A central Alberta potato seed farm is already sold out of 17 potato varieties as gardeners get a jump on preparations for spring planting.
“It’s pretty crazy, but good crazy for a seed farmer though. After last year’s COVID rush and selling out, a lot of people are ordering early,” said John Mills, owner of Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes.
He said typically seed orders don’t pick up until March, but his organic seed farm has seen double the number of orders than usual for January.
“I would expect by the end of February we might be down to two or three varieties available. I don’t know if we’ll have something for sale come April.”
Mills said his potato supplies were also reduced by about 25 per cent due to a hail storm last summer.
Gloria Beck, owner of Parkland Nurseries and Garden Centre, said last year carrots were the crop that everyone wanted to grow which made seeds hard to come by.
“We were getting them in and putting them on hold for people. Who would have guessed that carrots would have been like ‘toilet paper’ last year,” said Beck, referring to the public’s frenzy to buy toilet paper when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
She said people wanted to grow edible gardens last year, whether it was in garden plots, or in pots on their balcony or deck. Already, her store has seen more seed buyers this month than usual.
“We have people who have their list. They know exactly what they want. And we’ve got others who are just learning and they need some guidance and we’re happy to give them that help.”
She said good weather last spring and eager gardeners was a good combination. As they begin preparations to get their hands back into the soil, there’s a sense of hope for the coming year. Once plants start to sprout, there’s the satisfaction of growing their own food, as well as the physical and mental benefits of gardening.
“It’s very therapeutic,” Beck said.
Mills said Ontario farmers who sell their produce at farmers markets order a lot from his central Alberta farm, as do backyard gardeners around the country. Potatoes are a good crop for beginners.
“Although they take up lots of space, they can be quite easy to grow. It’s a fun one. Y0u don’t have to worry so much about weeds,” Mills said.
Eagle Creek Seed Potatoes will soon start packing orders. They will be shipped to Alberta customers in early April when the risk of frost is over.