Shut Up and Dig, Uncategorized

Williams-Sonoma Goes Agrarian

Williams-Sonoma got a little buzz last week when it announced a new line of DIY, homesteading, gardening, chicken-keeping stuff. The line is calledAgrarian, and while it wasn’t quite live when the press hit last week, it’s all up there now. Let’s have a look, shall we?

I went straight to the chicken coops, of course.  A base model costs $400; the optional (but necessary) run brings the price up to $850.  With shipping and taxes, you’re looking at a thousand bucks.  Delivery includes “white glove service,” meaning that the thing will actually be assembled and put into place by their delivery people.  (I would be very, very surprised if this applied to orders placed in Humboldt County.)

If you search around, you’ll see that this is not too different from any other mail-order chicken coop in terms of style or price.  My complaint about most prefab chicken coops is that they are a bit too small for how pet chickens will actually live.  Chickens do a lot of squabbling and shuffling of the hierarchy; I find that if you’re going to confine them, it’s good to give them more room than absolutely necessary so they can retreat to separate corners to avoid getting pecked if they need to.  Also, I worry that these little pre-fab things might be too flimsy. A predator might flip them over or tunnel under.  And how well will they hold up in the weather, year after year?  If you’re going to spend a thousand bucks on a coop, you want it to last as long as, say, a fence or a deck would.  It should be that sturdy.

So I don’t know.  The coop is cute, the price is not actually that outrageous, but without actually kicking the tires I couldn’t say whether I’d consider it a good long-term investment.  Might be easier to give a handyman a thousand bucks and say, “Chicken coop.  Go.”

Plants.  There are plants.  Although I think some of these prices must be typos.  Fifty bucks for a raspberry bush?  Just one?  Sure, it comes in a big pot, so I’m assuming it’s a big healthy mature thing, but come on.  What do bareroot berries cost?  A few bucks apiece?

Herbs in four-inch pots are $13.  We all know that’s about 3-4 times more than they’d be at the garden center.

A single lettuce plant is $16.95.  Really, I can’t even bring myself to mock them for this. I feel like it has to be a mistake.  I mean, I would have mocked them for pricing it at $6.95, given that a vigorous jumbo six-pack of the same lettuce costs less at the garden center (not to mention a packet of seeds)–but $16.95?  I’m just worried about them at this point.

10 packets of heirloom vegetable seeds go for $18.  Okay, fair enough, assuming it’s all stuff you want to grow. They come from Beekman 1802, and the idea is that you go to the website, log in, and chat with other people growing the same seeds.  Which–well, yeah. Maybe that could be cool.

Tools:  We’re looking at a copper hand trowel for $60 and a spading fork for $300.  Isn’t copper kind of a soft metal?  I know they’re blending it with other metals, but still.  Copper for garden tools?  Really?  I’m not persuaded.  I’ve been using those tools that Clarington Forge sent me a while back and I gotta say–at a third of the price, they are all the tool you’ll ever need.  Ever.

There’s more–stuff for canning and preserving, beekeeping, making cheese and kombucha and whatever–and some raised beds that are actually fairly comparable in price to similar raised bed kits sold online, but pricey nonetheless ($150 for a little 3 x 3 raised bed?  To, what, grow some squash in? The squash will grow whether or not there’s a little piece of wood surrounding it, that’s all I’m saying.)

Oh, and they’re also selling compost ($7 for a 10-lb bag)–and fertilizer, and other things that I’d much rather pick up locally than order through a catalog.

So anyway, that’s my rundown, folks.  Nice stuff, but not so nice that I’m lusting after it, with prices ranging from “comparable to other similar high-end stuff” to “are you sure that’s not a typo, honey?”

I guess I’m glad to see anybody selling garden stuff to the masses, at any price–but will I be ordering anything from them?  Probably not.

Posted by on April 10, 2012 at 10:05 am, in the category Shut Up and Dig, Uncategorized.
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31 Responses to “Williams-Sonoma Goes Agrarian”

  1. Liz says:

    I looked through the W-S Agrarian catalogue… okay a few of those things I’d possibly buy, but honestly, with some of those prices and the type of products (vintage seed tray? why?), I’d almost think it a spoof. Who are they marketing to? The gullible wealthy hipsters population?

  2. PickleMuseum says:

    The scary thing is, it seems that they have actually been selling those $16.95 vegetable plants. The day after they went on sale, I noticed that about half of the varieties were “no longer available”– I assume that means they had sold out. I find it really troubling that there could be people in this world who actually believe it makes sense to pay $17 dollars for a plant that will produce a single head of cauliflower.

