Seed sales skyrocket as Calgarians seek plant-based solution for food panic, malaise

Packages of seeds are selling quickly in garden centres across the city, and some stores are now ordering them in bulk to meet the demand.

Seed sales have tripled in the wake of COVID-19, says garden centre owner

Seed packages related to food are selling especially quickly at garden centres across the city, owners say. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC News)

Toilet paper, hand sanitizer and pantry staples aren't the only items in high demand these days — quarantine living has reportedly prompted Calgarians to buy seeds en masse. 

Several garden centre owners say their stores are selling seeds quickly and in high volumes, and are now ordering them in bulk to meet the demand.

Colin Atter, who owns Plantation Garden Centre in northwest Calgary, said his largest supplier of seeds from the United States has recently notified him that it is completely sold out its stock.

Meanwhile, Lethbridge-based seed supplier Wildrose Heritage Seed Company has stated on its website that it will be "taking a breather" until March 30 because of the "incredible" number of orders it has received in the past few days.

"People are … scared they're not going to get what they want or need, and [that] there will be a shortage," Atter told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

"So they're buying like crazy, and we are trying to secure supply like crazy."

'Drastic' market changes

To keep up with demand, Atter said, Plantation Garden Centre is double ordering all of its seeds. It is also fielding calls from shoppers who are looking for seeds that are not in season for another month or more.

Meanwhile, Nick Zannis, the owner of Golden Acre Garden Centre, said his store has quadrupled its regular seedling buy.

A customer at Plantation Garden Centre, left, practises physical distancing while talking to employee Donna Sigouin, right. (Supplied by Shelley Cryer)

He told CBC News that though he hasn't seen evidence of a seed shortage from suppliers, seed sales at Golden Acre have tripled in the wake of COVID-19.

"You don't usually see upticks like this unless something has drastically changed in the marketplace," Zannis said.

"This is kind of like the perfect storm this year, to see that kind of thing happen."

Desire to grow food a big factor, owners say

Zannis believes the factors behind that "perfect storm" are threefold.

Firstly, both Zannis and Atter said that the increased demand is especially reflected in the sales of food-related seeds.

The trend to grow food at home has been increasing over the past few years, Zannis said, but can be exacerbated by crises.

"I think, during these times, people have an inherent need to grow their own food. And so, we expected that food-related products would increase substantially, and they have."

Atter echoed this statement, saying that as food runs low in grocery store shelves, people feel comforted by planting and growing their own.

"People want to take [food supplies] into their own hands, and control what they can grow in their backyard," Atter said.

Plant projects, malaise drive sales

Zannis said he also thinks the heightened demand for seeds stems from people trying to find activities to occupy their time.

"People are going to be home more now. Either they're not travelling or they are not, unfortunately, working, or they're self-isolating," Zannis said.  "People are going to stay home and work on projects."

Lastly, he said flowers and plants simply make people happy.

"Obviously, everyone is going through periods of sadness and isolation and uncertainty. There's, like, a cloud of sadness in the air," Zannis said. 

"I think that's the third thing that we're seeing … people are getting excited to just see colour."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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