Business blooming for Sooke farmers

Residents growing new habits during self-isolation

Dawn Gibson | Sooke News Mirror

The coronavirus pandemic has left many people with nowhere to go but back to the earth, and Sooke farmers are harvesting success from the changes in lifestyle.

Mary Alice Johnson, a farmer on Otter Point Road for more than 30 years, is selling 10 times the amount of seeds she normally would at this time of year.

Her seeds are wiped clean from store shelves, Johnson said, and she and other farmers can barely keep up with the orders coming in.

READ: 5 things you didn’t know about farms in B.C.

“In late March to April sales start to taper down, but since the pandemic broke out, people have been starting gardens,” said Johnson, owner of Full Circle Seeds and ALM Organic Farm.

“The demand has been so strong we haven’t even needed to go to Victoria markets to sell seeds and produce like we usually do.”

When the pandemic started, Johnson was concerned about selling enough produce and seeds to support her livelihood, as Seedy Saturday was also cancelled to adhere to physical distancing measures. Seedy Saturday is a local food growing event in Sooke in February and March that showcases local plant and seed vendors.

Much to Johnson’s surprise, she has not had to go anywhere to keep her business thriving, as it began pouring into her farm.

“So many people are coming by the farm, lined up down the road to pick up seeds or seedlings for their gardens, or to buy fresh produce. It’s a wonderful thing to have happened,” Johnson said.

“We have found it lovely to open the farm up twice a week for a couple of hours. We are selling more than we would at markets or Seedy Saturday lately.”

ALSO READ: Sooke craft beer producers brew through COVID-19 storm

Teresa Willman, owner of Silver Cloud Farm in Sooke, shared a similar experience, saying plant sales have gone up, along with an interest in plants and gardening.

“About 40 per cent of the customers I see lately have never gardened before,” Willman said.

Normally Willman would sell her produce at markets, but since the pandemic began she has switched to an online ordering, delivery, and pick up style of business.

“Throughout this, we are realizing how that we don’t need to rely so much on things to come from somewhere else. It is good to know who you are buying food from, and growing your own food is an important skill. Sometimes we forget some of the basics,” Willman said.

“It’s funny, a lot of people are coming back to gardening, and this situation has pushed me the opposite way – from gardening to learning how to use Facebook.”

The circumstances of the coronavirus forced Willman to “think outside the box,” and build more of an online presence, helping her to connect with more than just her usual customers.

“Though the situation wasn’t great, it has shown people what is possible. A lot of people saw gardening as unattainable, or were scared to make that leap, but this hopefully has opened some minds,” Willman said.

Johnson agreed, noticing a lot more first-time gardeners have been stopping by her farm to buy seeds and plants.

“I love seeing people interested, I’m not sure what will come of this,” said Johnson, adding many of the new gardeners have tended to gravitate towards vegetable seeds, such as carrots and potatoes.

“Either big industry will come out on top, or people will say ‘no, let’s grow our own food,’ and decide to live more simply.”

Johnson said the pandemic has shined a light on how fragile the current system is, and how things can change.

“This situation has shown people the value of local food and growing food at home. The pandemic has reminded us of the importance of food security, and a way to achieve that security is through backyard gardens,” Johnson said.

“The pressure the virus has put on our system is a huge wake up call to what has already been happening with climate change.”

Johnson said during the spread of the coronavirus, people have been panicked about food, are spending time at home instead of working, and have a lot more time on their hands, which contributes to why so many people are starting gardens.

“When people aren’t so busy working they have time to think about what is important in life – food and family. Often we learn skills like gardening or cooking from our parents or grandparents. It’s all interconnected – spending time with loved ones and caring for the Earth,” she said.

“I hope people will see we can’t continue doing what we have done as a civilization. Instead of taking advantage, it’s time to take care of the Earth. I think that’s what is happening right now. People are waking up.”



editor@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Teresa Willman, owner of Silver Cloud Farm in Sooke, says plant sales and interest in gardening has gone up substantially during the spread of COVID-19. (Photo contributed by Teresa Willman)

Mary Alice Johnson has been running a farm in Sooke for over 30 years, and this year during the pandemic, she is selling about ten times the amount of produce and seeds as she normally would. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)

Just Posted

Blackberry festival moves forward with drive-thru in Metchosin

Event takes place on Oct. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Oak Bay High students do their best for COVID-19 Tour de Rock

Tour de Rock riders make socially responsible visit Friday

Long-time Central Saanich councillor named NDP candidate for Saanich North and the Islands

King, who joins election campaign one week after its start, hopes to unseat Adam Olsen

No ‘harmonious solution’ dogs on beaches in Saanich, community-led study finds

Cadboro Bay Residents’ Association present findings to council Sept. 28

Worklink march in Langford supports Orange Shirt Day

Ahousaht Prayer Song sets the tone

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

Most Read