"Meeting John Valentino, A Dirty Tale" by Laura Taylor
Our blog is week is written by Tomato Matters educator Laura Taylor! Online relationships can be tricky and often misleading. I’ve had an internet friendship with a man for several years. John always seemed friendly and cheerful. I thought he seemed genuinely interested and committed to our friendship because he always replied to my emails quickly with enthusiasm. Our conversations often focused on our mutual interest, a passion for gardening. From time to time we toyed with the idea of getting together to meet in person. We don’t live near each other so it just never seemed to work out. And so it continued, status quo. Now, if you’re thinking this story doesn’t belong on a gardening blog because it’s going to get very dirty…well, it is. But, not the kind of dirty you might be expecting.
As I said, John and I shared a passion for gardening. To say I have a “thing” for tomatoes is putting it mildly. And, as crazy as I am about growing tomatoes, that’s John when he’s talking about dirt. But, don’t call it that. It’s soil. And, if he has anything to say about it, it’s healthy, vibrant, living soil that supports life from the microscopic fungi and protozoa to my eight-foot tall tomato plants. As luck would have it, John and I did finally meet in January. He was an exhibitor at a local trade show so I drove over to meet him. I was beyond excited. I envisioned sitting down with this carefree guy, dressed in soiled jeans and workboots, chatting up a storm about all of our favorite tomatoes and the most delicious ways to enjoy them. I was thrilled to meet and have some face time with someone who plays such a huge part in my gardening success. You see, John is one half of John & Bob’s Grow Green Smart Soil Solutions. I’ve been using their stuff (as John refers to it) for years in my gardens and the results are outstanding. So, that’s where the fantasy ended. The effervescent exchange that I imagined didn’t materialize. I arrived at our meeting location a few minutes early so I could stop by the ladies room before we met. Of course, John was already awaiting my arrival, early and ready to get down to business. He greeted me with a slight smile, dressing in perfectly pressed khakis and a crisp button down shirt. This was not going to be the warm, fuzzy tomato talk I expected. Without making my pit stop, John walked briskly and directed me to the John and Bob’s display booth. I had trouble keeping up with my shorter stride. John didn’t care. He was a man on a mission. John had something he had to show me. To John, it wasn’t enough that I love, swear by and practically insist that my students use his products to grow great vegetables. John is a science and numbers guy. I appreciated that he patiently explained to the importance of mycorrhizae (I can’t even say that) and the difference between the bad and beneficial nematodes. More than that, though, he wanted me to see charts, photographs and cost comparisons to further prove that the beneficial bacteria, fungi and protozoa that make up John and Bob’s product line make a huge difference in the overall health and production of every garden and at a very reasonable cost. My cursory glance and nod of acceptance wasn’t enough. Look again, John insisted. He showed me the impressive results of their field tests using the four John & Bob’s products, Optimize, Nourish/Bio-Sol, Maximize and Penetrate at residential garden, a university campus and a community hospital. Yes, the landscaping looked spectacular. But John needed to be sure I saw the part about the cost of using his products in each situation compared to using bulk soil amendments. It wasn’t just about the cost of the products, either. It was about the amount of time and labor (and cost of labor) involved in using the products.
You know how they say you have to hear something eight times to remember it? Well, it might have been seven or it might have been ten times, but after saying it and showing me so many times, I got it! I already knew that John’s products worked great. I knew that I didn’t have to throw out my back to use it or pay an arm and a leg to get someone else to use it. What I finally understood, though, was that ounce per ounce, John and Bob’s goes so much further than any other amendment I might use, that I’m actually using less product and I’m spending a lot less money! John and I haven’t spoken since that meeting last month, but we have emailed a few times. I had some questions about using John & Bob’s with my seed starting mixture and he promptly and thoroughly answered my queries. Yes, his stuff goes in right at the beginning. It’s a safe and familiar relationship and it’s comforting, too. I know if I need some info about making my garden beds even better, John will be right there for me. Not the kind of dirt you might have expected, but just the kind of dirt this gardener needs. You might also enjoy: Laura Taylor in the Home Garden Reviews John and Bob’s Video: Amazing Tomato Comparison!