B.C. seed sales sizzle into the holiday season | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. seed sales sizzle into the holiday season

Seed sales are soaring across British Columbia, even as winter approaches. One Lower Mainland seed company paying homage to the province's chief medical officer, Bonnie Henry, through the creation of her own seed packet.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ West Coast Seeds
November 30, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Looking for Christmas gift ideas? Perhaps you should be thinking seeds this festive season.

Gardening continues to be a hot pandemic activity in Kamloops, the Okanagan and B.C. in general as local seed suppliers find business is booming even as winter snows begin to blanket the region’s backyard gardens.

Kelowna’s Sunshine Farm administrator Mona Johnson says her company specializes in the production of organic heirloom seeds. The business experienced a pleasant bump in sales last spring when COVID-19 restrictions were initially implemented in the Okanagan.

“We had a massive increase in sales this spring when COVID-19 hit. Instead of shutting us down, we were in overdrive, in terms of seed sales. It was like nothing we had ever experienced,” she says.

Lately that sales bump has continued as the industry looks at what is normally a much quieter season.

READ MORE: 'Bee kind, bee calm, bee safe:' B.C. seed company honours Dr. Henry

“We’re getting more early sales for next spring, although not nearly at the capacity we saw in the spring. Nevertheless, it’s a marked increase heading into winter,” she says.

Sunshine Farm produces rare and heirloom varieties of produce seeds, with a focus on tomatoes. Johnson says the operation is small, at 12 acres in size.

“We sell to the home gardener, the small scale farmer. We also provide seeds to sell on consignment at Nature’s Fare and other small retailers,” she says.

Sunshine Farm was kept busy this year replenishing seed stocks after the increase in sales this spring.

“It was more than double our best year ever in March and April. There’s really no way to not draw a correlation between gardening interests and COVID-19,” she says.

Sunshine Farm’s experience is being echoed by Vancouver’s West Coast Seeds, producers of non-GMO organic garden seeds.

West Coast Seeds director of finance Aaron Saks says the firm typically slows down in the fall after a brief pickup in sales of garlic and flower bulbs in September, but not this year.

“We’re getting more orders today than we did during our busiest time prior to any influence from COVID-19,” he says.

Saks says sales of garden seeds, sprouting kits and micro green sales are through the roof.

“We’ve had an astronomically higher number of orders this fall on a wide range of products,” he says.

Saks says the reasons for the sales uptick are many and varied, but include growers' fears of shortages next year.

“People are also just excited about getting ready to plant next year, and others are concerned about being stuck at home next spring due to COVID-19 and are planning their gardens,” he says.

The company began producing a commemorative ‘Bonnie Henry’ seed packet last week, with 100 per cent of the profits going to the Food Banks of Canada.

“We’ve never seen anything like it. The product has taken off. We planned to sell 5,000 packets for the whole year and went through that in three days,” Saks says.

“We feel extremely fortunate to be in the gardening business. There’s a variety of reasons people turn to gardening during these times. We saw a similar uptick in sales during the last recession in 2008. People are looking for food security, or a hobby they can do in their own backyard, on their own. It’s the perfect business for a pandemic,” Saks says.

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