A Frederick Food Garden

Growing (and eating) fruit and veggies in a little downtown garden

Kind of Unbelievable


That was the subject line of an email that my friend and fellow gardener Summer 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 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?

Author: cathybruce

I'm a graphic designer, cook, gardener, geek, wife, and mom. Not necessarily in that order.


  1. I hadn’t even thought about the responsibility angle on the chicken coops and beehives! Most places require a permit for those things, and if they don’t, it’s perhaps because they are so rural there’s a farm store that can sell them to you muchhhhhhh cheaper……… :-) It is a pretty chicken coop at least. :-)

    • It is a neat chicken coop. I love the idea of fresh eggs. However, I spent the first 8 years of my life in the country. I still remember how stinky and dirty chickens are. Plus, I don’t have the stones to kill and eat a chicken, once it stops laying eggs.

  2. I had no idea about WS entering the gardening market, although I noticed that Target has acquired Smith & Hawken. I guess it’s fashionable to be a gardener or urban grower now! Thanks for the informing post.

    • I’ve bought some Smith & Hawken things at Target. I’m not against pretty things for the garden, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

  3. I love how they market the fact that parts of your expensive soft metal shovel (from the bronze age) flaking off every time you dig as a “benefit to your soil” ;)

  4. I just completed a 6 week beekeeping course and field day activities to ensure I know as much as I can to keep myself, my neighbors and my bees safe as I begin beekeeping. I think Williams Sonoma is irresponsible by offering beekeeping supplies and equipment. Anyone who purchases such equipment is foolish – it is waaaaay overpriced and anyone worth half a pound of honey will know this. These same people will also not know about laws, regulations, or worse yet – pest management. They are putting themselves and backyard beekeepers at risk. I plan to write WS a letter urging them to pull this from their catalog. I hope others will do the same.

  5. I have to admit, my first reaction on seeing the new catalog was, “So… urban farming is over, then?” By the time a trend hits that part of the market, I think it’s near saturation.

    I still want all of their pans, though. ;)

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