Hudson Valley seed and gardening suppliers really feel the pinch of a seed scarcity

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January is usually not a busy month for seed companies selling to home gardeners. In the first month of 2021, Hudson Valley Seed Company saw sales grow six to seven times the previous year, according to Doug Muller, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

“For us and other companies that take care of home gardeners, February and March are usually bigger months,” said Müller. However, two or three days after January, demand increased. And now he said: “We feel like we were in the last boat, like last year.”

Local kindergartens also feel the compression of the seeds. “We process millions of seeds every season and every order we place comes with ‘can’t deliver’ or is so far backordered that we can’t plant the seeds this late in the season,” said Matthew Sabellico, owner of Sabellico Greenhouse & Florist in Hopewell Junction, via email. As a result, the garden center will source far more starter plants from growers than their own plants from seeds, he said, “which will have an impact on the bottom line as these trays cost us more.”

The root of the seed shortage

The 2020 pandemic fever for gardening sparked an unprecedented surge in seeds. The famous burpee seed company had more sales in March 2020 than ever before in its 144-year history. The surge in seed sales surprised many regional companies with no time to meet demand.

“When the pandemic hit last year,” said Müller, “most farmers already had their harvest plans, so there was no real option to increase production … Also, it wasn’t clear in mid-March whether this would be the case. ” being a spike for a week or if there would be a spike for a year. “

With the coronavirus keeping many businesses under lockdown orders or following security measures that slowed shipping, some gardeners reported months of delays in their seed orders in 2020. Many learned their lesson and went shopping for seeds earlier this year. In some cases they have ordered more than usual.

“I noticed that big people like Burpee and Park sold out very early. I ended up finding a pretty good variety at a… upstate seed company, but even they didn’t have what I ordered, ”Hudson Valley gardener Kristina Hinck-Lynn said on a Facebook group.

Müller calls this panic buying “the toilet paper effect” and believes that this year’s bottlenecks and problems with packaging and shipping were partly due to the early seed buyers. The problem is compounded by the fact that by 2021, without the inventory, the seed farms were on their way to meet the new demand.

Seed farms like the Hudson Valley Seed Company didn’t anticipate the 2020 gardening boom and haven’t had a chance to change their mid-season harvesting plans. But they’re more flush with the seeds of plants they grew last year, like the Doe Hill pepper.

Hudson Valley Seed Company

The Hudson Valley Seed Company, for example, is flush with seeds from plants they grew in 2020, like the Silverleaf sunflower, but low or out of stock on varieties they have grown in previous years, like the Tam Jalapeno . Usually a commercial seed supplier can replenish its reserves, but now even large growers are selling out, especially companies specializing in organic seeds.

This year, farms can finally catch up and start growing crops to harvest even more seeds in 2022.

For gardeners planning their gardens now, there is still time to secure seeds to grow plants like tomatoes indoors. For example, the Hudson Valley Seed Company only reports a 4 to 9 day delay in orders.

But be prepared for a sticker shock when you replenish your garden supplies this year. The 2020 production shutdowns, according to Matthew Sabellico, increased the price of available pots, soil, fertilizer and equipment by 8-10%. He fears that consumers may find it difficult to maintain their typical gardening practices. But the shortage of seeds, like the price increases, is only temporary, he assured us.

“All of this will fade once we as an industry have a better understanding of consumer needs,” said Sabellico. “Most of us wondered last year if we would survive. And we are now measuring the best way in this New Year to continue the newfound interest in the garden. “