  3. Thad says:

    I saw it the release and honestly got excited, but like too many things in this world, was disappointed when I actually investigated it a little. I too wonder who this is aimed at … and, if I had to guess, it would be the same people that purchase their sauces and spices there … people who want to appear to be hip & cool without doing the real work of gardening. That said, I can’t wait till a couple of years pass and these things start to turn up at yard & estate sales!

  4. Ahh, we just got our catalog yesterday. Daughter pushed the catalog under my nose and was all, “see mom, this coop costs $850!” We built our own in $150 range by recycling wood.

  5. greg draiss says:

    Sooner or later people will realize how mail order is a rip off

    The TROLL

  6. Donna B. says:

    I’d TOTALLY pay seventeen bucks for a plant I’d put in a container, forget to water, and dies.
    … or get a packet from High Mowing Seed for three bucks and get a ton of lettuce for a fraction of the cost…

    This is depressing.

  7. Marlene says:

    Oh c’mon, let’s be fair – those $16.95 lettuce plants are wrapped in burlap and tied with a ribbon!!!

    I wonder if people would pay me to come over and wrap their plants in burlap?

    The one that really made me howl with laughter was the “chicken coop predator kit” for $59.95. It’s a roll of hardware cloth and some nails.

    I also wondered about the beehives, bees not included. I’m going into my third year as a beginning beekeeper, and around here you should be installing your package bees in the next couple of weeks. Due to the increased interest in beekeeping, you need to have your bees ordered by the end of March, as most places sell out. I think many of those lovely copper-roofed beehives may spend the summer empty.

    I bought unassembled hive bodies, nailed them together and painted them myself. It wasn’t terribly hard, I learned the importance of square corners and I got a lot of satisfaction out of it.

    But I don’t have a copper roof!

  8. Mary Gray says:

    Jinx. I posted on the exact same topic today. Except mine was a little meaner.

  9. Laura Bell says:

    At seventeen bucks a head, that lettuce better be good enough to get me to my diet goal in one salad !

    I think Agrarian, and similar catalogs & stores are aimed at those who have money & time and who want to think and look like they are gardening without the actual effort. Copper garden tools ? Really ?? My dense clay soil has been known to destroy all but the best-made implements.

  10. anne says:

    The folks who shop WS on a regular basis are so rich, those prices don’t make them bat their eyes (if they even look at the price). They would not be caught dead in Home Depot. Other customers might be purchasing a special gift to impress someone.

    Where I live, chicken coops have to bear a pretty heavy snow load–we had 4 feet on the roof at one point this winter. I’m pretty sure these coops are built for California (thevdrier parts).

  11. Katie E-P says:

    I would actually buy the fermentation crock. Those are hard to find and expensive no matter where you get them.

  12. David says:

    I wouldn’t knock the copper tools too much. For one they are made of bronze so much harder than pure copper. I’ve had one for a couple of years and find it very sharp and just seems to dig into he earth easier than any steel trowel i’ve had. Quite possible i haven’t had a really great steel trowel tough. The earth just slides off the surface and bronze is very corrosion resistant thats why its used for ships propellers and marine fittings. Its heavily promoted in the the UK gardening press and has some prominent proponents such as Bob Flowerdew from BBC gardeners question time their longest running gardening show (started 1947). It is expensive and is it worth the extra cost probably not but its a pleasure to use and i think its worth getting quality tools that you like to use and will last a lifetime. Plus there are some dodgy claims of slug deterance and due to its non magnetic character claims that it doesn’t disturb the soil so much but i don’t believe that sort of stuff but if you are biodynamically minded maybe a plus.

  13. shira says:

    It’s funny, I blogged about this yesterday too. Although in retrospect my post is angrier, and not nearly as funny! My big concern is that because of the name recognition people that are new to veg growing (there are so many right now) will be discouraged to take it on due to cost. WS is not the only culprit behind this trend…

    Plus – if anyone would like to buy a Black Krim tomato plant for $16.95 I’ve got some for sale in my basement!

  14. Daedre says:

    Not only are the prices ridiculous, but I’m sure you could find products of equal (if not better) quality locally. There’s something very very wrong about shipping a lettuce plant across the country for almost $20, just to make someone a single salad.

  15. New York is where I’d rather stay.
    I get allergic smelling hay!
    But if I have to pretend to farm,
    I’ll buy Agrarian for haute country charm!

    –A new hit song by Mrs. Douglas and the One Percenters

  16. KM says:

    LOL at those plant prices. If someone standing in front of me tried to charge me 13 bucks for a 4″ basil or 50 bucks for a raspberry I would punch them right in the nose.

  17. kathy says:

    Wow, this makes White Flower farm look like the bargain basement.

  18. Karen says:

    Chicks sold seperately line gave me a mad chuckle. I think you’ll know you’ve got a bonafide craze when you also start seeing cute little sweater vests for your chicks sold in a catalog. Happy Spring Amy. I’m a fan of your work.

