You never know who’s listening. . .

– Posted in: Catalog review, Miscellaneous, Seeds and Seed Starting

People who have been reading a while might remember this post of mine from a while back. Well, today we have a very similar story. Once again, it begins with me coming back from shopping–which is odd, because I actually very rarely go out shopping, only about once a month when I go out to clean my grandmother’s house. From the way my stories always go, you’d think I did nothing but shop. And once again I was informed I’d received a letter from Fedco’s.

However, since it was duly noted that I’d also received a catalog for Fedco Bulbs, my mind once again leapt to the seemingly ever-present form letter–you know, thanking you for your previous business, do try out our bulb selection, happy growing in 2005, blah blah blah. I really ought to have known better after my previous letter, but form letters are just so much more normal.

But, no. It was another handwritten letter from C.R. Lawn (except this time he used a red pen). And since he gave me permission to use his letter, I shan’t waste my time paraphrasing or mangling his words–or editing his eccentric capitalization.

Dear Talitha Purdy,

As surprised as you were to get my last letter, you may be even more surprised by this one. Recently one of my colleagues found your comments about FEDCO under Catalog Review on the web and passed them on to me. I found it an enjoyable read and appreciate your point of view.

I also think it only fair that I should allay your curiosity about who is CR Lawn at FEDCO. You ask if I am “the head honcho.” Being a co-operative, FEDCO doesn’t exactly have a head honcho or the traditional pyramidal management structure. Actually, we are currently struggling over how to describe our jobs and lines of authority for our employee handbook. It looks more like a mobius strip than a pyramid.

To finally answer your question, I founded the co-op in 1978, and was at one time in charge of everything. I have delegated and delegated until now, when I am one of the 4 co-ordinators of the Seeds division. I am also the closest thing to a Chief FINANCIAL OFFICER doing most of the accounting from posting to financial statements to corporate tax returns. In addition I write the Seeds portion of the winter catalog and collate most of the seed orders, and I still have a lot to do with long-term visioning which includes writing letters to people who complain, offer interesting suggestion or interact in some way that gets my attention. We also have a team of people who answer the phone calls so you can find a real live person and not a form response that way. I’m less enamored of the phone so I only get a select few calls that are screened & referred to me for some special expertise or angle.

You observed that I was left-handed. True enough, although this scrawl was generated with my right hand. I’m old enough to go back to the time when rural schools DIDN’T recognize left-handed inclinations and forced everyone into the mold of writing with their right. It was a struggle and it still shows. So I do other things (throw balls & saw etc) with my left.

At Fedco each division (organic grower supplies, potatoes, flower bulbs, trees, seeds) has one or more co-ordinators (the management basically) and sends 1 rep to FINANCE committee & 1 to administration & COMMUNICATIONS committee plus we have a staff-elected personnel committee. There is also a person in charge of over-all warehouse operations (Gene Frey) and two de-facto in charge of informational technology (rene & David SHIPMAN who is the OGS co-ordinator). This is probably more than you ever wanted to know about FEDCO. Please feel free to share any or all of it in your web correspondence. I’m not really a web guy, but some of my talks at gatherings & conferences are on our site.

Thank you for the nice review,
CR Lawn

Yes, indeed, I was even more surprised by this letter!

My next thought was–how did his colleagues find my review (such as it was)? I didn’t think a rather absent-minded blog post (and the long list in the garden blog directory of this site bears witness to how very many blogs there are) would be a very easy thing to stumble upon. Apparently, I was quite wrong. I just went to Google and searched for “fedco catalog reviews.” The first hit was from ZD-Net, which was the sort of “official” site I thought would be easily found. But they only gave a manufacturer profile, and it was for Fedco Electronics, which I presume is in no way whatsoever related.

And the second hit was mine. Goodness Gracious! (Does that mean I’m famous now?)

The third hit was for The Adventurous Gardener, who is telling everyone “where to buy the best plants in New England”, and gave quite proper (unlike me) reviews of both Fedco and Johnny’s Selected Seeds. (Since CR Lawn always wrote “FEDCO”, I presume it must actually be an abbreviation for something, but I like the way “Fedco” looks better, so I shall continue to write it that way for purely aesthetic reasons.) By rights, The Adventurous Gardener probably ought to have been before me.

The fourth hit was for the actual factual Fedco website, and from there on out, there was a bunch of miscellaneous other links, some of them applying and some not.

How peculiar, though. I mean, of course I knew that technically something like this could happen. But it seems rather like saying you oughtn’t play out in the rain or you’ll get struck by lightning. Of course it could technically happen, but really. It feels sort of like talking to yourself in what you thought was an empty room, and then having someone answer you from behind your back. Goodness! Where’d you come from?

Now I think I shall have to write CR Lawn (The Guy In The Middle of the Mobius Strip) back, and we can have a miserable-handwriting-contest. Only he has a good excuse, and I have none, save the fact that I talk far faster than my hands can keep up. Those are the two beautiful things about computers, you know. (1) The keyboard, which, when mastered, can allow you to babble quicker and more coherently than by ink, and (2) The Spell Checker! I hate spelling, but when I quit babbling and settle down to work, I actually have very nice handwriting (even if I do say so myself!). I enjoy calligraphy, and nearly all it entails (occasionally I get sick of washing nibs or drawing guidelines), but you would never, ever, ever guess that from my every-day sort of handwriting. Alas for the recipients of my letters!

About the Author

Talitha spent the last few years doing an absurd combination of work and school, and found it wasn’t very pleasant. Now she’s doing work, school and a garden, and life is a little better! She also enjoys photography and hand feeding her ducks. USDA Hardiness Zone: 4 AHS Heat Zone: 3 Location: rural; Southern Tier of NY Geographic type: foothills of Appalachian Mountains Soil Type: acid clay Experience level: advanced beginner Particular interests: herbs, vegetables, cutting garden, cottage gardening

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

Laurie June 26, 2005, 3:11 pm

What a fascinating letter. I’ve got to give Fedco a look. LM

jenn June 26, 2005, 10:25 am

“Actually, we are currently struggling over how to describe our jobs and lines of authority for our employee handbook. It looks more like a mobius strip than a pyramid.”

Loved this bit of description. My partner and I are incorporating my DBA (Doing Business As) into a two-person business, and some of the paper we are required to create deals with job descriptions. We’ve been scratching our heads trying to come up with something that looks professional and well-thought-out.

Got a laugh out of the ‘mobius strip’ analogy and had to run and instantly share it with Mark.

How nice to get such a letter. And yes, there is a moment of shock when you realize that when you write on the net, the world is (potentially) watching. It took a bit of internal adjustment for me to get back up and write again, when my moment of realization came.