Sales of veggie seeds way up, as more people aim to grow their own food in pandemic

An Island seed company is rushing to keep up with demand for vegetable seeds, amid COVID-19 concerns. Veseys Seeds in York, P.E.I., has orders coming in from all over Canada, many of them from first-time customers wanting to grow their own food.

'Orders are like nobody's ever seen before'

Staff at Veseys Seeds fill orders for shipment across Canada at the company's facility in York, P.E.I. (Veseys Seeds)

An Island company is rushing to keep up with demand for its vegetable seeds amid COVID-19 concerns.

Veseys Seeds in York, P.E.I., has orders coming in from all over Canada, many of them from first-time customers wanting to grow their own food.

"It's created a situation where the orders are like nobody's ever seen before," said John Barrett, director of sales, marketing and development at Veseys Seeds.

Over the weekend, Veseys received about 4,300 orders for packets of vegetable seeds, Barrett said. He estimates that over the past two weeks, the company has seen demand running 400 to 500 per cent above normal levels this time of year.

"There seems to be a very high number of first-time gardeners, based on some of the questions that accompany many of these orders," said Barrett.

Many of the orders are from first-time buyers. (Veseys Seeds)

"We certainly encourage everyone to grow their own food," said Barrett, "But there's an urgency — 'oh I need to get my seeds now.'"

Local retailers are also seeing a spike in demand for vegetable seeds.

"The panic right now doesn't need to be there," said Brian Wedge, regional retail supervisor for Feeds 'n Needs Atlantic, in Summerside.

"It makes it harder when somebody comes in looking for something that you can't plant right now anyway." 

Wedge oversees 17 retail locations in the Maritimes. They provide a variety of products to commercial farmers as well as hobbyists. He said needless trips to the store put staff and customers at risk — precisely what people are not supposed to be doing these days. 

Chicks and spring bulbs

Feeds 'n Needs Atlantic in Summerside also has more customers asking for live chicks, Wedge said. Some inquiries are from people who have not raised poultry before, and that's a concern to store staff.

"There's a whole set up that comes into play," said Wedge, of the equipment needed to raise hens. "It's an educational piece, a lot of questions and it's putting pressure on staff."

Veseys Seeds has about 100 employees working at its facility in York as it works to fill mail-order seed purchases.

It's also got shiploads of perishable spring bulbs arriving from Europe, with no buyers in sight. The bulbs were intended for sale by school fundraising groups across Canada, and other charities. The glut of spring bulbs is a "massive hit," according to Barrett.

"We're just hoping at the end of the day that some of those can be offset by the highly unusual increase in seed orders."

More from CBC P.E.I.


Brian Higgins


Brian Higgins joined CBC Prince Edward Island in 2002, following work in broadcasting, newspaper and magazine writing in central Canada. He follows law courts and justice issues on P.E.I., among other assignments.


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