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Farmers Coop Plant Nursery Ruled by the Queen of Cram

Deanne Andrews and Jeff Budine

Deanne Andrews , Queen of Cram, and Jeff Budine at the Greenfield Farmers Coop plant nursery

Jeff Budine, Manager of the Greenfield Farmers Cooperative Exchange, now
celebrating its Centennial Anniversary, told me that the plant nursery with its current
offerings of everything from trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vegetables and herbs
began about 50 years ago in the open space where the warehouse now stands. In those
days there were fewer nursery plants, and they were all sold out by Memorial Day, he
said.

Nowadays, the plant nursery is a big operation and includes a greenhouse. Budine
took me outside to the arrays of flowers and brilliant hanging baskets to introduce me to
Deanne Andrews who has managed the nursery for the last 14 years. Andrews graduated from UMass Stockbridge in 2001 where she majored in commercial floriculture and fruit and vegetable crop production. She left the area, but after a sojourn in Virginia, she moved back to Greenfield, her home town, and began a career with plants, but with a different slant. “Retail is very different from farming. On a farm you always have a second chance to try a project that didn’t work as hoped. Here in retail you have one shot to make a sale. “It has definitely been a learning experience. Until you actually do something hands on you don’t have a clue about what to do, or how to do it,” she said.

She explained that there are many facets to her job from ordering, organizing and
caring for all these plants as well as helping customers and giving them advice. “I can
give advice but I don’t know everything – I am always learning.”

Delphiniums

Delphiniums, soon to bloom in the garden

Andrews recognizes that every year there are new trends and new plant
introductions. “This year Tabletop strawberries seem to be in favor. The idea is you place
a potted strawberry plant that is bearing on your table so you can snack on the
strawberries.” I examined the sizeable pot containing a blooming and fruiting strawberry
plant, and thought it wouldn’t take me long to finish off that helping, but it certainly was
pretty.

She said there seemed to be a new petunia every year, a new color or variety, but
she couldn’t illustrate her point because every petunia had been sold. She assured me that
more petunias would be arriving.

“New plants are coming in all the time. There are replacements, and the
perennials change as the season progresses. People can request certain plants and I do try
to get what they want,” she said.

“The challenge is keeping the plants looking fresh. We have very limited space.
Jeff calls me the Queen of Cram. There are days when there are a lot of people in here,
moving plants around as they make their choices. Busy days cause disarray but it is very
gratifying to be able to re-establish order for the next onslaught.”

Andrews orders all the plants and is happy that she can get most of them locally,
from Harvest Farm, Mill River Farm, Five Acre Farm, Kelley Farm and Shoestring Farm.
Some plants come from the Prides Corner nursery in Connecticut. The trees and shrubs
come from the Monrovia nursery in Connecticut which has a similar climate to ours.

While the flower, tree and shrub displays are very eye-catching, Andrews explained that more and more people are planting vegetables. There seem to be trends in vegetables as well. Last year she said ground cherry, okra and tomatillos were all the rage. “Once people try something new, they want to try out other new things. It’s satisfying to grow some of your own food. I love the herbs myself,” she said. “I don’t actually use all of them in cooking, but I like having them in my garden.
“I think this is the best job in town. I have my own little oasis, although it does get
pretty hot out here on the paving during the summer. The staff here is basically a family.
It is a wonderful place to work,” Andrews said, as she then excused herself to go and help
a customer.

Fortunately, the Greenfield Farmers Coop also sells just about everything else that
a gardener might need: tools, organic fertilizers, hose holders, decorative pots, seeds and
seed starting supplies, and everything else.
**********************
The Forbes Library Northampton Garden Tour will take place onSaturday June 9
from 10 AM to 3 PM. It is a self-guided tour; people can purchase a ticket in advance for$15.00 prior to the day of the tour at State St. Fruit in Northampton, Baystate Perennials
in Whately, Hadley Garden Center in Hadley and Cooper’s Corner in Florence, and, of
course, Forbes Library.

This celebratory 25 th Anniversary tour includes gardens large and small. Four of the
outstanding gardens from past tours are included, and three additional gardens, all
unique, with waterfalls and ponds, statuary, collections of wonderful trees and shrubs and
more. One garden is terraced into seven different but cohesive levels; a singular vision
sets the garden apart. The grand scale of this garden is seldom seen in New England gardens.

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