Monday, May 27, 2013

Another World at Mills Fleet Farm

Growing up in the country doesn't mean I am in touch with the nature of modern agrarian existence. This fact was rubbed in my face the other day when I visited Mills Fleet Farm.

Based in Brainerd, Minn., Fleet Farm started in the 1920s, but began expanding in a big way in the mid-1950s. Still owned by the same family, it now also serves North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa in 32 locations, with everything a farmer (or pseudo-farmer) could need.

It's a huge hardware store full of unfamiliar gadgets, plus clothes like Carhartt's, Red Wing boots, bags of candy and too much else I didn't have time to look at. It's clean and bright and seems very well run, not under-staffed like some other chains we could mention. The yard, where you drive to pick up large items like fencing, is similar to the Ikea warehouse area, except you get to drive into it -- so it's way more convenient.

But as I said, while I liked the store and will definitely go back, I kept being reminded that it represented a whole world that I didn't belong in -- a hint of Sarah Palin's real America, perhaps.

First there were the biker garden gnomes:

And then the aisle dedicated to barn fans and horse treats:

About this time I got self-conscious about taking photos, so I didn't let myself snap any more. But I couldn't resist a last one.

I know that lots of people are interested in attracting birds to their yards, but there is something about dedicating an end cap display to mealworms that made me feel like these people take it very seriously:

O, Fleet Farm -- I hardly know you. I'll be back for another glimpse of another world.


Ms Sparrow said...

I buy my 50-lb bags of cracked corn for feeding critters at Fleet, but I have mixed feelings about shopping there because they also sell leg-hold traps and other evil devices. (I also have to suppress my guilt when I shop at Wal-Mart or Sam's Club--which I only do when they have a freebie weekend.)

Michael Leddy said...

I'm partial to Blain's Farm and Fleet and Rural King Supply. F and F is a good place to buy (plain old) Levis — a huge array, in every length and width. I like the selection of impulse items at the RKS checkout — pocket screwdrivers, Valomilks, and so on. But what is it with these places and candy?

peppery said...

Ha! I grew up very near the Brainerd Fleet Farm and I had no idea it was the "first outpost," so to speak. I remember the year they added a (nonfunctional) silo with a big red breast-shaped top (or whatever the crown of a silo is called). My boss used to call it the town nipple.

I still shop there once a year during holiday visits to the folks for the boots (rain and regular), the wool socks, and the gigantic bags of candy.