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Comments regarding Southmeadow Fruit Gardens (Grootendorst Nurseries)

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27 positives
5 neutrals
62 negatives

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Negative foxtrailfarm
(1 review)
On Jun 14, 2005, foxtrailfarm Goshen, IN wrote:

On March 17, 2005 I placed an order with Southmeadow for 6 heirloom bearing age apple trees for which I paid $201.78 by check. As of today, June 14, I still have not received my trees. The few times I was actually able to contact anyone there by phone, all I received was a litany of excuses and reassurance that the order had been shipped ( three different shipments were attempted according to Judy at Southmeadow) all by US Postal Service. When I suggested Judy use my UPS account to send the trees she stated that UPS would not pick up at her business because it was too remote (simply not true according to my conversation with my UPS account rep). I even offered to drive up to their location to pick up my order but Judy was evasive about a time and date to do this. Finally in mid May, in utter dissapointment, I requested a refund. Judy assured me she would send what trees were available and a refund check. Weeks later neither had shown up. Efforts to communicate with Judy at Southmeadow have been unsuccessful as most times there is no way to leave a message on their answering service and on the rare occassions when you can leave a message it is never returned. Frustrated and disgusted, I found help in Tom Maiz at the Berrien County prosecutors office. (Thanks to the information in this forum). Tom was extremely knowledgeable about this company and their history of taking people's money. Tom was able to get Judy's attention and we eventually got on a conference call with Tom Judy and myself. Judy has promised to express mail me a refund check today. I'm not holding my breath based on a string of past broken commitments.
Given the recent history of this company and the many , many sincere gardners they have ripped off I am outraged that no one seems to do anything about it. My experience in talking with the Michigan Attorney's General Office about this issue was less than positive. They say there is "nothing they can do" because they cannot prove "intent" to defraud. So a disreputable, poorly managed company continues in business and continues to defraud their customers. Many I'm sure, just give up trying to ever recover their money. For me, it was about more than just the money. It was about fulfilling my dream of having an organic apple orchard filled with heirloom varieties. It was about the injustice of allowing a company to continue to defraud people and blame the US Postal service while the government agencies funded by OUR taxes and responsible for preventing this sort of behavior casually say there is "nothing we can do about it". The sad part is, I think there is a high demand for the type product Southmeadow purports to offer, it's just too bad it is mismanaged so badly. It is not possible for them to continue in business indefinitely given their recent history of fraud and deceit. Many thanks to Tom Maiz of the Berrien County Prosecutors office who went to bat for me to at least recover my money. As for my dream of an heirloom orchard, if anyone knows of a legitimate business where I can purchase my heirloom apple trees, please let me know. As a side note, I was able to find some of the varieties I wanted at Miller Orchards and Henry Fields. The product quality and customer setrvice I received from both of these orchards was excellent.

Negative kzozkum
(7 reviews)
On May 10, 2005, kzozkum Emmitsburg, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

I placed an order with Southmeadow Gardens for over $900. worth of trees in October 2004 after surveying mutliple websites that recommended them as a good source for vintage fruit trees. Unfortunately, I did not find the Garden Watchdog website until January and my heart sunk after reading the horrible experiences that people have had with them. They had already cashed my check (why did I pay by check??!!), so all I could do was wait.

Of course, the fact that no one ever answers their phone is not very reassuring, and I have yet to receive a catalogue from them after paying my $10., and making two follow-up requests. (Not that I would want it anyways at this point).

When I had not received my trees by the end of April, I called and actually spoke to Judy who said my order had gone out the day before (April 24th).

By May 6th, no trees had arrived and I started to make some calls. Left messages but received no return call. Spoke to people in the Michigan Dep't of Agriculture who were forced to re-license the company this year despite their track record. Essentially, if they pay the fee, they get their license...period.

The State Attorney General's Office has a consumer complaint office which currently has 73 outstanding complaints against the company since 1998. They are primarily a mediation service and seemed to have no interest in shutting down a bad company. As they put it, Southmeadow has a lot less complaints than Walmart - a company that is probably ten thousand times there size statewide.

Finally, found someone in the Berrien County Prosecutors Office who has been investigating the company. After leaving a message with him, I received a conference call today (5/10/2005) with Judy on the line. She said that the order had been returned (????), that it was only a partial order, and that I was to receive a refund. She could not provide any specifics about the dollar amount of the refund, how much of my order was complete, or where she had sent my order. I'm having a hard time believing any of it, to be honest, and will update you when my order and refund check arrives.

In the meantime, here are valuable numbers to have when dealing with this company:

Michigan Dep't of Agriculture
Regional Office, St. Joseph, MI
269-428-2546
Speak with Steve Lozmack

His supervisor in lansing:
Ken Rauscher, Division Director
Lansing
517-373-1087

Berrien County Prosecutor's Office
269-983-7111, ext 8311
Tom Maiz
has conducted an investigation into the company and seemed to know how to reach the owners

State Attorney General's Office

They have a web site with an online complaint process or you can print out a complaint form and mail it in. Their number is 517-373-1140. I was not impressed....
(PS A letter to Mike Cox, the Attorney General will be following this experience)

I will update this posting after receiving my trees and refund.

Positive ameliaswan
(1 review)
On May 2, 2005, ameliaswan Chicago, IL wrote:

I've had a few great experiences with Southmeadow, and love how open they are to my questions, as I am a novice when it comes to fruit trees.

I first visited Southmeadow Fruit Gardens in Spring, 2004, having been recomended to it by a close landscaper friend. I just drove in the driveway on a trip from Chicago, looking for fruit trees for the urban community garden sites where I work as a professional urban farmer and teacher. It was Easter weekend and quite rightly, the place was closed, but I was attended to quite cheerfully by a very lively and knowledgable woman, one of the owners. She took time from her day-off to walk me through the site and help me out with planting instructions, etc.

