Home Gardening During Pandemic – “There are certain very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we’re feeling uncertain, insecure and scared.” Photo: elenaleonova/Getty Images

Seed dealers report growing demand for seed orders, matching Florida’s surge last year

Home Gardening During Pandemic

Sourdough starters, shirts with pajama bottoms, Zoom cocktails, pandemic trends come and go. But there’s one trend that looks like it’s here to stay—at least for the next year—gardening.

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Several seed dealers are reporting growing demand for seed orders, matching the surge in orders they saw last year, just as state-mandated lockdowns began when some seed dealers sold more seed than ever before in the spring.

As domestic green thumbs turned to gardening again, Missouri-based Baker Creek Seeds had to shut down its website three times due to overwhelming demand. The company said it is selling six times more seeds compared to the average busy season. Last year, the company told the Washington Post that they were experiencing “the largest volume of orders we’ve seen” just as the shutdowns began.

“Even with the machines, we can’t wrap them fast enough,” Kathy McFarland, public relations manager for Baker Creek, told Civil Eats.

Nikos Kavanya, a seed buyer for Fedco Seeds, told Iowa Public Radio that the last time seed demand was this high was during the “Y2K” panic of 1999, when people believed the start of the new millennium would cause a mass disruption. companies. “Y2K was such a small blip compared to this,” Kavanya said.

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As well as a list of home hobbies such as baking and knitting, gardening has seen a rise in popularity over the past year. One Freedonia Group consumer survey found that a quarter of respondents started gardening because of the pandemic. A wave of new gardeners has led to growth in retail sales in the horticultural industry, while other types of consumer goods, such as clothing and home furnishings, have seen declines during the pandemic. Lowe’s and Home Depot, the nation’s largest chain stores that sell plants and gardening supplies, saw sales increase last year.

According to a survey by Axiom Marketing, half of those surveyed who garden said they do so as a way to get outside and de-stress. Some started their gardens to secure their food supply, especially at the beginning of the pandemic when grocery store shelves were empty.

“There are certain very stabilizing forces in gardening that can ground us when we’re feeling uncertain, insecure, and scared. It’s these predictable outcomes and the predictable rhythms of the garden that are so comforting right now,” Joel Flagler, professor of plant biology at Rutgers University, told Agweek Magazine.

While food stocks in grocery stores have remained stable and the vaccine rollout has been a success in the US, most people in the Axiom survey said they plan to grow the same amount or even more in 2021. The deadly COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc as global travel restrictions remain in place, affecting many Pacific islands, including Fiji, which relies heavily on tourism as an economic activity.

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Unemployment has risen from 6% to 35% during the pandemic, with more Fijians taking advantage of the government’s household seed distribution initiative in response to investments in food security.

In order to help countries in the region address growing food insecurity and loss of livelihoods, the Alumni Research Support Facility (ARSF) grant was announced in April 2020 as a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ARSF enables research projects that build resilience and respond to pandemic challenges for agricultural systems in partner countries.

The ARSF grant supports Fiji’s Aradhana Deesh to build on the Fijian government’s home horticulture initiative, conduct early research on evaluating home horticulture practices, and explore inequalities and challenges facing women and youth in horticulture.

“The Ministry of Agriculture launched this initiative and my research allows me to explore the gender aspect and determine the kind of support women and youth need when they start gardening,” Ms Deesh said.

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Ms Deesh, who works as a researcher in the Department of Agriculture’s plant protection section, hopes her research will provide Fiji’s home gardeners with relevant scientific advice to improve productivity and prepare them for food security strategies to mitigate the shock of future pandemics.

“I chose this particular area for my research because it supports the home gardening initiative that the Fijian government has put in place in response to COVID-19, and I focus mainly on women and youth who have been affected by the pandemic and are unemployed or in work. in reduced hours,” she added.

“Covid-19 has challenged the health system around the world and has had a domino effect from an economic perspective, affecting agri-food systems and leading to food security, nutrition and livelihood issues.

Ms. Aradhana Deesh, supported by an ARSF grantee, is building on the Fijian government’s home gardening initiative, conducting early research to evaluate home gardening production practices and exploring inequalities and challenges facing women and youth in horticulture.

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“This pandemic has shown how health and food systems are interconnected and how local food systems are connected to global systems. The data I collect from women and youth provides insight into the challenges beneficiaries face to meet their family’s food and nutrition needs and how this project has helped them meet those requirements,” she added.

Ms. Deesh’s main research goals are to encourage more women and young people to consider agriculture as a career option by starting in horticulture, and to support beneficiaries by improving their livelihoods and earning a living by selling vegetable products.

Beneficiaries of this project will receive seeds of crops such as long beans, English cabbage, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant and chili peppers.

“The breweries grow faster and the beneficiaries can quickly see results and have a healthy source of food for their families and can sell additional vegetables in the nearby markets, which also supports their livelihood,” she added.

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Ms Deesh, who was also part of the Meryl Williams Endowed Scholarship for the inaugural 2020 cohort, said the initial findings reflected that women often lacked access to seeds and planting material.

“All the beneficiaries were happy to have the seeds, planting material and resources delivered to their doorsteps while strictly following the COVID safety measures suggested by the local authorities. We also provided recipients with additional resources, such as a fact sheet that acts as an introductory guide to farming and includes information on soil health, common pests and diseases, how to prepare beds, and harvesting techniques.

Ms. Deesh (left) delivers seedlings of crops such as long beans, English cabbage, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant and chilies to recipients.

“So the recipients basically get a backyard start-up guide and I virtually follow their projects where they send me photos of the vegetables and I can easily check if the plants are healthy or if they need some specific targeted intervention. to improve their quality,” she added.

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Ms. Deesh is collaborating with Fiji National University, the University of New England and the University of Queensland on her research.

One of the beneficiaries is Mrs. Inise Navusolo, who is already reaping the benefits of the home garden project. At 61, Ms Navusolo said she had never considered the benefits of green work right in her own backyard.

“Before the second wave of COVID, I was employed as a restaurant staff and was the breadwinner as my husband is bedridden. When I lost my job, I was really worried about how I would support my family, since my youngest child is still in high school,” she added.

Ms Navusolo explained that when Ms Deesh contacted her about being a beneficiary of the gardening, she had reservations.

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“My ancestors have always farmed in the village, but I have always lived on the outskirts of the city, so space was an issue and Mrs. Deesh provided us with all the materials and seeds. I grew cabbage, lettuce, chili peppers, eggplants and tomatoes – all in a greenhouse in my backyard,” she added.

One of the beneficiaries of the project, Mrs. Inise Navusolo (left), is already enjoying the benefits of the home garden project. At 61, Ms Navusolo said she had never considered the benefits of green work right in her own backyard.

Ms Navusolo said her family saw the benefits of eating healthy and was able to earn by selling extra vegetables to their neighbours.

“My husband has been bedridden since he had a stroke and is considered high risk for COVID, I’ve been making healthy meals with vegetables to boost his immune system and both my daughter and I feel much healthier already.”

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“I also sold cabbage, eggplants and tomatoes to my neighbors and I currently earn about 20-50 Australian dollars a week, which is enough to buy basic things for my family,” she said.


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