  19. Potato Queen says:

    Mary Gray posted about this yesterday and I DID think it was a spoof at first, until I saw that each picture linked back to W-S. Yikes!

  20. commonweeder says:

    I didn’t go as far as checking out prices. I just knew they would be ridiculous. Is it because some people need to buy from a trendy place so they can really feel au courant and doing the trendiest thing?

  21. Chris N says:

    I’m going to follow David and comment on the tools. I suspect W-S pushes the copper aspect because copper is much more trendy than bronze. Copper garden ornaments, copper rain chains, copper roofs on birdhouses and all that. And you’re right. Copper is soft and would make a bad tool.

    But if you take that copper and add tin you get an entire chapter in the history of human civilization. Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age. Bronze was used for everything from fine jewelry to cookware; from axes, adzes and plows to swords, spear points and armor. The iron age came about not because the early wrought iron was better but because it was cheaper to make and for many purposes, good enough. Once forged iron and, later, steel were developed, bronze was relegated to specialized uses. So the W&S bronze garden tools would be both functional and beautiful.

    Would I pay $60 for that bronze trowel from W&S? Heck, no. I’ll spend my money on beauty for the garden and function for my tools. I use stainless steel trowels made by Wilcox All-Pro. because they are the only ones I don’t seem to bend or break. If I need a top of the line spade or fork, I go to Lee Valley Tools which carries both the steel Clarington Forge tools and similarly made stainless steel types.

    But really, as long as you stay away from the el cheapo models, spades found at the local hardware store work just fine. And if you slice through a slug with one, it will be deterred just as effectively as if sliced by copper.

  22. D Lacy says:

    Are you sure you’re pricing the chicken coop right? I think the coop is $879.95 and the run is $399.95. That’s over $1200 plus shipping. You can get 3′ extenders for a mere $150 each and wow, you can get a 25′ roll of hardware cloth for, hold on to your wallets, $60! And it’s exclusive to on-line customers. For that price it should be stainless steel. Normal stores sell it for around $20! WS is just catering to those with more money than brains.

  23. Laurie says:

    Just the chicken coop (the base unit) costs $934.95 not $400. Add the run as pictured in the image and it goes up to $1389.90. That’s with delivery. That’s a 4′ x 6′ run. You have to stoop to go into the run too unless you’re short and stand right in the middle. And the thing weighs 354 lbs, which you’ll be dragging around your yard with the help of the “sturdy rubber wheels and wheelbarrow handles”. And it’s 4′ wide so it can’t just be wheeled anywhere or through many gates. And it’s made of plywood.

  24. John in the Redwoods says:

    If you need some fashionable hats for your chickens, I’m starting up a line. None, unfortunately at this time, have any feathers. Coming soon to a catalog near you!

  25. Rachelle says:

    News Flash, Williams Sonoma will be changing their name to Barnum & Bailey. Have at ‘em.

  26. Liz stein says:

    They are selling, for $70 each, apparently full-sized apricot trees, which they say are suitable for containers and small beds; they claim the trees are appropriate for zones 4-9–I guarantee you, the poor soul in zone 4, and probably zone 5, will never see an apricot off that Moorpark. It is just wrong to take people’s money like this, trading on a brand name and people’s ignorance.

  27. Sue Schwartz says:

    My first thought was to compare W-S to White Flower Farm, but I see someone else has already posted it.

  28. MaryContrary says:

    That catalogue was the funniest thing I’ve received in the mail since the local nuke plant sent out a calendar featuring photos of local scenery accompanied by monthly emergency evacuation tips.

  29. I have the kitchen compost bin that sells for $29.95 only mine was/is an ice bucket in teal with ice scoop…I think it came from target. I guarantee it wasn’t near $30. I am trying to decide what to plant in it.

  30. This should be shocking…but it’s really not. Gardening has become such the in-thing at the moment and you just knew some huge brand was going to start selling overpriced gardening gear.

    Aside from overpriced coops and lettuces (now that was a shocker!), I’ve read that copper gardening tools are quite good if you’re trying to deal with pests organically. Apparently the copper chips off in the soil as you use the tools and these tiny pieces help to repel slugs and snails. I don’t know if I’d really invest in them myself but I suppose the idea is there :)

  31. Kelly says:

    Yes, it is all kind of ridiculous. But overall, I don’t mind this development. For one it’s a pretty clear indication that growing and making your own food is pretty fully a mainstream activity in a way it wasn’t even 4 or 5 years ago.

    And if a little WS faux rustic simplicity lifestyle branding is what it takes to get some people growing their own, that’s fine by me. My guess is that if you have a good first year growing $17 lettuce in a $150 raised bed, you’ll probably be comfortable enough next year to realize you can do it again with actual rustic simplicity.

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