This year, she has donated some extra treelings to our gardens, all located in inner city neighborhoods. I am pretty impressed by this gesture.

Negative takenbadly
(1 review)
On Jan 24, 2005, takenbadly Oberlin, OH wrote:

I've been trying for over a year to get my money back from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens, dba, Grootendorst Nurseries, Inc. They took over $250 from me. If only I had looked at this web site first. However, I was a longtime customer with the former owners and I had good results when Theo. Grootendorst and Robert Nitschke were involved. How sad to see this company destroyed after all that had been accomplished by these two great fruit pioneers.

My story starts on April 20,2003. I sent them an order with a check for $253.00. When I didn't hear from them by mid May 2003, I called and Judy said she never got my order, it must have been sent to the wrong address. Imagine my surprise when out of the blue the check is cashed by them on February 2nd 2004. I called her and said, "you cashed my check, would you send me a copy of my original order I've forgotten after this length of time what I ordered."

She did, and I have a copy of it showing that they received the order and cashed the check. I asked when I would be able to receive my order and she said sometime this spring. After numerous attempts to reach her in April I started keeping track of all the times I called. Finally, on April 28th 2004 my husband spoke with Judy who said she would call us back in 30 -60 minutes after she checked on our order. She said it was in the shipping room and should take three days once it's shipped, but it had to be packaged first. She did not call us back as she said, so we called her back 21/2 hours later. She said it was ready to ship priorty mail and it would be in the mail that day. No order was ever received.

We called on May 3, 2004 and spoke with Judy. We said we never received our order. Then she said they hadn't been sent out yet but she'd have to find them in the shipping room. We said, " you told us they had already been shipped last week, that you had personally seen to it that they went out in the mail". She said it was sent Priorty mail. My husband asked for a delivery confirmation number and she said they "don't track anything". I spoke with a postal representative in our town and they said nothing was ever received. After numerous attempts to reach Southmeadow unsuccessfully, (phone just rings busy) the last time we called in May 2004 there was an answering machine. I left a message asking to speak with the owner, Peter Grootendorst personally to resolve the order. We have never received any communication from them since we made that call.

Negative elwoodzeus
(6 reviews)
On Aug 31, 2004, elwoodzeus Saint Mary, MO wrote:

placed order for fall delivery of a moonglow pear called to check on progress of order. They said they had just begun digging stock and it would be sent when digging is over. Winter came and went... no tree...spring..no tree...called....sent written request for refund....nothing.... finally in the fall(though a year late) I finally recieved my moonglow pear tree. never again despite their listing of many interesting varieties.

Negative StocktonGarden
(1 review)
On Jul 26, 2004, StocktonGarden wrote:

I placed an order in October 2003 for over $200 worth of fruit trees, plus the catalog. After numerous attempts by email, telephone and letter to resolve this with Southmeadow, by May 2004 I realized Southmeadow was not going to ship the trees nor refund my money. I finally filed a comlaint with the Michigan Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, PO Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909 and am awaiting resolution as of late July. Something is terribly amiss with this company.....

Negative vmarvick
(1 review)
On Jul 19, 2004, vmarvick wrote:

I found Southmeadow Fruit Gardens via the Internet while doing a search for heirloom apple suppliers. In mid-March 2004, I sent a check for $243 along with an order form downloaded over the Internet. I did not receive any confirmation of my order, and have never received any trees.

At the end of April, after several attempts at reaching them (and leaving messages which were not returned) I finally reached a woman who said that their mail had been delivered to the wrong address and that perhaps my check was in that batch of mail. This woman's manner over the phone was very bizarre for someone in a customer service business. She did not seem to care one way or another whether I received my order or was satisfied with their operation. In fact, I wondered whether they were really in business, based on her manner on the phone.

She said that she would check the mail on the following day to see if my check showed up, and call me. I did not receive a call, and further attempts to call her were met by the answering machine. A few weeks later, while finally balancing my checkbook (not very organized, I know) I discovered that my check had been cashed in early April. After a couple more unsuccessful attempts at reaching a person, I spoke to the same woman who again showed absolutely no concern for my experience as a customer--no apology, or even recognition that I might be frustrated. My demeanor throughout all phone calls was very polite and cordial. I asked what had happened to my order and she replied "I have absolutely no idea." She asked for my address and the amount of refund to be sent and said it would be mailed out that day. I have received nothing.

After reading these posts, I am wondering whether I can resolve this situation. I guess I will try a certified letter. I certainly wish I had discovered this website prior to placing an order. Needless to say, I won't be ordering from them again. If I succeed in getting a refund, I will post again.

Negative michaelpc
(1 review)
On Jun 27, 2004, michaelpc wrote:

Broken Heart

My father spent many years in Narbonne (South West of France) after having fled communist terror and persecution in the Soviet Union. He immigrated a second time to the US after world war II and settled in to have a family and rebuild his life.

Now 91, he has always spoken very highly of the kind treatment he received by the people of Narbonne and has kept a special rememberance of them each year during the summer when he would bake a prune tart which we would share in the garden with a wonderful strong coffee he also learned to make from his French neighbors.

Last Fall, a friend told me of the Southmeadows fruit nursery and I visited the website only to find that they offered Prune D'agen, the very famous plums from SW France which are known to have wonderful aroma, texture and unbeleivable flavor. Having discussed with my father, he enthusiastically insisted that I place an order for not only the "Pruneaux D'agen, but also for 4 "Cassis" or black currant bushes. He wanted to plant the tree in my garden, for my family so that we may always have when he is gone, and to carry on the tradition of "La Fete du Pruneaux" and to ensure that we as Americans remembered that good-hearted people are around the world, not just in US.

