Fort Collins Nursery has always held the health of its surrounding community as one of our cornerstone principles. The Unifying Principles section in our Employee Handbook states:
“Health & Happiness: …We focus on the long-term health and happiness of our employees, customers, and community in all that we do.”
“Commitment to excellence: …Be a responsible member of our community. Contribute to the horticultural profession and continue to learn from it.”
Protests against police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality endure across the nation and around the globe. It is clear that at all levels, people of color and in particular Black people are struggling mightily to be heard, to be recognized, and to be treated with the respect and dignity white people too often take for granted. Our community is not healthy if part of it is suffering so profoundly. As the needs of the community emerge and evolve, we must readjust our priorities to clearly include matters of race and equality if we are to uphold our cherished values of community support.
Fort Collins Nursery does not set itself apart from the crowd because of exclusive merchandise or proprietary information. What makes us special is our willingness to work harder, be more sincere, and care more deeply than other businesses. We do not do what is easiest, we do what is best. It is easy for me as a white male business owner to feel “above the fray” when my business revolves around plants, gardening, and soil health. However, as I’ve been challenged by staff, customers, and by my own family to take a closer look at myself and this business, I’m learning that we have hard work ahead in how we as a business address and take action on matters of racial awareness, inclusivity.
With input from those around me and a lot of soul searching, I am educating myself on these difficult issues. Already I am aware of certain areas this business can improve, both in how we operate internally and how we interact with the community around us that can have a positive impact for our employees of color, our local communities of color, and in particular the black and native people in our lives who suffer the most violent manifestations of the racial injustice that has woven its way into so many facets of everyday life.
The changes we make internally will guide the changes we make outwardly. The internally focused changes I will be pushing to implement within the weeks, months, and years to come include but are not limited to:
- Names and descriptions: Within horticulture, racist language and terminology is not uncommon in many of the items we sell. We will be paying special attention to how plant common names as well as the terms and phrases used in our plant and product descriptions serve to normalize harmful stereotypes. This will be an ongoing process, and will hopefully lead to positive dialogue about how the terms we take for granted can affect those around us.
- Display themes: We sometimes rely on cultural and regional imagery to define a theme in merchandise displays which can lead to the inadvertent amplification of harmful racial stereotypes. In order to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for our customers, we will focus on creating displays that demonstrate utility, style, and function, and will actively focus on removing potentially harmful stereotypes from our repertoire.
- Representation: We will strive to carry items that reflect the diversity of all of our customers when possible, both in the products themselves, (for example fairy garden figurines with varied skin tones) and in the companies and creators we buy from. In areas where such options are limited we will take the opportunity to communicate publicly about the lack of diversity in areas of our industry. By putting our money where our mouth is, we can do our part to ensure there is ample opportunity for people of color to thrive and make lasting positive impact in our world of horticulture.
- Policy changes: I will create policies with the specific aim of maintaining a culture at Fort Collins Nursery that invites dialogue, discussion, learning, and growth on issues surrounding race, conscious and unconscious bias, and ways this business can support people of color. These will include safe methods for providing feedback and suggestions and a more robust hiring and recruiting process. It will take time to ensure that these policies can have the desired impact, and will be done with guidance and input from both staff and external sources
With these measures supporting an inclusive and open company culture, the following outwardly focused changes can be implemented with a strong foundation supporting them:
- Support: Fort Collins Nursery has a strong track record of supporting organizations that work with struggling communities. While many of the people supported by these groups are people of color, that is generally due to the fact that Black people and other people of color often find themselves fighting battles that are caused by the color of their skin. Fort Collins Nursery will seek out organizations who specifically support racial minorities in ways that revolve around plants, including but not limited to teaching others to grow food, improving food security, and promoting the benefits of plants for personal and community health.
- Advocacy: Fort Collins Nursery is a well-respected business within the Fort Collins business community and within the Colorado nursery industry. From this position of privilege, we can be a voice for change. I will use this influence to urge my fellow business owners and leaders to take action that can result in a more just, equitable, and safe environment for Black people and people of color in our community and in our industry.
I look forward to the challenge this process will present. I believe it will lead to beneficial growth for both this business and the community that it has relied upon for nearly 90 years. Each of you makes this business the special place that is has become, and I invite you to be a part of this process. If there are pieces of this business that can be improved or opportunities we are missing, please let me know. I appreciate thoughts and ideas as we embark on this journey of learning, of opening our eyes, and of embracing change.
Originally published on June 24th, 2020.