• Hunter Cresswell

When the going gets tough, the tough get growing

By Hunter Cresswell

With panic buying, empty shelves in grocery stores and the scarcity of certain food items such as flour, the pandemic has brought food security concerns to the forefront, causing many to try and become more self-sustaining by growing their own food. As a result, seeds and plant starts are in higher demand this spring.

“I’m hearing concerns about food security and wanting to have a little self sufficiency,” Northern Seeds owner Catherine Wallenburg said.

This is Northern Seeds owner Catherine Wallenburg’s ninth season growing and selling seeds. She used to only sell to other seed companies, but she launched her company in Farrellton last year to sell directly to gardeners. Anne-Marie Laplante photo courtesy Northern Seeds

This is Wallenburg’s ninth season growing and selling seeds. She used to only sell to other seed companies, but last year she founded Northern Seeds in Farrellton to sell directly to local gardeners. She started marketing in December and sales have been going very well so far.

“[Sales] have completely exceeded my expectations, that is for sure,” Wallenburg said.

And she’s not the only one who’s noticed this.

“I know from other seed growers [that] sales are up six-fold this year, which is unheard of,” Wallenburg said.

In addition to concerns over food security, she said people are turning to gardening because it is a great family activity and people are stuck at home.

“It’s one of the things we can do that is safe and outdoors,” Wallenburg said.

Richard Williams co-owns Ferme Lève-Tôt with his wife Charlotte Scott and they sell organic produce but also organic plant starts of the same variety as their produce. He said he too has seen more interest this spring in gardening.

“I think people are more aware of where their food is coming from and there’s been articles about more limited supply,” Williams said.

And it’s not just worried people getting into gardening either.

“At this time, people like the idea of going out in their garden and harvesting a salad,” Williams said.

For Williams and Scott, the pandemic forced them to switch gears on the fly.

For the past 10 years, they’ve sold their seedlings during the first few weeks of the Wakefield Farmers’ Market and over Mother’s Day weekend. In order to fill the demand for their plants, they launched an online store last month.

“Things are going fast, but we have quite a few [seedlings] left,” Williams said.

They’ve already sold more than last year.

Both Williams and Wallenburg offered up some tips for beginner gardeners.

“I recommend people go and check reputable seed companies in the area and see what they say,” he said, explaining that seeds often come with directions.

Also, don’t let establishing seeds dry out, it’s a little late in the season to be planting pepper and eggplant seeds … and the green side goes up usually,” Williams joked about planting seedlings or starts.

To buy Wallenburg’s seeds, visit northernseeds.ca, and to buy Ferme Lève-Tôt’s plants visit fermelevetot.ca.

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