After several months and the same story as others, i.e. telephone calls during which I was told that orders don't go out on Fridays, but mine was going out that next Monday, no trees arrived. Finally, I even offered to drive to Baroda personally to pick up the tree but received no response.

Long story short, I did recently receive a check back from the company refunding all my money, but my father is heartbroken.

I understand the ups and downs of business as I am a business man myself. Nevertheless, I am writing today to question why a website still exists where others, who in Fall and Winter will dream their garden dreams, and who may naively still send money orders or checks only to have their excitement killed.

To fool me is one thing, to disappoint a 91 year old man is another. My father is a gentle, quiet type who loves his flowers, his quite fruit garden and family and friends. Please, I wish Southmeadows all the best in getting back on their feet and starting up the business again, but until such time as they are ready to take and fill orders, please shut down the website.

False advertising is the equivalent of Fraud. Fraud is punishable by law.

Negative jlevans
(1 review)
On Jun 19, 2004, jlevans wrote:

I sent these folks an order and check for $349.00 in January 2004. The check was cashed but the order was not confirmed. I expected arrival in late March/early April. I called the first time in mid March and was told that shipping was just starting for the East Coast. I called in April and after several busy signals I talked to a woman (same voice who has answered the phone each time). I was told everyone was out to lunch and to call back. When I called back no one was there. Left message and received no return call. I've have called 6 or seven times since then and either left a message or talked to the woman who told me that that the computer was down, that the electricity was out in the whole town, that my trees would arrive in a week, in three days. That my trees had been shipped and returned damaged and that they could send them again or that they could refund my money. Each time she is very sincere and creative. I will not let this matter drop even if I never get my money back.

Negative gizzardj
(2 reviews)
On Jun 4, 2004, gizzardj Franklin, TN wrote:

My experience with this company has been much like the others expressed here. I only ordered one tree back in Febuary and my check was cashed within a week of my sending it. By mid-April I had not received the tree and still haven't nor have I been able to get a refund. I have called this company at least a dozen times and have actually gotten through to a live person four times. Each time there is an excuse - the lady that handles that is out sick, the power is off and the computer won't work, the phone system has been down, yada yada. And each time I am told that someone will call me back tomorrow. Stupid me actually believed that the first three times. I have reported this company to their local and regional BBB but am beginning to wonder if those organizations actually exist since I have yet to get any response other than an email confirmation from them. And speaking of emails, the lady at SouthMeadow says they don't read their emails and that's why they never responded to mine. I guess I will have to write off my $32 to continuing education.

Negative LarryD
(2 reviews)
On May 19, 2004, LarryD Jasper, IN wrote:

Note my comments to the postal inspector.

I talked to "Judy" and was told to send them $37.00 for the tree I wanted. I bought a Postal M.O. the same day and mailed it the next day, 21 april 04. I have called and talked to "Judy" twice since then and was told the reason that they didn't answer my 4 emails was that the phone sys. had been "down for over 2 wks." and that they have the plants in "cold storage" and their shipping season was ending day after tomorrow ...that was 12 may so I assume she was talking about 14 MAY 04. anyway , I called back the next day 13 may asking if I could get another type added to the order and was told she thought it had already been shipped.
It is now 19 may and ...nothing.

I find out on Garden Watchdog website that 90% of coments are Negative.

Negative cebula
(1 review)
On May 11, 2004, cebula wrote:

I order over $150 worth of tress to be delivered in early April. Of course no trees came but the checks were cashed. TodayI called southmweadow and someone actually answered the phone. After 58 attempts !! ( No one answers my email or faxes or ususally answers the phone . So I reported them to the Attorney generaals in my state and in Michagan.) I asked about my order and was told that it shipped this morning. But I was told that it also shipped "this morning" about 3 other times. I was told I should refuse the trees if I no longer want them and then i will get a refund. Now do you think I will really get the trees or the refund?

Negative wheresmypears
(1 review)
On Apr 27, 2004, wheresmypears wrote:

Does anyone have any idea what the current status is with these folks? I have had the same experience...sent money, no trees, no responses other than the usual empty promises. I even sent a certified letter, but they never claimed it from the PO. Has anyone had success getting either money or plants from them this season? Is anyone going to Michigan anytime soon?


On June 21st, 2004, wheresmypears added the following:

UPDATE!!!

I sent a polite but firm letter (certified) clearly demanding my money back, and several weeks later, I actually got a check. It seems to have cleared their bank too! I highly recommend that anyone who has been lured to send money to this company write a letter.
Negative mcalpine
(1 review)
On Apr 20, 2004, mcalpine wrote:

I ordered 135 trees for shippment on May 7, 2004. My checks were cashed in winter 2003. I have been trying to confirm my order and shippment method. I have called about six times and could only leave voice mail twice because the machine was full. I also emailed once. After reading the other comments I am very concerned I may have spent a lot of time and money preparing the planting site (electric fence, tilling, mowing, installing irrigation) and the trees may not arrive. If any one has an email address or phone number for the company that is different from the one on the order form please post it here.

Negative cheated_too
(1 review)
On Apr 4, 2004, cheated_too wrote:

My mother was cheated as well - "luckily" it was only on a catalogue order. These are regular thieves. They cashed the check and 3 months and several phone calls later, have yet to deliver the order. Now they don't even answer phone calls. I'm surprised these people are still in business. Besides a BBB complaint, does anyone have ideas of action? Would be interested in doing something about this.

