A Metaphysical Moment … With Planet Natural’s Eric Vinje

Saturday Apr. 2nd, 2011

Bozeman is well known for its love of all things green. Beautiful gardens, parks and organic farms dot the city in the summer bringing a palpable balance to the beautiful valley. Perhaps it’s the short growing season that life in Zone 4 brings-when the sun shines Bozemanites tend to make the most of it. Perhaps it is the fact that those who live amongst nature at its finest with its good earth, fresh air and clean water desire to expand upon those attributes and dig in for themselves, experiencing the gratification that is one small seed sprouting into tangible evidence of sustainability. Whatever the reason, Eric Vinje, owner of Planet Natural, is feeling the positive effects of this trend in the successful relocation and expansion of his Bozeman store.

Planet Natural began in 1991 by providing growers locally and nationally via internet access to organic gardening and household products as an alternative to the use of harsher chemicals. Today the store is a cornucopia of any and all things essential to organic gardening, from grow lights to sprout seedlings indoors for a jump on the short growing season, to beneficial insects like ladybugs to help keep unwanted pests off your plants – it can all be found here. The excitement and promise of spring being oh-so-close can be felt in the buzz of activity among the staff at Planet Natural. Knowledgeable and passionate about organic gardening themselves if you listen you can hear the tail ends of epic gardening stories and advice on successful organic techniques. Underneath the intensity of grow lights a staff member eagerly relates the successful story of a newly sprouted tomato seedlings project by opening the growing flat to proudly show off the young plants. Somewhere amidst the abundance and growth is Vinje, busy working at his desk in preparation for the April Grand Opening of Planet Natural’s new location and the beginning of a hectic growing season. Vinje happily takes some time out to answer a few questions about what his love for organics and Planet Natural is all about.

KJ: How did your passion for horticulture arise in your life?

EV: I’ve always been attracted to healthier and more natural ways of living, especially now that I have a family of my own. It’s something we all need. When you do something good for the environment, the effects will benefit generations to come. These beliefs made a natural fit with my desire to work, to do business, in a way that benefits everyone. And planting a garden is such a great family activity.

KJ: What inspires you daily and supports your vision?

EV: It’s been great to see in some 20 years of business that more and more people are getting into organic and natural gardening. Sure, it’s been great for our business but it’s been great for the environment as well. People are more interested in sustainability, healthful ways of gardening and lawn care, involving their families in activities that benefit not only themselves but our soils and water as well. It’s become a lifestyle, not something that’s elitist or “different” but a part of everyday life. And it’s been satisfying to be part of that.

KJ: What is your hope – or what advances would you like to see take place in Bozeman in the organic gardening movement?

EV: I think Bozeman is doing a good job with organics and sustainability. Consider where our store is located – 5 of the 6 local businesses in this development are involved with organics and sustainability some how. There’s The Daily Coffee Bar (organic fair trade coffee), PowerHouse (designs and implements systems to reduce the carbon footprint of your home or business), Refuge Sustainable Building Center and The Natural Baby Company.
Also, take a look at our farmers’ markets, our community gardens, and our locally produced food movement. I’d like to see our emphasis on locally produced foods and health-related products continue to expand. I’d like to see organic foods and the products that make the organic lifestyle possible become more available and affordable so they can be more widely used. I’d like to see even more people get involved. And I’d like to be part of it.
KJ: How can your average person – without any previous gardening or horticulture experience – do ONE thing to enhance their natural environment now?

EV: They can start composting. Composting is easy and it has a variety of benefits to the home gardener and the world at large. Yard wastes are among the largest components going into landfills at certain times of the year. Keeping them out, as well as kitchen scrapes, coffee grounds and all the other compostable things we usually throw away, would go a long way toward reducing a family’s impact on the planet. And compost is a valuable tool in improving lawns and gardens. It’s the best sort of recycling. It saves money spent on commercial fertilizers and soil amendments. The composted carrot peels and lettuce scrapes from this year’s garden will make your carrots and lettuce grow all the better next year. And composting is a great learning activity for the kids. The “getting started” and “how-to” articles at www.composterconnection.com will show you just how easy – and beneficial – composting can be.

KJ: What is your vision for Planet Natural in the future?

EV: I’m not the kind of person who thinks far into the future. I concentrate on the daily details of the business, what products should we be adding, how do we get more locally involved, how can I answer the demand for this product or that or fill a need for an organic alternative, what will it take to better inform and serve our customers? I’ve found that if we do that (my employees included), the future takes care of itself.

To experience Planet Natural visit their retail location at 1251 N. Rouse Avenue in Bozeman or online at www.PlanetNatural.com

Kathleen Johns is a Bozeman Holistic Advisor and Psychic with a desire to bring Bozeman’s metaphysical/holistic community into the spotlight monthly with her column  “Metaphysical Moment”. Kathleen can be contacted at www.KathleenJohns.com.