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Nurseries see increased sales of food bearing plants

May 14th, 2010 | Category: Growing

by Chelsea Davis

It is time to get things growing. Gardeners across Whatcom, Skagit and San Juan counties have taken this to heart and the local nurseries couldn’t be happier. With the growing interest in planting food, local nurseries have seen increased sales in food bearing trees, plants and shrubs.
All across the country more and more people are becoming interested in homegrown food. There are hundreds of books, blogs and cookbooks dedicated to the ins and outs of homegrown fruits and vegetables. The National Gardening Association stated that the amount of household gardens increased by 40 percent in 2009.
So why the dramatic increased interest? Many fingers point to the struggling economy. “We have noticed a trend. When times get tough, sales go up,” Farm Manager Terry Maczuga,  of Cloud Mountain Farm, said.
Maczuga believes that with economic hardship, people start searching for ways to save money and come to the conclusion that growing your own food can help cut costs.
Cloud Mountain Farm, located in Everson, grows fruit trees, nut trees, berry plants and ornamental landscape plants. For those looking to purchase fruit trees, nut trees and berry plants, Maczuga recommends patience. “Many of these plants take a year to bear fruit—hazelnuts take at least two and walnuts take seven.”
For the beginning gardener, Maczuga suggests plums. “They (plums) are a good thing to go for as a beginning gardener, as they are easy to grow,” Maczuga said.
And for all those that are worried about space (can you grow a fruit tree in a pot?) Cloud Mountain Farm has varieties of plants that are available with mini dwarf, dwarf or semi dwarf rootstalks. For those who don’t know what that means, take for example a mini dwarf apple tree, it will only grow 4 feet to 6 feet tall and can be grown in a large pot.
Gary Lorenz, owner of Skagit Valley Gardens in Mount Vernon, agrees that the increase in sales he has seen is due to the economic times. Lorenz also believes that people want to make a change. “We have had a noticeable increase in sales during this recession—I think that people want to grow their own food in order to contribute more to the household.”
A lot of the advice Lorenz gives about what people should grow is dependent on property size and location. “In Skagit County we have so many local farmers, especially those that are growing blueberries, raspberries and strawberries; I suggest trying out vegetable gardening.”
For those of us new to gardening, Lorenz recommends sticking to easy-to-grow vegetables—tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce—in order to remain a motivated gardener. “Sticking with the easier plants is a good way to get going with gardening, people like success. It can be discouraging if you plant something and there is nothing to harvest,” Lorenz said.
Unlike Maczuga and Lorenz, Nancy Elvebak, manager of the Garden Spot in Bellingham, believes that the increase in sales is due to people wanting to take more control over what they eat. “We have most definitely noticed an increase in sales; people want a food base that is closer to home. They want to know what is going into their food,” Elvebak said.
Many novice gardeners have come into the Garden Spot not sure where to begin. “A lot of people want to do something but they aren’t sure what. I recommend going to the supermarket and make a list of all the things you love to eat, and do some research to see if it is doable to grow it yourself,” Elvebak said.
With over 200 seed packets, the Garden Spot has a large selection of food bearing plants to choose from. Lettuce is high up on Elvebak’s list of things to grow. Lettuce can be grown in pots, there is a huge variety to choose from, and it is a fast and fun food to grow.
Many people are getting back to their roots—growing food, supporting local farmers and connecting with what they are eating. “We’re seeing a marked increase in people who are interested in local foods, sustainability, and building resiliency in the face of uncertainty—screwy economics, fluctuating food prices and crop failures, climate change, etc.,” said Dave Boehnlan, Education Director of Bullock’s Permaculture Homestead located on Orcas Island, “rowing food at home is a big part of all those things.”
Chelsea Davis is a recent Huxley graduate whose main goal in life is to connect to her food and spread the joy that comes from eating a carrot straight from the ground.

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