Negative 3Oaks
(1 review)
On Mar 23, 2004, 3Oaks wrote:

Similar experience. Placed order of trees and conservation bushes for delivery in spring of 2002. Check cashed but no delivery or response, despite numerous calls, emails and letters.
I am not going to let this matter pass, especially in light of all the other people that have been cheated. I am an attorney and another attorney friend of mine was also victimized during the same time period. Since neither of us are currently licensed to practice in MI, I am going to contact an attorney in nearby Saint Joseph, MI. If you are interested, please indicate your interest here.


On April 10th, 2004, 3Oaks added the following:

04/10/04. UPDATE. After contacts with a representative of the District Attorneys staff in Southmeadows County, Southmeadow agreed to make refunds at this to those who had made payments to them but had not recieved their order. I have recieved a check this week and am waiting for it to clear.
If you are owed money and have not recieved a check, I strongly suggest you write to Southmeadow again by means of US mail, return reciept requested.
Negative HighBrix
(1 review)
On Feb 26, 2004, HighBrix wrote:

I phoned Southmeadow Fruit Gardens about two years ago to potentially place an order for a hundred or so trees. I knew nothing of the current reputation of this nursery. I literally left a dozen or so messages on their answering machine initially to get in touch with these folks and eventually got a call back from a woman who acted shocked when I'd said I'd left over a dozen message: "Oh, we must be having a problem with our machine." I gave her the benefit of the doubt and went ahead and faxed an order to her so she could check her inventory for the following Spring. Something just felt a bit off about this woman. It was odd. All she seemed concerned about was getting a deposit check from me. On a hunch, I Googled the place and discovered Southmeadow's horrid list of complaints on Garden Watchdog. Thank God I checked. I never followed through with her, and not suprisingly, never heard back from her, either.

Southmeadow was reputedly once an amazing nursery before it landed in the hands of its current owners who've basically flushed the place down the toilet. It's a shame, because their website offers an amazing variety of trees that they apparently can no longer provide.

Maybe someone will buy them out and re-establish their once solid reputation.

John A Gasbarre
Three Hills Farm
Union, Maine USA
organic@threehillsfarm.com
http://www.threehillsfarm.com/apples.html

Negative fireman383
(1 review)
On Feb 24, 2004, fireman383 wrote:

Ordered 6 trees one year but only received 3. The next year gave them another chance and ordered 6 more trees but received none.
Southmeadow never answered emails or letters but did cash checks.

Negative browngoose
(1 review)
On Jan 4, 2004, browngoose wrote:

I am quite concerned that I have been "had" by Southmeadow, like many other people that have commented to this website. I mailed an order for approximately $75.00 on 11/12/03 for two "bearing age" trees and a catalog, after speaking breifly to an unidentified person on the telephone at that company. Trying to get Dr Matthews Apple Trees. After approximately two weeks my check was cashed. I have yet to receive trees, catalog, confirmation of order, or even notice as to when my trees might arrive. I have attempted repeatedly to contact anyone at Southmeadow via Telephone (left messages because no one answers during "business hours"), and E-mail. Have yet to speak to a person after the first initial contact on about 11/10/03. Even though I live several hundred miles away, I am considering paying a personal visit to their street address provided on their website (10603 Cleveland Av. Baroda, MI) to see what the heck is going on. I wanted to get the trees in the ground before winter, but it's too late now. I can only hope to get them before it gets too warm in the spring. I'll not be buying anything from Southmeadow again.


On May 1st, 2004, browngoose added the following:

Shock and Awe - My two Doctor Matthews apple trees came today from Southmeadow. They were on the small size (no smaller than what you might get from any other mail order nursery though), and had REALLY healthy root stocks. They are about 4 ft high pruned hard, and about 3/4 -1" diameter, and already breaking bud.
I spoke to a representative at Southmeadow about two weeks ago, and was told that my trees were going to ship in three days. She also told me that the company changed hands last November, from the elder Grootendorst to one of his offspring, and that they had been facing a lot of difficulties in cleaning up messes left by the elder due to his deteriorating mental faculties. I must admit, I am quite dubious about this story, but I wanted to give credit where credit is due - the trees that I received are really healthy looking. That being said I also ordered and paid for a catalog that I was supposed to receive with the trees, which never showed up.
All in all, I'm not very happy with the fact that I never received any kind of confirmation of order, or expected delivery date. I am not very happy that I did not receive a $10 catalog that I ordered, and that it has been exceedingly difficult to contact anyone at Southmeadow during the past 5 months. I am however very happy with the trees that I received today - as long as they DO prove out to be Dr. Matthews when they begin to bear.
Negative Blueberrynut
(3 reviews)
On Dec 31, 2003, Blueberrynut wrote:

Placed my first order,spring 2002,got confirmation right away and they cashed my check. After MANY phone calls finally got 2 of 4 trees shipped in late May. Crabapple had 3 variaty names on one tag, which one did I get? They had 3 or 4 differant explainations for the late shipping and 2 trees missing. Claimed that mice ate most of their stock. I gave them benefit of doubt due to having heard good things written about them in past and being impressed with such a choice of varieties. Ordered 5 new trees and trees fm year before. This was sent early 2003. they cashed check right away, would not answer or return calls or E-mail. Here it is New Years eve, no trees, no money back this year no explaination. My Resolution: no more chances .

