Seed firms brace for sustained gardening demand amid pandemic

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Earl Hopkins

| The Columbus dispatch

With the start of the summer gardening season, companies have doubled their seed and other supplies to avoid potential bottlenecks after the surge in demand last year.

Kelly Funk, president of Park Seed, a South Carolina-based garden seed e-commerce retailer, said the company doubled its best-selling product offering to meet unprecedented demand in 2020.

“After seeing the demand and renewed interest in gardening, we prepared for 2021 with increased inventory to make sure we have what customers want when they want to order,” she said. “We are ready and prepared for the season.”

Tavaris Guider, soil manager at Gurneys Seed and Nursery Company, said the company ran out of three-quarters of its seed packages in the 2020 gardening season, after increasing demand three times over previous years.

As a result, Guider said the Greendale, Indiana-based company doubled its inventory in preparation for the potential rush of orders.

“We anticipated this would happen so we could get as many seeds as possible during the season,” he said. “Definitely doubled what we did last season.”

Jamie Mattikow, CEO and President of W. Atlee Burpee & Co. of Pennsylvania, one of the largest suppliers of vegetable seeds to home gardeners in the United States, said the company had also increased its supply to meet this year’s demand.

“We have increased our resources and capacities and are therefore fully prepared for a sustained surge in demand,” said Mattikow.

David Sborden, vice president of sales for Livingston Seed, said the Columbus-based company fully expected demand to continue this year’s gardening season. And so far, sales are about as fast, if not higher, than they were after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Although Sborden refused to say exactly how much the demand rose in 2020, he said it had grown significantly.

Sborden attributes the demand to the coronavirus outbreak, which encouraged seasoned and new gardeners to stock up on supplies. Like other companies and retailers, Sborden said the company has increased its inventory and is in a position to make adjustments if necessary.

“When sales exceed demand, we can produce more products for our customer base,” he said.

It is unclear what future demand will look like, Sborden said, but he is encouraging gardeners to choose their varieties now so they can plan summer properly.

Funk doesn’t anticipate another shortage, but if demand increases, Park Seed will keep in touch with suppliers and other brands in the industry.

ehopkins@dispatch.com

@ Earl_Hopkins1