When it comes to seeds (plants, too, but that’s not relevant here), I’m always thinking of 1 (or 2 or 3) more things I meant to buy. No problem: fire up the laptop and put in one more order. But around the middle of March, I noticed suddenly that lots of seeds at lots of seed companies were out of stock. What’s more, orders that were usually filled in a few days would now take weeks.
An explanation is provided in a recent New York Times article by Kendra Pierre-Louis, “Panic Buying Comes for Seeds”. Pierre-Louis talked to a bunch of seed company owners and discovered that there’s been a giant spike in seed-buying. The spike became most noticeable on March 13th, the day Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the coronavirus.
My first reaction was that this is certainly a wholesome development. People facing the restrictions of life in the time of Covid 19 must be seeking the satisfaction, tranquility and beauty that can be found in the home garden. And what could be wrong with more home-grown vegetables?
The new demand was driven mainly by an increased demand for vegetable seeds. Apparently, something similar happened during the 2008 economic crisis.
A darker possibility is that people, driven by some apocalyptic vision, are hoarding seeds, just like they hoarded flour and toilet paper. Apparently some people are buying in quantities that they could never use, certainly not in a single season. Are people driven by the prospect of phantom food shortages, shortages that are nowhere on the horizon?
How many of these seeds are going to end up in a drawer somewhere, never to see the light of day?
You have to wonder how many of these purchasers are experienced vegetable gardeners – though the more gardeners, of course, the better. And are they aware that they can save their own seeds from standard or heirloom varieties?
Still. I’m choosing to consider the seed shortages to be a positive development, on balance. People are coping with stress and isolation by doing something beneficial at home, many for the first time.
The seed shortage hasn’t affected us too badly. In our garden, herbs are the only edibles we grow these days. Otherwise, we’re all about the flowers (although some of those are edible, actually).
And for those who are panic buying: please just calm down and don’t buy more seeds than you will actually use.