Although the ground in much of the province is still frozen solid, seed producers and distributors around the region are already thinking ahead to the coming growing season, and they say the pandemic-driven gardening boom of the past two years shows no sign of letting up.
When the BCN contacted Charles Fortier, director of the Centre Jardinage Granby, his phone hadn’t stopped ringing for days. “We usually begin the season on March 1, but last year, by popular demand, we opened in mid-February, and we’re doing that again this year,” he said. “People are in a hurry.”
“Even before the pandemic, there was a movement [toward] more gardening, but the pandemic put wind in its sails, and everything just went crazy,” said Fortier. “In lockdown, people didn’t have a lot to do, and there were also concerns around food supply chains – people weren’t sure they would have what they needed, so they started thinking more about food self-sufficiency.”
Gardening also provides a feeling of control during uncertain times, he says. “When you plant a seed and you grow it and you eat your tomato, you know exactly what’s in it. You have the control over what you put in your body, and you have what you want, when you want it. You can also start canning and have tomatoes or spaghetti sauce for the year – you have the control.”
Fortier relies on Quebec and Canadian suppliers, so international supply chain issues aren’t among his biggest concerns. High demand is.
“The demand being what it is, last year I had some suppliers sending me only 70 per cent of my order,” said Fortier. “I made one order for March and I got it at the end of April because there wasn’t any in stock beforehand. Everyone is having labour problems as well. We had some supply interruptions. This year, we started bringing things in in December and January, to be prepared. The suppliers have adapted, and so have we. I don’t think we’ll have very many disappointed clients this year.”
“Seeds are arriving later, the prices are going up and some [suppliers] have fewer seeds than before, so they sell out more quickly,” said Edem Amegbo, owner of Au Jardin D’Édem in East Farnham. “There are a few different factors – there is more demand for plants and seeds, and people are ordering directly from suppliers. Those are trends we’re seeing throughout the industry.” Like Fortier, he says he has started placing orders earlier in the year to make sure popular products arrive in time.
Amegbo, originally from Togo, founded Au Jardin D’Édem in 2015. In addition to the ubiquitous beets, carrots, squash and cabbage, he also sells hot pepper plants, okra plants and other vegetables and herbs used in West African cooking. He says the more exotic plants “actually grow very well in gardens here…and people are curious. A lot of [customers] will buy one or two plants just to have something different.” For those who don’t have the time or space for a garden, he has a vegetable basket subscription program.
Amegbo advises anyone interested in buying his plants to keep an eye on his website to make sure the plants they want are in stock. However, he’s not overly worried about supply outstripping demand this year: “I have almost everything in already…I’m confident that we’ll have a nice season.”