When we first opened our new 50-foot hoop house at The Hermitage (home of President Andrew Jackson, where I was gardens manager), I went to the state department of agriculture for an inspection certificate. To sell plants, that was required. I was asked if I had a pesticide applicator’s permit and I explained that, well, no, because I don’t use pesticides.
“You can’t operate a commercial greenhouse without pesticides,” the fellow stated flatly.
“Sure you can. I’ve done it for years at the farm.” I explained that we fed our seedlings a combination of compost and fish emulsion, so the plants were so healthy that pests and diseases didn’t bother them.
This idea richocheted off his mind, so he said he’d look in on me in spring to see how things went. On the appointed day he came by to look at the roughly 10,000 plants we’d raised, and he asked how many I’d lost.
“Six,” said I.
“SIX!?” said he.
“Yeah, I don’t know what happened. Some sort of mold. Usually we do better, “ I told him.
He looked around carefully and finally said, “Nice greenhouse,” then filled out the certificate.