AKRON, Ohio — Mustard Seed Market here is keeping its tradition of giving customers free saplings on Earth Day.
Indeed, this past week, more than ten thousand saplings were delivered to the company's store here where they'll be kept in a refrigerated truck until Earth Day.
The two-unit natural food store's owners, Phillip and Margaret Nabors, have been giving away saplings to celebrate Earth Day for years.
In an earlier interview, Phillip told SN that over the years, Mustard Seed has given away close to a million of them.
“We have people bring in pictures of big trees and tell us they grew from the saplings we gave them 10 or 15 years ago,” Nabors said. “They're so proud. It's as if they're showing us pictures of their grandchildren.”
And Nabors is grateful to the customers who plant and care for the trees.
“We figure if someone's able to provide the land and labor and give attention to these trees, it benefits everybody. There'll be more oxygen to breathe.”
Mustard Seed buys the saplings from local nurseries, making sure they choose species indigenous to Ohio so they'll have a good chance to thrive once they take root.
“It's a bigger project than it may seem,” Kate Heffner, who's in charge of procuring and distributing the seedlings, told SN last week.
“We get the seedlings delivered here, where they're placed in a refrigerated trailer we rent. Then they're bagged, 3 to 5 to a bag. Then, half of them are taken to our Solon [Ohio] store to be given to customers there.”
As Mustard Seed's human resources generalist, Heffner has a variety of responsibilities, and she talks enthusiastically about this one.
“There were years when we bought 30,000 seedlings and gave some of them to schools and community organizations as well as to our customers. But we've scaled back a little with the economy.”
Heffner said she makes tree species choices based on how big they'll grow, how much sun they'll need, how easy they'll be to tend, and whether they're Ohio native.
“I buy second-year seedlings so there's something to them. Depending on the species, they look like little trees. They're 12 to 15 inches tall.”
Prettiness is a factor, too. Three of this year's selections — flowering dogwood, red bud, and common lilac — produce little flowers in the spring. The other two choices are white cedar and sugar maple.
The saplings are placed upfront, post checkout, in boxes. Alongside, on tables, are information sheets about each species. Customers are invited to call, if they have questions.
Customers, Heffner said, get excited about the Earth Day giveaway every year.
“We remind them in our newsletter, on our website, and in other ways, that Earth Day is coming up. When the store opens Saturday, I'm sure we'll have people lined up, waiting to get in. That's the way it has been every year.”