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Research from the University of Georgia shows that the green industry, such as plant nurseries and greenhouses, has boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is not likely to last to the same extreme levels once coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
But, for some, gardening was what they needed to jumpstart a new hobby.
The study, which collected data from more than 4,200 participants, found that one out of every three began gardening in 2020 because they had to stay at home more often than not. Others also added new grass lawns and implemented outdoor renovations, such as installing new plant beds and landscaping.
“You had low interest rates, so you had a lot of people refinancing, which gave them money to invest in their homes,” said Benjamin Campbell, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “You had people at home looking for something to do, whether by themselves or with their kids. That led to a huge demand for plants.”
On the other hand, less than half of the respondents said they didn’t plan to garden in the future. Still, one out of 10 said they began gardening in 2020 and planned to keep it going, including 11% of Gen Xers and 13% of millennials and younger.
“We saw a lot of younger consumers come into the market because of the pandemic and because they were having to stay home,” Campbell said. “Plants have been shown to help with a lot of different things related to people’s psyche. Gardening not only gave people something to do, but it also gave them a little bit more happiness.”
In contrast, other respondents cited food as their reason for picking up gardening.
Around 14% of participants said they planned to continue gardening in the future due to the threat of food shortage. Supply chain issues and worker shortages presently cause these problems, and many worry that grocery shelves may not return to how they were before the pandemic.
In general, the cost of food is going up, partly due to inflation. However, fertilizers and plants aren’t exempt from inflation, and their prices are rising as well.
“Plants are not really a necessity, but if I’m thinking about building a bunker in the backyard, I’m buying seeds,” Campbell said. “If I go and buy a tomato plant, I have to keep it alive. If I have a seed, I just leave it in the bag until I need it.”
The study was co-authored by David San Fratello, a master’s of agribusiness graduate from the University of Georgia; William Secor, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; and Julie Campbell, assistant research scientist in the Department of Horticulture. It was published by the American Society for Horticultural Science.
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