Sunday, July 21, 2024
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Economic uncertainty prompts gardening revival

Virginia’s current stay-at-home order has left many of us feeling

Wes Riddell enjoys watering his vegetable garden (and creating mud puddles to jump in.)

stressed, depressed and bored among other things. It has undoubtedly become a daily struggle to find ways to cope with current conditions while remaining productive and optimistic. Recent articles from the New York Times and Washington Post suggest that many Americans are turning to backyard vegetable gardening as a source of solace. Since the beginning of this pandemic, many large seed companies, such as W. Atlee Burpee & Co. (Burpee) have noted a massive influx in seed sales and increased website traffic. It seems that gardening is both a therapeutic pastime and a means of self-reliance that appeals to skilled gardeners and beginners alike.

Throughout history, economic hardship seems often to be tied with gardening trends. In 1917, at the beginning of the First World War, the National War Garden Commission was created to encourage Americans to grow their own gardens in hopes of combating the food shortage that was expected to come with the war. Victory gardens, as they came to be called, gained massive popularity. According to, “3 million new garden plots were planted in 1917 and more than 5.2 million were cultivated in 1918, which generated an estimated 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables.”

Again the call to plant victory gardens was echoed in the wake of the Second World War. The Master Gardener program reports that, “Some 20 million victory gardens were planted, and by 1943, these little plots produced 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the U.S.

The recession of 2009 also prompted an increased interest in the gardening industry as seed companies reported dramatic upswings in sales. According to one CNN article from 2009, Burpee, the largest seed and gardening supply store in the country, reported a 25-30% spike in vegetable seed and plant sales. “I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and I’ve never seen anything like it — even remotely like it,” said George Ball, chairman and chief executive officer.

Though the circumstances are certainly different between times of war and times of recession and economic hardship, the thinking seems to be inline as Americans are looking to save money, find a sense of self-reliance, security and spend time outdoors while producing something tangible and beneficial.

Luckily, in the Northern Neck, we have a number of excellent gardening supply stores, many of which are small family-owned businesses that could greatly benefit from our patronage at this time. 

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