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Boom in vegetable seed sales in U.S., Europe

By Adriana Stuijt     Mar 17, 2009 in Food
Homeowners across the United States and Europe are clearly planning to raise more vegetables this spring: large seed companies on both continents report sudden booms in sales of vegetable seeds to millions of homeowners.
Seed companies here in The Netherlands, which is the largest single producer of vegetable seeds in Europe, report growing sales to their European retailers at the moment.
And this can be seen at first hand in my town of Dokkum, in Friesland where people are pulling out parts of their ornamental beds and preparing to plant more vegetables in this spring. The ground now still is too cold for seeds: but our local home-gardeners are already hard at work all over town, raising seedlings in their much-treasured little garden sheds.
This week's annual Horti-Fair in Rotterdam -- which brings Horticulturists and their European retail-consumers together at the massive Ahoy Fairgroundsin the Dutch harbour city, is drawing more interest from European buyers, report their organisers. "The interest from homeowners is fuelling the increase in sales for vegetable seeds,' said Aad van Dijk, speaking from his company's stand at the Ahoy Hall today.
"There's a lot of enquiries for instant mini-gardens in which to raise vegetables on balconies and inside living rooms, too,' he added. The wholesalers say their stands are crowded and interest in purchasing is definitely higher than it was last year. see
Seed producers, greenhouse growers report booming sales
From seed producers and greenhouse growers to retailers, most report booming sales in the United States and Europe. And the seed producers say this is mostly due to 'family financial issues. '
A Texas newspaper reports from Fort Worth that this happens every time there is a downturn in the US economy, quoting Rick Archie, third-generation owner of Archie’s Gardenland on the west side of Fort Worth, founded in the middle of the Great Depression - 1934. His vegetable plant sales have increased 20 to 25 percent so far this year.
At Russell Feed in Haltom City, Texas, manager Carl Cathey also reports that his vegetable plant sales have soared 50 to 60 percent this year.
People just hungry to grow vegetables:
"Of course, a lot of it are replacements for people who got frosted out and came back for more," Cathey conceded. "But all in all, people seem just hungry to grow vegetables. Seeds are just now starting to move, but they’re up about 20 percent in the last couple of weeks."
Victory Garden seeds
Park Seeds of South Carolina rushed out multi-seed packets called Victory Garden, lifting the name from successful federal programs during World Wars I and II that boosted home garden production in the United States and also in the besieged United Kingdom, whose citizens all had to become good self-sufficient in a hurry when the Nazis started attacking the US convoys to their country.
In the United States, W. Atlee Burpee Co., the Pennsylvania-based pioneer in the international mail-order seed business, which also supplies major chains, matched Park Seeds with Money Garden. Its priced at $9.95 for a packet that will grow six vegetables.
If weather doesn’t get in the way, Burpee estimates that $50 in seeds and fertilizer can produce $1,250 worth of groceries purchased at a supermarket.
About 10 years ago, Burpee already began tossing around ideas of how to get the word out that vegetable gardening is a great way to save money. From 1998 through 2008, Burpee conducted a cost analysis study of the home vegetable garden. Burpee President George Ball, Jr. likened the renewed interest in vegetable gardening to a kind of “new age victory garden”.
Where the original victory gardens were intended to reduce demand on the public food supply, today’s vegetable garden is meant to reduce our dependance on it. Also see victory gardens in Zimbabwe, here
Vegetable seed sales exploding across the board
“It started with the spike in oil prices, then the mortgage and credit crisis, plus the food scares (e coli and salmonella). Most people garden for taste. But there’s a strong argument to be made that growing your own vegetables is also a cost saving proposition. A family of four can save a lot of money growing their own vegetables.” And sales of vegetable seeds generally at Burpee "are exploding across the board," Ball said.
During the last week of February, orders were up about 25 percent over the same period in 2008, far more than the seed producer expected. "Last year, we saw increases of 15 to 20 percent because of the [salmonella] food scare over tomatoes and peppers," he said. "And we thought we’d see a back-off, not an uptick.
"We never anticipated the mortgage crisis and the effect on people’s 401(k) retirement accounts. And we haven’t seen produce prices back down when fuel prices dropped last fall," Ball said, rattling off reasons why more folks might be planting vegetables.
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