Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jun 2014
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2014 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Valerie Vande Panne


The Cultivation Station Is a Successful Michigan Business. So Why 
Can't They Bank?

Bob Diefenderfer has been operating a high-end retail garden supply 
store since 1998. His wife, Kristen, is vice president. They built a 
single shop in St. Clair Shores into the largest high-end retail 
garden supply chain in the state of Michigan, with seven locations 
throughout the lower peninsula. They have 30 employees, and provide 
them with Blue Cross health insurance. They pay their taxes, they say 
proudly, and have cultivated impeccable credit.

And then, last year, their bank, Huntington, closed their business 
accounts. Huntington gave no reason, except to say that the 
Diefenderfers could close their accounts at any time. Huntington 
could make that decision, too.

In a matter of two business days, their business was turned upside 
down. Automatic payments were rejected. Suppliers, utility companies, 
and more had their automatic payments go unpaid, and then came the 
bounced check fees. They had to switch payroll - and their employees 
had direct deposit. DTE, Consumer's Energy, their alarm systems, 
insurance, the water bills - everything had to be changed for seven 
different locations.

It was financial hell. But the Diefenderfers picked up their money, 
moved it to PNC, and again set up their automatic payments to 
suppliers, utilities, and payroll.

Then, in April of this year, they received letters from PNC, 
notifying them that each of their business and personal accounts 
(including a savings account in their name they were keeping for 
their son) would be closed.

They took their money, and went to First State Bank - and First State 
refused to open an account for them.

You see, Bob's shop is the Cultivation Station. Cultivation Station 
sells organic fertilizers, non-GMO seeds, and outdoor gardening supplies.

They also sell indoor hydroponics and aquaponics systems.

And that could be why banks don't want to do business with them.

Hydroponics: The word conjures up images of huge, underground 
marijuana grow operations. It's a mental image some people find 
incredibly frightening. Others see it as the future, such as when 
CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta took viewers of his WEED 2 special on a tour 
of a mammoth medical marijuana growing center in England earlier this year.

But most folks in agriculture realize hydroponics isn't just for pot 
- - it's part of the future of agriculture. Even Epcot Center 
understands this, and uses hydroponics in their "Living With the 
Land" exhibition.

And that's one of the reasons Bob opened a Cultivation Station 
location at Eastern Market four years ago. "We wanted to bring 
hydroponic interior gardening and organic fertilizer to the 
mainstream, to show them you can grow anything," he tells Metro 
Times. And, he says, "We wanted higher-end clientele." He wanted to 
attract the urban gardener, in addition to the suburban, professional 
gardening crowd that visits the market on weekends. Indeed, if you 
were at the market in April, you probably saw greens that were grown 
locally using hydroponics systems. It's one of the few ways you can 
have fresh greens year-round in Michigan's climate.

"Hydroponics [has] been around for 1,000 years, but all people think 
of is weed," says Bob. "Hydroponics is just a form of gardening. It's 
a more efficient form of gardening that uses a fraction of the water. 
They say the ancient gardens of Babylon were the first type of 
hydroponic gardening."

The store also carries supplies for aquaponics, the new trend in 
urban agriculture.

And, again, aquaponics isn't about weed. At Central Detroit Christian 
(CDC), the community development nonprofit located at Second Avenue 
and Philadelphia Street in Detroit, aquaponics is a major part of the 
organization's job-training program, employing six to 18 people and 
selling fish and greens to the local community via its Farm and 
Fishery program.

"Aquaponics is a form of indoor, closed-loop, holistic gardening," 
says Anthony Hatinger, Garden Production Manager at CDC. "We're 
growing crops with an aquatic life form, and we have a system that 
feeds and nurtures plant production off expended fish waste. We use 
no antibiotics, no pesticides, no unnatural fertilizers, and all 
organic seed and fish food, and we're non-GMO."

In other words, an aquaponics farm harnesses the power of fish poop 
to fertilize and grow greens.

They're the first licensed fish farm in the city.

"Our primary focuses are employment, education, and economic 
development," Hatinger tells Metro Times. "We wanted to create jobs 
that are viable in the market, and benefit from the resurgence of 
urban agriculture, and help combat food access and food sovereignty 
issues in our neighborhood."

"The whole aim is we have the capacity to serve local. There's no 
need to serve outside the city boundaries. We chose aquaponics 
because it's a new way of creating local food stocks you wouldn't 
normally be able to obtain."

Their mission, Hatinger says, is about empowering people to have 
knowledge and a skill set as eaters, and to purchase products and 
grow food locally.

In keeping with their mission, he says, "We buy from Cultivation Station."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom