Why everyone is now an amateur gardener during COVID-19

Kate Beveridge and Mark Brown
Kate Beveridge and Mark Brown

Whether it's fear of an impending apocalypse, not being able to find what they want at the supermarket or simply having more time, an increasing number of Australians are turning their hands to growing their own fruits and vegetables.

Landscaping and permaculture suppliers have reported an unprecedented demand over the past month from those with a sudden urge to become more self sufficient.

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"The response has been really positive. People are really starting to wake up to the fact that the stuff that we have been rabbiting on about for more than 20 years is starting to come to fruition. You need to build your own resilience," Mark Brown who with partner Kate Beveridge run the six hectare Purple Pear Farm education centre and biodynamic farm near Maitland, NSW, said.

The huge demand for product prompted Australia's largest online gardening club, Victorian-based Diggers Club to post a message on its website this week advising that it was not accepting new product orders.

Compounding the supply issue is the ongoing impact of drought for producers.

"We couldn't grow any seedlings until we got water. Normally I would have a lot more food in the ground but we are struggling ourselves for seedlings," Ms Beveridge said.

"Bushfire drought and now this means for many people it's quite a difficult time."

Lachlan Storrie

Lachlan Storrie

Newcastle-based permaculture contractor Lachlan Storrie said he was struggling to source supplies for his business.

"People have just gone nuts for everything from seeds, seedlings to fertilised eggs. Basically everything I need for my job. People are buying the stuff like their lives depend on it," he said.

And it's not just the raw materials, there's also been a surge in interest from people who want to learn the basics of urban food production.

"I think for a lot of people it is something they have had an interest in, but they have been so busy they haven't done anything about it. They are using this opportunity to take it up," Ms Beveridge said.

But will the COVID-19-induced interest in growing food led to long-term shift in community attitudes to sustainability.

"A little bit of fear if managed correctly can be beneficial," Mr Storrie said.

"People will have a memory of how things can go and they will try to live a bit more sustainably."

Mr Brown shared that hope, but acknowledged he was also a realist.

I would definitely like to see a sustained interest in urban food production," Mr Brown said.

"But the pessimist who lives within me looks back to the peak oil crisis and how Jimmy Carter and the White House were all gung-ho on sustainable fuel and then they went back to their old ways."

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This story Why everyone is now an amateur gardener during COVID-19 first appeared on The Canberra Times.