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Everything Old Is New Again

by regular contributor Karen Schmidt

 "Sometimes we are so eager to change everything to appear modern and up to date, we forget that some ideas stand the test of time."

There is a growing movement to bring back old style heirloom varieties of plants. They are varieties that were commonly grown in the past but fell out of favour as we developed newer varieties. Before the industrialization of agriculture a much wider variety of plant foods were grown for human consumption.

Today most food crops are grown in large, single variety plots with few varieties of each type of crop grown to maximize consistency. These varieties are often selected for their productivity, ability to withstand mechanical picking and cross-country shipping or their tolerance to drought, frost or pesticides.

Heirloom gardening is a reaction against this trend. Many heirloom fruits and vegetables have kept their traits through open pollination whilst the modern varieties have been grown via grafts and cuttings, losing their ability to resist pests and disease without the addition of numerous chemicals. Along the way they often lose their original taste. Many gardeners are now searching out heirloom varieties for their superior taste and resilience.

Something similar has happened in the workplace. We have let certain roles fall into disuse, believing them to be redundant or old fashioned. Sometimes we are so eager to change everything to appear modern and up to date, we forget that some ideas stand the test of time. There can often be "seeds of truth" in those old ways that, if modernized a bit, can be just as relevant today.

For example, I've heard of organizations that are reintroducing the role of the old fashioned tea lady. There is even a website on the topic. (



In my early working life the tea lady was a little ray of sunshine. She would arrive every morning and afternoon with something hot in a real cup (never plastic or Styrofoam), always remembered how I liked my drink and offered me a biscuit along with a couple of lines of diverting conversation. It humanized the workplace.


All this human contact has been replaced by Cappuccino machines, which might be efficient but can't replace the human touch. I think a modern tea lady could be used as an early warning sign of mental health issues in the workplace, something that organizations are dealing with more and more. The person who brings your tea or coffee twice daily would get a different insight into your state of mind and may be able to offer some comforting words or a suggestion to get help. So like heirloom plants, I say bring back the tea lady!

About the author: Karen Schmidt is a speaker, workshop leader and facilitator. Her website is




Tea photo information:

By Vanderdecken (Author's original own work.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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