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Confessions of an Aging Baby Boomer

Will Raap
Here I am in 1984 modeling one of our first tools (a long-handled Dutch spade with an attachment for easier lifting).

When I lived in Scotland during the late 1970s, I spent a lot of time around gardeners. One of the things that struck me was that in Britain, people found ways to garden no matter what their age or mobility level. In fact, there were many gardening tools and accessories designed specifically for seniors and people who had been disabled in WWI and WWII. Why, I wondered, were kneeling pads, lightweight tools and wheelchair-accessible gardening systems available in Britain but not in the U.S.?

So in 1983, at the tender age of 32, I started Gardener's Supply. The original business concept was to produce a catalog of products for gardeners who were disabled, aging, or had other physical restrictions.

During our first few years in business, most of the products we sold were imported from England and Europe—the only places that made these enabling tools—such as a kneeling aid for gardeners with arthritic joints and a special tool handle attachment for people with reduced muscle strength.

It wasn't too long before we began creating some of our own products. One of the early ones was called "Ed's Bed"—the first raised-bed gardening kit on the market. It made gardens easier to reach, easier to weed and water, and incorporated some clever ways to protect plants from pests and weather. You can see the descendants of Ed's Bed in our Raised Beds department.

As Gardener's Supply grew, our product line continued to expand. Eventually, the enabling tools that were the foundation of our business were overshadowed by container gardens, seedstarting supplies, composting and irrigation equipment, organic fertilizers and pest controls, flower supports and patio furniture.

In the next decade, the ranks of senior citizens over age 65 will swell to 71 million. Having turned 56 myself, I am part of this wave! When I was photographed for the cover of one of our early catalogs (see above), I didn't need that enabling tool. Now, whenever I'm in the garden, I am thinking about new ways to work without increasing my aches and pains. I'm slower to recover after a long day of gardening, and I accomplish less in a day than in the past. I need solutions that will make my gardening hours easier and more efficient.

The Garden Kneeler
The Garden Kneeler is very similar to a product we offered in our early catalogs.
Twenty three years ago, I gave my mother and mother-in-law one of the kneeling aids that we carried in our catalog. Recently, my wife Lynette said she is glad we have a Garden Kneeler in the garage! The times are a-changing, and in the coming years you will see many of our original products making a comeback. We also have many new products in development that will help the millions of Baby Boomers moving toward their "golden years" continue to enjoy the benefits of gardening or to take up this fulfilling hobby. For more innovations, visit our Labor-Saving Tools department.

It's back-to-the-future for Gardener's Supply! In the coming years, we will be working harder than ever to partner with you and millions of others, to ensure we can all continue gardening for many years to come.

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