Vegetable Seed Demand Grows Amid COVID-19 Boredom, Fears

April 24, 2020 Updated: April 28, 2020

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—People with ample time on their hands because of lockdown orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic have begun growing their own vegetables in home gardens, which means seed suppliers have been especially busy.

Maya Shiroyama, co-owner of Kitazawa Seed Co., says she’s never seen anything like it.

“We’re like 100 percent over … and it could even be higher,” she told The Epoch Times. “The volume of orders coming out per day is daunting.”

Her company, which is the oldest Asian vegetable seed company in the United States, has been selling all kinds of vegetable seeds since 1917. From Japanese mugwort to Chinese cabbage to Korean leafy vegetables to Vietnamese herbs, she said people are buying everything in both small and large amounts.

“We’re shipping containers of seed … 40-foot containers to small garden packets,” said Shiroyama, who believes the uptick in demand has to do with people’s feelings of insecurity. “We sell to home gardeners, as well as to retailers and to commercial growers.”

Epoch Times Photo
Vegetable seeds at a nursery where demand is rising in Pasadena, Calif., on April 30, 2008. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Astrid Hoffman, co-founder of The Living Seed Co. in Point Reyes Station, California, said her business has increased by 2,000 percent.

“My husband and I started this nine years ago,” Hoffman told The Epoch Times. “We’ve never seen anything remotely close to this.”

Her business sells flowers, herbs, and vegetables, and she says people are buying all of them.

“We are shipping about five to seven business days out, because we just can’t keep up with things,” she said. “Before, we would usually ship that day or a day later.”

Hoffman thinks there’s fear about a potential food shortage as a result of the pandemic, which could indicate why so many people are seeking to grow vegetables.

“I think people are freaking out that they’re not going to be able to feed their families,” she said. “People don’t know how long this is going to go on for, and so I think there’s just a lot of speculation and a lot of uncertainty, and people are taking matters into their own hands.”

In addition, people want something to do to stay occupied and active, Hoffman said.

“A lot of people are home with their kids. It’s a really beautiful activity. [It] gives people a moment to relax, and be in nature, and listen to the birds, and connect with the Earth, while feeding themselves.”

Epoch Times Photo
Schoolboys from the Drury Falls Council School arrive at their allotment on Oct. 9, 1941. They run a shop where they sell the produce they have cultivated. (Photo by Harry Todd/Fox Photos/Getty Images)

A Victory Garden Revival?

During World War II, the U.S. government encouraged people to plant their own fruits and vegetables, when fresh produce was hard to come by, and those “Victory Gardens” became part of the citizens’ war effort.

They planted seeds in their backyards, shared resources, and formed collective organizations.

“It was just very difficult to transport fruit and vegetables and everything. Most of it that was raised in California, or wherever they were raised, was going to the troops. So, we had to raise our own and bring it into the local grocery store,” Kelly Holthus, who grew up on a farm in Nebraska, recalled in an interview published by Living History Farm.

Magazines printed stories that taught people how to grow their own food. Many canned their produce for the troops at war. There was an increase in demand for the pressure cookers used as part of the canning process.

“It was a great morale thing. And for young people like me, it was, you know, I could do my part,” Holthus added.

“I was a part of the effort.”

Oregon State University is offering free online classes through April on how to garden. Other free online classes are offered by Garden Tutor; Greenwood Nursery provides a listing of gardening and landscaping courses.