(Pexels)

‘I just want to survive:’ Greenhouses struggling with economic reality of COVID-19

Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec have designated garden centres as an essential service

Nick Zannis is thankful his greenhouse established online sales five years ago, now that the retail world has been turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The doors of Golden Acre Home and Garden in Calgary are allowed to be open as an essential service in Alberta, but there are ample warnings about social distancing.

A steady stream of customers, many of them wearing face masks, walk through the store even though spring bedding plants aren’t ready and the selection of seeds and flowers is somewhat limited.

READ MORE: Civil Liberties group seeks amnesty for recreational tickets issued during COVID-19

Zannis said having an online presence puts his greenhouse on less shaky ground than many others.

The business has sent products to as far away as Nunavut and Nova Scotia in recent years but will be focusing primarily on the Calgary market now.

Online orders are up by 2,000 per cent from a year ago, Zannis said. But it’s not a gold mine.

“It’s very expensive to operate. Now you have to pay somebody to go and do the shopping,” he said.

“But the online store has kind of kept us afloat … We’re just trying to survive, honestly. I just want to survive this year.”

In addition to Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia and Quebec have designated garden centres as an essential service. Other provinces, including Ontario, have forced them to keep their doors closed.

“We are allowed to offer pickup at the curb, so we are doing that,” said Mary Reid, owner of Green Thumb Gardening Centre in Nepean, Ont.

“A customer would either phone or email us what their order is, then we’d get it ready and say you can come and get it.”

Reid said she has basically had to start online orders from scratch but isn’t able to do e-commerce.

She hopes gardeners will still be keen to shop when restrictions are eased.

“It’s not a pretty picture at all … it depends on how far into lockdown we get.”

READ MORE: Plants ‘operating 24/7’ to meet consumer demand for food amid COVID-19

The executive director of the Canadian Garden Council, the national umbrella body for provincial and national garden organizations, said there’s been a huge increase in the number of Canadians who want to start gardening.

Michel Gauthier said it’s a struggle for centres that have to stay closed.

“A lot of growers and greenhouses are having issues. Right now, there’s a big movement to say horticultural products are essential and should be essential for the well-being of people,” he said.

“We’re saying … if we want people to have that gardening experience and spend some time in their garden, then they need to have access to the material and access the product.”

Don Vanderwerf said it’s almost like business as usual at his Kel-Lake Greenhouses in Kelowna, B.C.

Demand for seeds, soil and vegetables has been strong, he said.

Peak gardening season begins in three weeks to a month. Vanderwerf said products will be spread out on benches and into the parking lot at his site.

Still, Vanderwerf is expecting a financial hit. He’s already losing business in flower baskets for hotels and restaurants.

“We’ll be down a bit. But I feel fortunate that I’m not owning a restaurant or a pub, because they’re hurting.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Snapshot: Cap and gown in the time of COVID-19

Eagle River Secondary did what they could to keep highscool graduation as normal as possible.

Fallen tree and fire to blame for Shuswap power outage

BC Hydro restored the outage in about an hour.

Boating Safety Week a chance to take stock of hazards on Shuswap Lake

Submerged logs, cold water and intoxicated captains are all safety concerns

$30,000 over 30 weeks for local causes

Send us your good stories and you could win money for your favourite cause

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Crews building structure at former Summerland train station site

West Summerland Station will pay tribute to railway history, serve as trail marker

Most Read