Seed Sales Surge

This edition of Green Gazette includes updates on seed sales, online homesteading education, mutual aid networks, and more.

| August/September 2020

Photo by Adobe Stock/Maggie

As the coronavirus pandemic arrived and intensified, people responded to the uncertainty by stockpiling goods — toilet paper, cleaning supplies, preventive medicines, flour, eggs. Seeds were no exception — seed sales skyrocketed, forcing many seed companies to adjust their fulfillment processes and halt orders temporarily.

According to Matthew and Nancy Kost of The Buffalo Seed Company, emptying grocery store shelves prompted people to reevaluate their personal food security and decide to grow their own. The Kosts say this applies to both new and experienced gardeners, with returning customers purchasing more seeds than ever before, and first-time buyers asking for gardening advice to pair with their purchases. To manage increased demand, The Buffalo Seed Company plans to diversify its offerings, and source and sell more grains. The Kosts believe this shift could be either short-lived or long-term, depending on how long the pandemic lasts. “While we hope this level of attention will be maintained and aimed at deeper underlying issues, such as climate change and social injustice, change is often difficult at a large scale and is often induced and maintained by hardship and necessity,” Matthew says. “The longer the pandemic lasts, the more intense the transformation to relying on local food systems and food growing will be.”

Joshua D’Errico of Johnny’s Selected Seeds says new gardeners are citing their fear about losing safe access to healthy food as a reason for securing seeds and for investing in local food options, such as community-supported agriculture (CSA) systems. D’Errico says, “Our direct-to-market farmers are reporting that their online CSAs are selling out, which helps, in part, to replace their lost sales to restaurants and at farmers markets.” In an effort to bolster the success of new gardeners’ efforts, Johnny’s is offering growing advice and support to gardeners who started during the pandemic to help them get through their first growing season and to help growers of all kinds keep planting in the years to come.

At Seed Savers Exchange, Emily Rose Haga has also noticed people turning to seeds for peace of mind. “Many people want to grow their own food for security in these uncertain times, and look to seeds as a source of hope and resilience,” she says. “Many people just want to take care of themselves and their communities right now, so that they can be resilient in the unknown future we’re facing in food supplies and government assistance.”

Haga reiterates that this raised consciousness could last after the pandemic ends, noting that disruptions to the mainstream food supply will have long-term ripple effects, and that homegrown and local food offers additional security, come what may. Joining or developing gardening collectives and seed libraries and participating in seed swaps are other ways to build regional food security, Haga says.

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