The Cultivation Station moved from a spot on Jackson Rd. in the shadow of the I-94 overpass to the West Stadium Shopping Center. Though the Cultivation Station looks small, neat, and inconspicuous, it is, according to a Detroit Metro Times article in 2014, the largest “high-end retail garden supply” business in Michigan. Bob and Kristen Diefenderfer started the business in St. Clair Shores in 1998, and by 2014 it had grown to seven southeastern Michigan stores with thirty employees. The Diefenderfers pay their taxes; they pay their employees benefits. With that track record, you’d think any bank would be proud to hold their money, but the reason for the Metro Times article was that Huntington Bank panicked over the word “hydroponics”–the Cultivation Station’s specialty. The feds like to scare banks into thinking they may be holding ill-gotten gains if they deal with any business even tangential to marijuana. The Diefenderfers and their money found themselves out on the street one day, and when they put their money in PNC, the same thing happened.

They have since solved their banking problems, say employees at several stores–but not their communication problem. They didn’t return several messages.

Though the Diefenderfers rarely visit the small Ann Arbor shop, you might find yourself in an interesting random conversation there about sustainable, organic, or hydroponic gardening and the future of the world’s food supply. Like this one with twenty-two-year-old employee Chris Ward, kind of a modern-day Woody Guthrie: “I spent time in farms in the south trying to promote permaculture,” which he defines as “farms that don’t need us to be there. I’ve pretty much hitchhiked around the country with friends, doing odd jobs, trying to be a musician.” Last year at this time, he says, he was working at a farm in Tennessee, curtly named Shut Up and Grow It. Around here in his spare time, he works “with a couple of kitchens. Have you heard of Food Not Bombs? Rainbow Gathering? Green and Purple Kitchen? We go into inner cities and cook for the homeless and vets and give it away. We just did a feed last weekend in Kentucky.”

Despite having a full-time job, he himself is still technically homeless. He says at the moment he’s crashing with a friend in Ann Arbor. Someday, he says wistfully, he’d like to go to college, “but it’s kind of hard to get that kind of money together.”

Cultivation Station, 1948 W. Stadium Blvd. (West Stadium Shopping Center). 213-7740. Mon-Sat. 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.-5 p.m.