? Is it even possible for independent garden centers in parts of the country to operate by buying only local, within 100 miles of the store? Is this an issue that independents can run with? "We only carry locally sourced products." Are there nurseries already doing this?

The picture at the top of this post is of some ornamental cabbage that we buy from Blooms of Glen Ellen. They are 132 miles from here.