Pretty Stunned…

That was the subject line of an email that my friend and fellow gardener sent me. It seems that Williams Sonoma is moving into the gardening market. That makes sense on some level. The “local food” trend shows no signs of abating, and you can’t get more local than food from your own backyard, right? WS has branded its new line as “agrarian”—complete with a lower-case “a” and a suitably rustic typeface. Bravo to the marketing department.

What is in this line, you may ask? Well, they do have organic seeds, gardening gloves, and quality stainless steel garden tools. But they also have $300 copper garden forks (handcrafted by Austrian coppersmiths… plus as they contact soil, the tines deposit minute amounts of copper that promote water absorption and help to repel slugs and snails. Really?), a $139 heritage watering can (pretty, but still…) and, most unforgivably, ridiculously expensive live plants.

“How expensive?” you may ask. How about $16.95 for a single lettuce or pea plant? Let me put this in perspective:

How many of us would be happy with the harvest that you’d get with one pea plant? Nevermind that peas and beets don’t always transplant well. Nevermind that almost every seed producer recommends that you direct sow these plants. Who would pay $16.95 for a one seedling?

Who is your target market, Williams Sonoma? Newbie gardeners with more money than sense? And while we’re at it, isn’t it a little irresponsible to also sell these people $500 Backyard Beehive Starter Kits (it may worry the neighbors) and $1300 Chicken Coops (those poor birds!)

Look, I love Williams Sonoma. Their catalog is pure kitchen porn. When it comes in the mail, I find an empty room, lock the door, and devour every luscious page. But really guys, don’t prey on people who are new to food gardening and don’t know any better. It’ll only sour them on the whole gardening thing and none of us want that, right?