I was reminded by Facebook this week of how far we have come in the last six years. Six years ago we decided that we really wanted to garden and make it matter. We had always gardened, but more in a fun hobby, but still buying all of our food from the store kind of way. We wanted a garden that fed us for most of the year. The week of Valentines Day we found a small greenhouse at Menards that was on sale for $99.99 which was way out of our price range, but the last day of the sale we got a rebate check from Menards in the mail for about $90. What was a real blessing! We called it our Valentines gift to each other. Steven was sure we would never fill it up. He half jokingly said that if I would plant a few extra plants, he would try and sell them. In that way we could help offset the cost of the growlights and trays and greenhouse. He was thinking 15-20 plants. I planted over 100 extra. They sold really fast so we planted more. It turned out that lots of people were interested in growing vegetable gardens, and so to keep up with demand we have been adding an additional greenhouse every year. This year we will be setting up six greenhouses, and will not have any extra space to spare. It's been fun to help others grow great gardens.
That first year we grew tomatoes, and a few peppers, then we added more vegetables and herbs, Then we added strawberries, cucumbers, sqaush and melons. Last year we really increased the number of herbs we grew. This year we added onion seedlings and seed potatoes and seeds from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. (If you're local check out our 2021 plant sale here!)
We have seen a big uptick in demand every year, but especially this year and last year. The pandemic caused a huge increase in people interested in vegetable gardening. Its a security thing, and a therapy thing. Plants don't argue about politics or worry about things, they just keep growing toward the sun, and it turns out being outside in the sun is good for you too. Also, growing food is more fun than growing grass. It's delicious, and it feels really good to participate in the process of feeding yourself and providing food for your family. It really does. Everytime the economy goes down interest in gardening goes up. A garden can be a big help to the grocery budget and is a great hedge against inflation.
This year we have seen another surge in demand for garden starts. We already have more than 20 times the orders in that we did this time last year right before the pandemic. We are busy planting peppers this week. All the hot peppers are planted, next I will plant the sweet peppers. In a couple weeks, I will be planting tomatoes. Steven did lots of research to find the best varieties, and we ordered early, so we got what we wanted. Seed companies are seeing the same surge in demand. Some have shut down their websites, restricted the number of orders recieved for the day, or limit orders to only those with professional accounts. Most have anounced delays on shipping as everyone does their best to keep up with the unprecedented demand.
Amidst the hussle of the month, we recieved an invitation to talk to a group of high school aged Girl Scouts as they are working on a badge about food. One question they asked was if we had always been interested in gardening and food production. Steven laughed when he responded that as a kid he thought gardening was only for old people, like his grandparents who grew victory gardens. How refreshing it was to see a group of high school aged Girl Scouts interested in gardening and learning where their food comes from and how it is grown. I guess gardening isn't just for old people after all!