Negative UDFLIER
(1 review)
On Dec 7, 2003, UDFLIER wrote:

I placed an order for an apple tree last April. I have not received that apple tree and have not heard back from Southmeadow. I have phoned them, emailed them, and no response. I have a feelig that I am another victim of the Baroda Bandits! This is a shame, one of the better nurseries in the Midwest and now a home for crooks. UDFLIER

Negative aggie1
(1 review)
On Nov 4, 2003, aggie1 wrote:

How sad,what has become of such a fine business. I have only recently ordered and am willing to wait and see if I receive my trees, but the policy of never responding to phone calls, faxes or emails is very frustrating. In the meanwhile, does anyone know where else heirloom apple trees can be ordered? If I receive my Southmeadow trees, I will immediately post a positive rating to this site. If not, a note to the Mich. Attorney General


On May 22nd, 2004, aggie1 added the following:

May 22, 2004. Planting time and I have no correspondence, no explanation, no confirmation, no trees, no refund. Has anyone visited the place to see WHAT GIVES?
On June 4th, 2004, aggie1 added the following:

Well, it's SOMETHING. This morning I called the Mich Atty Gen. office for a complaint form. This afternoon I received a check reimbursing me in full for my 2003 order.No explanation, and never did make any phone or fax contact. The check was from Grootendorst, not Southmeadow. I feel better but will deal henceforth with Cummins in NY State.
Negative buuger
(1 review)
On Sep 12, 2003, buuger wrote:

Same story. Ordered two roses and two trees Fall 2001. I have received nothing but assurances over the phone from the same voice that's on the answering machine. I'm only out around $60 so it's kind of trivial. I had hoped to have some apples starting next year. I live close enough that I could go get my trees and roses, but they won't answer the phone so I can make an appointment and get directions.

I'm filing with the postal service.

I also sent e-mail to the member from Baroda Township.

Don't waste your money on these people. No matter how much you want that Cox's Orange Pippin.

Positive larutril
(1 review)
On Aug 26, 2003, larutril wrote:

I have dealt with this company for over ten years. Service has always been polite and timely. Prices are competitive. And where else can you find over 250 varieties including old world dwarf stocks? Miss this company and you miss a great opportunity.

Positive philenpharms
(1 review)
On Aug 14, 2003, philenpharms wrote:

We've had a positive professional experience with Judy and Martha at Southmeadow the past three years. The only delay we've experienced is a delay in them getting the phytosanitary certificate from the Michigan agriculture department to ship to California (a very restrictive state). Some say a change of ownership has changed things at Southmeadow for the worst. I know nothing about that. I DO know that they have an active customer base of about 50,000--a problem most nurseries would love to have!!--so it's no surprise that they've got some service issues and a few unhappy folk at any one time (and usually only the dissatisfied take the time to write in!). THE BOTTOM LINE IS, AS ANY SERIOUS POMOLOGICAL AFFICIANADO KNOWS, SOUTHMEADOW TRUMPS EVERY NURSERY IN NORTH AMERICA WITH THEIR VARIETY. Doctor Cummins in Geneva, NY has an excellent selection and the best rootstocks. Raintree has some great berries and some fun unusuals like the Shipova Pear. Stark has a hallowed name, but a change of ownership has caused the quality of their stock to suffer, in our opinion (then again, where else would you dare buy your Hawkeye Red Delicious?) John Bunker in Maine is an American original with some wonderful heirlooms and a true tree-lovers catalog. Sonoma Antique (now Trees of Antiquity with Neil Collins) specializes in a great Walt Whitman collection of apples. Big Horse Creek Farm in NC has the best southern varieties this side of Lee Calhoun (and some great annotations on the web). BUT WHERE ELSE BUT SOUTHMEADOW ARE YOU GOING TO FIND THE REINE CLAUDE D'OULLINS AND THE GOLDEN TRANSPARENT GAGE PLUM AND THE CELESTIA, THE MELON, THE MOTHER, AND THE EDWARD VII APPLE AND THE NOTTINGHAM MEDLAR, AND 500 OTHER THINGS ALL IN THE SAME PLACE?! If there IS such a nursery, please let me know. California couldn't take Michigan-grown fruit in 2003, and maybe 2004 also, so we'd love to have a Southmeadow-like option until Southmeadow can ship to us again!

philenpharms

Negative Cider
(6 reviews)
On Aug 6, 2003, Cider Clyde, NY wrote:

I sent Southmeadow $10 for a catalog, as specified on their website. They cashed the check efficiently enough but never sent the catalog, despite my phoning them repeatedly, sometimes getting a live person, who would either shift responsibility to an employee not present or earnestly assure me the catalog would be sent. More often I got a recorded message; messages left at the prompt were never answered. I also emailed them and never received an answer. I sent them the money last year. I have sent copies of all relevant documents and a letter to the Attorney General's office in NY and have received neither money nor catalog to date. I think Southmeadow is a scandal. Thank heavens I never sent an order.

Negative jcutler9
(1 review)
On Jul 19, 2003, jcutler9 wrote:

From another stung customer. Starting my first orchard, after retiring from teaching a year ago, I was intrigued by the selection of antique and heirloom fruit trees from Southmeadow, and sent an order totaling nearly $400 on March 5; the check was cashed March 21. Like some of the other respondents, I never received confirmation, shipping date, or anything, and never received the order. However, it was late spring before I tried to contact them about the order. Emails and phone messages brought no response, in fact, now all I get on the phone is bells and whistles. No response to a letter either. Better Business Bureau said they received no responses either, but they sent me a form for the Attorney General to be completed and sent along with canceled check and copy of order. I have scant hope of getting the $400 back, but the real sorrow is all those empty spots in my orchard, labels designating the spots where those trees were to go. By the way, trees from Miller, Raintree, Edible Landscaping, and Stark are doing beautifully.

