Concerns about food shortages and the dangers of grocery shopping during the pandemic led more Kentuckians to try their hand at home gardening in 2020, according to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
In a Kentucky Department of Agriculture survey of 230 horticulturalists, 45% first gardened in 2020, up from 34% in 2019. Department spokesman Sean Southard said many people were gardening for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic worked.
“At the start of the pandemic, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture received many questions from constituents about food supplies and the safety and stability of our food supplies, especially given the pressure we were putting on our supply chain,” Southard said.
The Kentucky grocery chain remains “strong,” according to Southard, but low inventory levels in grocery stores across the state and over the past year have led some to grow their own groceries. To meet the increased interest, the Department of Agriculture, along with the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, provided horticultural toolkits in each of the state’s 120 counties.
According to Marisa Aull and Great Britain, the content of the toolkits varied from state to state. But they all contained information packs about planting, canning, harvesting and, in some counties, seeds and gardening tools.
Aull said the pandemic appeared to drive a lot more traffic to the Kentucky Nutrition Education Program’s garden resources, which are usually aimed at serving low-income people and families. Aull said more people were referred to the program as more Kentuckians became unemployed and signed up for SNAP or grocery stamps.
“In addition to food insecurity, for many people there was just a fear of physically going to the grocery store and that was an opportunity to try something different,” she said.
Aull said the Ohio County expansion office distributed gardening toolkits to around 1,100 families, mostly Latinx. Working at Perdue Farms’ food processing facility in Ohio County attracts a large Latin American immigrant population.
Southard said families not faced with food insecurity were also drawn to gardening as a learning opportunity for children during distance learning.
The toolkits were also intended to dispel “much of the misinformation” that was circulating, particularly about canning methods.
“You can’t in your dishwasher,” said Aull. “That’s not safe.”
Both Southard and Aull are confident that increasing interest in gardening and canning will continue after the pandemic ends.
“We are optimistic that this will be a trend that will continue,” said Southard.
More information and tools for starting your own backyard or container garden can be found here: https://www.planeatmove.com/get-moving/growing-your-own-garden/