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US: Greenhouses find ways to keep growing during pandemic

The past year was not "business as usual" for local greenhouses and gardening centers. Each growing season can be a bit different for plant growers but the coronavirus pandemic and the weather created challenges that left greenhouses and their customers scrambling.

“Every day was a Saturday for two months,” Robin Jordan, owner of Robin’s Flower Pot in Farmington said Thursday, April 1. “It was like nothing I’d ever seen before.”

On March 15, 2020, Gov. Janet Mills declared a civil state of emergency after Maine reported seven confirmed and five likely coronavirus cases. Later that month Mainers were told to stay at home when cases of COVID-19 topped 300.

There were a lot of disappointed people, Jordan said. Robin’s Flower Pot grows most of the plants offered and can only grow so much with the seeds and space available, she noted. “My crew was exhausted trying to keep up,” she said. “I couldn’t get enough annuals. Even the big growers ran out.”

A decrease in flower sales was also seen, Jordan said. “People were just home, there were no funerals, no calls for birthdays,” she said. “People didn’t want people showing up at their homes.”

More flower bouquets were sold at Tranten’s in Farmington and Food City in Wilton, Jordan said. An infestation of tarnished plant bugs ruined all the snapdragons and issues with stem rot caused damage to the lisianthus crop, she said. Other flowers filled gaps from those losses, she added.

At Whitehill Farm in Wilton, there was a tremendous increase in sales at the online market, owner Amy LeBlanc said in an email Thursday, April 8. That more than made up for the abruptly canceled winter market at the Farmington Grange, she noted.

“At the last actual physical winter market, we passed out information papers about signing up for the online market and I’m sure that made all the difference,” LeBlanc said. “My root cellar was emptied promptly!”

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