Negative ewinter
(10 reviews)
On Jul 11, 2003, ewinter El Prado, NM wrote:

Boy, do I wish I'd read the other comments before ordering from this company! My experience was similar to those who have posted negative comments before me. However, unlike the other reviewers, I actually dropped in on them in Michigan to check out the operation in person before ordering. I was excited about the extraordinary selection of heirloom varieties, and also that the trees started their lives in a cold place - my location is Zone 4, and I'm hesitant to order from a nursery in a much warmer climate zone. I went out in the field and was generally convinced they were a bona fide operation. Ha!!! I sent my check dated Feb. 4, indicating delivery for late April planting. With no confirmation of order, or check cashed, I started trying to contact them in late April. When I finally got through, I was told their mail was held up by irradiation for anthrax, and my order had not been received. This seemed unlikely, though I had encountered this problem in mail deliveries in the nation's capitol. I was told I'd be called back later the same day, or in the morning, but heard nothing. Much to my surprise, a package (Invoice date in March) arrived May 20, in the midst of 80 degree weather. The packing slip showed 8 trees, but 2 were missing, with no indication of back-order or refund. The trees received had all sprouted leaves which had subsequently dried out. I planted them all immediately, and have pampered and coaxed them since - 4 of 6 have shown growth 2 months later. Also, I paid premium for "bearing age" trees, and received trunks about 1/4" caliper size. I have called 17 times, e-mailed twice, sent a fax and a certified letter. From reading the other messages, this looks like a PATTERN of bad action. Anyone who's had trouble with them should report to the Postal Inspection service; this will establish a pattern. This is a law enforcement agency with real teeth. All it takes is multiple complaints. Information about filing such complaints can be obtained at any U.S. Post Office.


On September 2nd, 2003, ewinter added the following:

I just got Mr. Grootendorst's letter and partial refund today, as mentioned above. As I had sent him copies of comments from this site, I was curious what he might have posted in defense. The actual correspondence is copied below. People can judge it for themselves:

Dear Mr. Grootendorst;
You may remember me, as I stopped in to see your operation almost exactly a year ago. FYI, I am including copies of reviews of your operation posted to two websites for consumer reviews of mail-order nurseries. Your operation is one of the worst of the hundreds of suppliers listed. Had I known about this, I would not have ordered from you. It would appear that you are well on the way to having your business fail. It is a sad thing that your nursery, once highly respected, has fallen to such a poor state. And I saw you working, and so know that you have a lifetime of experience. Bu no matter how well you know your trees, it?s very difficult for a business to succeed when the customers are treated poorly.
I ordered 7 trees from you last spring. You cashed the check and sent 5 of the 7 (no indication of back-order or refund, nor response to my numerous follow-up inquiries on the matter), plus a "Bonus Tree" which was not ordered.
The trees were sent a month late, and arrived in 80-degree May heat wave. Several had sprouted leaves which had already shriveled up by the time I received them. Also, I ordered (and paid for) "bearing age trees", but received smaller ones. I planted them all within 48 hours, with mixed results. Here is an overall summary:

Passe Crassane Pear - not sent.
Early Morrettini Pear - not sent.
Doyenne de Comice Pear (2) - no sign of life.
Esopus Spitzenberg Apple - sprouted a very few leaves which have not flourished. Little green left in the leaves. No new twig growth.
Cox's Orange Pippin Apple - sprouted a few leaves, and minimal sign of new twig growth has appeared in the last 2 weeks.
Calville Blanc d'Hiver Apple - sprouted a few leaves, and minimal sign of new twig growth has appeared in the last 2 weeks.
Washed Russet ("bonus tree", not ordered) - sprouted some leaves, and some sign of new twig growth in the last 2 weeks.

Note: In addition to what I ordered from you, I got 12 other bare root trees this year from other nurseries. They were sent on time. Every one has sprouted and all but one are showing extensive new twig growth. That one still looks better than anything from Southmeadow Fruit Gardens. In other words, my basic methods of tree nurturance seem to be adequate. This has been a pretty good year for snowmelt, so all the trees have been well-irrigated. I have only had problems with your trees, apparently because they were sent so very late.
I would like you to replace the two lifeless Comice Pears, and to receive the Passe Crassane & Early Morettini Pears which were not sent. In addition, the Esopus Spitzenberg Apple is doing very poorly and should be replaced. As I paid for bearing age trees but received smaller trees, I would like these to be sent without additional cost to me, to be shipped on or before April 1. Please respond as to availability, so we can discuss substitution or refund. Please inform me immediately what you intend to do about this matter, as I am currently planning for next spring's planting, with orders being prepared now and placed soon.
In particular, I would be willing to substitute Rouselet de Rheims Pear (not listed by any other nursery in the country), and have a short list of other substitute varieties if any of the others in the original order are not available. As mentioned above, I'd like to hear from you right away, so I can order anything not available from you elsewhere.
Doing business with your company has not gone very well so far. From what I?ve found on the Internet, I am hardly alone in this. If you expect to stay in business (which I assume you want to), you must improve your customer relations. Why not start now? I look forward to an improvement, and hope to hear from you soon about this.
Sincerely, Elizabeth Winter

End of my letter, postmarked July 29, 2003. An e-mail saying the same thing (small editorial differences) was sent the same day and I left a phone message as well. I also sent a copy to Theo Grootendorst, the retired former head of this family business, with a post-it note saying I didn't expect he could/would do anything, but might want to know what was becoming of his busines.

