October 23, 2021

A growing trend takes root

Interest in gardening born out of pandemic continues to flourish

Jamie Costa/staff Reporter

Since the pandemic started, recreational gardeners flocked to local sellers to purchase fruit and vegetable seeds, forcing Cortland Countrymax to order more seeds earlier than usual. Sarah Giroux, right, and her children, Willa, left, and Harry, pick seeds for their favorite vegetables.

Cortland Countrymax manager Forrestt Marshall ordered 2,000 more seed packets than he usually does in anticipation for the start of the second pandemic spring as he expects gardeners and farmers to flock to the shelves.

Marshall had to order seed packets and seedlings in October to prepare for this season. Bulk seeds — including green beans, corn, peas, potatoes and onions — will be available the last week of March.

“We had to have them (orders) in a bit early for this year’s stock and with those, it looks like there is not going to be an excellent supply anywhere because of the demand, which is coming from locals picking up the trend,” Marshall said.

In a normal season, Marshall will send back 1,000 seed packets but at the end of last year, he sent back a total of 50. In anticipation for this season, he ordered more than 5,000 seed packets compared with the typical 3,000.

The first shipment of seeds arrived the last week of January and Marshall saw people start to buy right away, with customers spending $200 to $300 on garden seeds.

“We’ve had people that have done that in the past but it’s more prevalent this year,” Marshall said. “We ordered more than we normally would to anticipate for this.”

The rise in local gardening has put a strain on some farmers, but not Joan Franklin of Homer, who hasn’t had any problem buying seeds or seedlings.

“I didn’t order earlier this year than I did last year,” Franklin said. “The people I order from contacted me and said there is plenty in supply.”

Franklin grows a mix of vegetables that she sells locally and at farmers markets. A lot of people that buy from her are interested in where their vegetables come from and this has inspired them to start their own gardens, she said.

People want to be self-sufficient and grow their own produce to avoid supermarkets, Marshall said. But for Sarah Giroux of Dryden, gardening became a hobby to keep her children, Willa and Harry, busy at the start of the pandemic. Now, it’s a family hobby.

“It gave us something to do,” Harry said as the family sifted through vegetable seeds. “We’re excited to do it again this year.”

On Saturday, the family bought their first seeds of the year. Giroux was nervous that Countrymax would run out of their favorites: cucumbers and broccoli.

“It’s snowing and we’re here buying seeds this weekend,” she said. “We don’t know what the demand will be.”