Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein didn't do much for his own people, but at least he had the good faith to contribute to American slang, when he promised U.S. troops the "Mother" of all battles during the first Gulf War.
American language and slang hasn't been the same since he uttered that "Mother" statement, and we've since been treated to the "Mother" of all sales, or the "Mother" of all storms even the "Mother" of all tomatoes.
Add another "Mother" to that list -- as in the Mother of all Seed Stores -- and Lockhart Seed is just that and more.
Sacramento Bee "writer" (when are we going to add "Editor" to that title?) Debbie Arrington first tipped me to the existence of this wonderful store a couple of weeks ago in the Home and Garden section of the Bee. You can read the article here.
Now, I like to think my knowledge of valley towns and places is pretty darn good. I've only spent ALL of my 45 years here. I know Fresno, Madera and Tulare Counties like the back of my hand thanks to my days of zipping around in a clown car for KMPH NewsRadio. I can tell you where you can find the best dish of Chorizo and Eggs (La Cocina on McKinley Blvd. in Fresno), the best deep-fried Calzone (Dicicco's) and the best pizza known to mankind (Zelda's Deep Dish pizza in Sacramento).
But I had no IDEA and no CLUE that a place like Lockhart Seed even existed. There's no excuse for that. They've only been around, and in the same downtown Stockton location, for something like eight decades. They've served generations of San Joaquin Valley farmers and are now making a big dent in that backyard gardening effort.
To put it short and sweet: Lockhart Seed has it all -- everything under the sun -- when it comes to the subject of seeds. You want onions? How about ten varieties? Is that enough? Pumpkin seeds? Corn? White, yellow, purple or red? What about lettuce? Okra? Spinach? Cabbage? Carrots? Radishes? Lockhart Seed has row after row after row of packaged seeds (not pictured), or you can buy in bulk from these shelves behind the main counter.
If you don't have the kind of land required for large planting efforts, not a problem. Lockhart Seed offers row after endless row after endless row of small garden packets for the backyard gardener. It's the type of display that will bring tears of joy to the average gardener, and I guarantee a visit to Lockhart Seeds will leave the wallet just a tad lighter. Of course, if you're into large-scale gardening efforts, I imagine that that these packages of Jalapeno Pepper seeds will be more than enough to satisfy your demand for what has been sometimes described as the "Mother" of all hot peppers.
Lockhart Seed isn't your average store. It's not necessarily a nursery, although you can find things such as fertilizer and soil there. It's not a Home Depot or some other big box store offering row upon row of gardening tools and other gardening implements, although you will find those items there as well.
In short, Lockhart Seed is a SEED store. We don't have many of those left. As a matter of fact, there's just one left on the West Coast. And that is Lockhart Seed. And while they offer all types and varieties of seed for every vegetable and flower under the sun, they have a leg up on other seed outlets. Lockhart Seed carries varieties that grow extremely well in our South, Central and North Valley locations. That's important, because what grows well in places such as New England or Maine, doesn't necessarily translate into success in California.
And I must also stop short of calling Lockhart Seed just a "seed store." It's more than that. This place is a freaking museum. It is a reminder of generations past. From the creaking wood plank floors to the diplays on the wall and crammed into every corner it seems, Lockhart Seed is something special. After all, how many of you knew that tomato seeds were once sold in tin cans like this? I found these packed away in a corner of the store, covered with dust. I don't think they've been touched in a very long time, and despite my advanced years, I had no idea that seeds once came in a can.
Although some gardeners had predicted the "demise" of Lockhart Seed, it appears those predictions were a bit premature. Business is up thanks to the recent articles in the Sacramento and Modesto Bees, and up because the "backyard garden" is suddenly "in vogue" again. Venus and I were first time customers when we made the trip from Sacramento earlier in the week. And we just happened to run into another couple of first-time visitors, also from the Sacramento area.
In short, this may have been our first visit to Lockhart Seed, but it won't be our last.
Lockhart Seed is located on 3 North Wilson Way in downtown Stockton, and its central, downtown location makes for easy access from either Highway 99 or Interstate 5. Unfortunately, it is not open on the weekends, which will mean a special trip if your work full-time like the wife and I do. But, I promise you this much: It's well worth the effort.