I just picked up the reply today, which says:

Thank you so much for letting us know about the Garden Watchdog web site. We had no idea that this site has been on line for 3 years. We appreciate the chance to better serve our customers.
When you came to visit us last year you requested to observe the budding and we let you do so, taking up several hours of our time. We were happy to accomodate you. You told us you were trying to establish an heirloom orchard. You placed an order asking for late April shipment. We shipped the order April 28th. You had 2 trees that were not available last season and requested a backorder for this season as our records reflect. At no time was it ever brought to our attention that you were dissatisfied. We are sorry and surprised to hear of how upset you seem on the internet and we are shocked to read you demeaning comments addressed to our 79 year old father.
Our replacement policy states that all claims must be made by August 1st. In addition these claims must be mailed to the nursery in Baroda, MI. We will not replace trees that are not dead as you are requesting. And we find it strange that you would want them replaced with different varieties than you originally were so intent on planting. In turn you backorder is being cancelled and a refund is being sent to you via certified mail. We are saddened that we will no longer be able to supply you with any of our heirloom variety trees in the future.

Respectfully, Peter Grootendorst

There are several items of fact to review here:

They say I called 3/12 and faxed my order thereafter. My phone bills show the only call to their fax machine on 5/21 (regarding the incomplete order), about which I also sent e-mail and left phone messages. I confirmed availability on 2/4 by phone, dated my check and mailed my order that day. I did not request backorder as I had confirmed availability. My phone bills show no calls between 2/4 and 4/30. They say I asked for late April shipment. In fact, the order stated "for late April planting". They say the order was shipped April 28. In fact, the postmark was May 13, and invoice date was 3/26.

Here's their replacement policy, quoted from their website:
REPLACEMENT POLICY:
If tree fails to show proper regrowth, we should be notified by August 1st. No replacement after this date. We will replace tree for $5.00 or bush for $3.00 plus packaging, shipping and handling charge of $6.00. No shipping charges for replacements when included with an additional order.

I mailed my letter July 29th, and phoned and e-mailed the same day. Now, somehow, this isn't according to their policy. Do you see it?

I could go on, but this is already too long. You can judge for yourself whether you want to do business with these people. That's the purpose of the Garden Watchdog website.
On Jul 11, 2003, Southmeadow Fruit Gardens (Grootendorst Nurseries) responded with:

"
Ewinters came to our nursery last budding season, she requested to see how budding was done, we were happy to entertain her. In our field we were told of her plans to make an heirloom orchard. She called us March 12,2003 saying that she had placed her order. At that time we had not received the order. We allowed her to fax us a list of what she wanted. Her order was filled with out payment to help insure that her trees would be available when the check came.
Mail has never been held up by “anthrax irradiation” too our knowledge.
We received her order and check on 4-28-03 she requested shipment for late April, the package was sent the same day including a forum letter that lists any particular varieties that are out of stock for that season and to let us know if a backorder or refund would be preferred. On May 23, 2003 ewinters called and requested a back order for 2 pear trees for shipment in our 2004 season. AT NO TIME did she ever mention any problem too us. Not by phone, fax, e-mail or certified letter.
If a package is not received, or spends too much time in transit after it has been mailed, we need to be notified.
As this web site has been recently brought to our attention and we reviewed her lengthy negative comments on it we were surprised. We recently received a letter from ewinter stating 2 trees died, and all the others are growing but that she believes they should be replaced. She then supplied us with a list of DIFFERENT VARETIES that she wants as replacements for the trees that she was originally so intent on having in her orchard!
We have chosen to send a certified letter to ewinters cancelling her back order, included a check for the amount of her 2 backordered, pear trees and have taken her out of our mailing list .
If any one has a problem with an order and feels they can not reach us by normal means, please send a certified letter to
Peter Grootendorst P.O. Box 211 Baroda, MI 49101, Who has been owner,operator of Southmeadow Fruit Gardens with his father for the last 13 years.
Our interest is the preservation of the heirloom varieties of the past that will please the populations of our future.
"


Negative hghodges
(1 review)
On Jun 11, 2003, hghodges wrote:

These people are crooks. (Now. They didn't use to be.) Stay away from them. Trees they did send didn't live--and the rest of the order, due since last spring, has not been shipped despite repeated phone calls.

Negative countmgl
(1 review)
On May 28, 2003, countmgl wrote:

I ordered in February 2003, paid by check. The order didn't arrive (surprise!), so I started calling and emailing them about once a week, starting in April. They promised to call me back a couple of times, but didn't, of course. I had assumed they had gone out of business, but then I saw they finally cashed my check in May. After everything I have seen here, I certainly have my worst suspicions of mail fraud supported. If there is anyone among the other victims that knows how to figure out what ISP is hosting Southmeadow's website, it would be great if you could mail them, point them to the Garden Watchdog site, and ask them to discontinue service to Southmeaddow. I would do this, but I don't know how to figure out who their ISP is.


On May 28th, 2003, countmgl added the following:



News Flash : Subsequent to posting the above, I discovered that the U.S. Postal Service has an online complaint form regarding mail/internet fraud. Point your browser to: http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/MailFraudComplain...

I just filed a complaint there and directed the USPS to read our complaints here. I would strongly encourage others of you to file a complaint. It only took me about 10 minutes. The USPS needs, as they put it, to see a "pattern of activity" to act, so lots of complaints should help. Besides, I got a glowing feeling imagining a federal law enforcement officer showing up at their door to have a word with them. I presume a few visits like that might have a dampening effect on their "business" practices, not to mention have an adverse effect on their peace of mind.

Negative VA_Gardener
(9 reviews)
On May 27, 2003, VA_Gardener Glen Allen, VA wrote:

One Wickson apple tree was ordered in January, 2003. They promply cashed my check and have never shipped my tree. I had four telephone calls with them and got excuses.

