Noel Valdes has spent his whole life gardening, most recently growing lots of vegetables in raised beds using only hand tools. He’s passionate about sustainability, convinced the world would be a better place if everyone gardened, and determined to demonstrate that he can “easily grow enough food for quite a few families using sustainable techniques and only hand labor in a very small space, and grow food of considerably better taste, quality and variety than that offered by the mainstream food producers.”
Noel’s story is a great example of how passion and circumstance can come together to create something wonderful – in this case, the CobraHead® weeder / cultivator and CobraHead® LLC, the Wisconsin-based family business that distributes it. Noel’s passion is obvious. The circumstance? Nothing more than a broken tool – or, more specifically, a single, broken-off “tooth” from a 5-pronged hand cultivator. This single piece of steel became Noel’s favorite weeder . . . and, after a burst of creativity and extensive research and development, was transformed into the “steel fingernail” that is the CobraHead.
Noel and his family (Judy, Geoffrey & Anneliese) “walk their talk”. The CobraHead® is made in the U.S. & assembled in their home state of Wisconsin. The handle of the short-handled version is made of environmentally friendly recycled plastic reinforced with flax fiber. And since July, 2009, blades of both the short- and long-handled versions are coated with an E-Coat epoxy – a special formulation organic polymer that provides a tough and rust-resistant coating that, when it does wear away, will break down into non-toxic, biodegradable components.
Our original interest in the CobraHead® came about because several women recommended it to us via survey and interview. Then we had the great pleasure of meeting Noel and Anneliese at the Independent Garden Centers trade show in Chicago. Learning more about their philosophies – and realizing how compatible they are with our own – has led to a rewarding partnership we look forward to sharing for years to come.
"Everybody has to work for a living. I feel like I also have a mission to sell benefits that improve people’s health.”
So explains Val Box, who started GrowTech, Inc. in 1993 in Roselle, IL, just outside Chicago. GrowTech, a family-owned and -operated business, is the sole U.S. distributor of tools by the Japanese company ARS. Val had been selling ARS products since 1987 and says now that she “just fell in love with the tools and benefits and feedback.” Chief of those benefits, according to Val, is “minimizing ailments people can get” from repetitive use of tools such as hand pruners. ARS tools are well-balanced, which makes them feel even lighter than they already are, according to Val. In contrast, less-well-balanced pruners can feel “top heavy” – their heads at a weight that feels out-of-proportion to the entire tool . Other advantages of ARS tools include extra blade strength and sharpness courtesy of the high-quality Japanese steel that is used, as well as the expertise that comes from more than 130 years of tool-making. ARS, for example, invented the tri-edge, pull saw blade that is now the industry standard.
Formerly an avid gardener, Val has spoken to numerous garden clubs with a goal of spreading the word about ARS tools and also encouraging gardeners and others to use them safely – for example, varying tasks, positions and muscles used rather than doing the same task for hours on end.
Val’s delight at her work is evident, and the members of her team, including daughter Belinda, are a joy to work with.