Negative ETHICALGROWER
(1 review)
On May 24, 2003, ETHICALGROWER wrote:

I ORDERED 6 APPLE TREES FROM THIS COMPANY IN MARCH OF 2003
FOR DELIVERY IN THE SPRING OF THE SAME YEAR, THEY NEVER RESPONDED TO EMAILS ALL THE PHONE CALLS GAVE THE SAME RESPONSE,WE WILL BE SHIPPING TO THE WASHINGTON STATE AREA
NEXT WEEK, THEIR SHIPPING SEASON IS NOW OVER AND STILL NO TREES I THOUGHT MAIL FRAUD WAS ILLEGAL AND A FEDERAL OFFENCE IN THE U.S.A.THIS COMPANY HAS BEEN ALLOWED TO RIP OF THE CONSUMER FOR FAR TO LONG


On September 2nd, 2003, ETHICALGROWER added the following:

At the end of June i recived an unsigned e-mail from southmeadows asking me what my problem was and ofered to fix it, i advised them i had ordered six branched fruit trees gave the variety and thanked them for their much delayed response, thinking that maybe they had finally decided to try and resolve their problems, still no trees still no response the only thing that appears to have changed is the number of negative comments that are on this web page six then 29?? now maybe one of the company boosters would volunteer to get my trees for me i would be eternaly gratefull
Raymond Barker
Silverhill Apple Orchard
Negative BarodaTwpJimBrow
(1 review)
On May 21, 2003, BarodaTwpJimBrow wrote:

As Supervisor of Baroda Township I have received many calls about SouthMeadows Fruit Gardens. NONE of them are positive. Only yesterday(5-20-2003) I sent a Police officer out to talk with the new owners. They are totally unresponsive. We are ashamed to have them in our township! I would not order anything from them. We are trying our best to correct their many problems.The previous owners (Grootendorst's) were fine people and ran a very reliable business. Feel free to contact me with your problems as we are starting a file and are turning everthing over to our Police Department.

Negative rosesrosesroses
(1 review)
On Apr 26, 2003, rosesrosesroses wrote:

I ordered from this nursery on October 27, 2000. My trees were not delivered in 2001 nor in 2002. At that point I asked for my money back....I am still waiting. I have contacted the Better Business Bureau...they are aware of the problem but can't seem to do anything. I have contacted the attorney general of Michigan who didn't do anything either. I call them usually on a monthly basis and they have the gall to say the check is in the mail. One time they said it was sent 'a week ago' and they were 'surprised' that I didn't get it so they said they would send another one out. Right! I also contacted the city of Baroda and the person there said they wish they would get out of town. He said he goes by there everyday on his way to work and there is just a trailer sitting on the property. Looks like no work is being done there. These people are down-right THIEVES. All I can say is SCAM,
THIEVES, and I will try to get this word out as best I can.
STAY AWAY FROM SOUTHMEADOW FRUIT GARDENS!!!!!!!


On August 27th, 2003, rosesrosesroses added the following:

I just read the recent positive comments about Southmeadow Fruit Gardens. How distasteful and direspectful to compare the thieves at Southmeadow to honest reputable nurseries and also all of us who have had our hard-earned money stolen by them.
Negative oswald
(18 reviews)
On Apr 18, 2003, oswald Wausaukee, WI wrote:

Ordered Mahaleb cherry rootstock Feb. 4, 2003 after assurance that it can be shipped end of March or even middle of March--I needed it for bench grafting. Called April 2, said will call back--they did not. Called April 3, said will ship April 4, called April 8, said shipped this day Priority mail, refused to give tracking number. Called again April 11, said should receive in a few days. Extremely rude, said "why should I talk to you", hung up. Tried to call April 14, April 15, April 17, April 18. ORDER NOT RECEIVED. A milder version of the same happened in 2002, but I assumed it to be an chance abberatio. DO NOT ORDER ANYTHING FROM SOUTHMEADOW AS THE SAME WILL HAPPEN TO YOU WITHOUT FAIL.


On April 19th, 2003, oswald added the following:

Added April 19, 2002. Just learned that "NAFEX's board of directors reluctantly decided last winter that Southmeadow should be removed from the Source List due to the number of problems memebers had experience with them".
Negative bdelp
(3 reviews)
On Apr 13, 2003, bdelp wrote:

Rip-Off artists,Scam, Cheats, Crooks, Jerks, pathetic and Scum are the words that come to mind when I think of this "place".
Money sent but I have never received anything from them.
Warning....DO NOT send this company any money.

Negative Barbaraaine
(1 review)
On Apr 4, 2003, Barbaraaine wrote:

In the Winter of 2001 I ordered five apple tree whips to be used for espalier. In the Spring of 2002 when I didn't hear anything from them, I called and talked with Judy and she said that she pulled my order as the trees were too large for espalier. My order would go on backorder and I would receive them in a year. Meanwhile, my check for over $100 was cashed immediately. Now, more than a year later, I have called numerous times, emailed, requested a refund, and threaten to have my lawyer contact them. STILL nothing. I am most upset that a company could get away with so many false "orders".
They should be made to pay us what we are owed.

Negative GuyGimson
(1 review)
On Apr 4, 2003, GuyGimson wrote:

I ordered 3 fruit trees in late October 2002 - the check was cashed in early December. No acknowledgement nor shipping date was sent. By mid March the snows were melting in northern NJ; in the space of 3 weeks I left (probably) 10 voice mails, 5 emails and 2 faxes. No response to any of them. It seems that customers are an annoyance and irritant to this company. The trees finally arrived today without any planting instructions - now I'll see how they grow.

Negative OldGrove
(2 reviews)
On Apr 2, 2003, OldGrove wrote:

Much the same as previous complaints-- Ordered a tree, they cashed my check, said it was in the mail every week for a month, then did not respond at all to emails, faxes, phone calls. They are thieves.


On November 3rd, 2003, OldGrove added the following:

Got the email offering to refund my money. Dutifully sent the requested information. Months pass. Nothing. OldGrove

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