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2020 All Over Again?

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    As I sit in front of my computer, attempting to plan for our 2021 season, I am lost. What will 2021 bring? 

A funky blue tomato

     2020 brought us record business levels due to folks being stuck at home and feeling insecure about the future. They all decided to plant gardens - big ones!  We received more orders than we could handle, and had to shut our website down for many hours out of every day in an attempt to slow things down. Most of our customers were actually new to us, and many of them were new gardeners. They didn't order the same types of varieties that our customers usually do. They wanted to grow veggies that looked like what they were used to buying in the store. So, we had a terrific run on red tomatoes, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, paste tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, green cucumbers, green zucchini, and jalapenos. Our other funkier and different colored varieties that usually make up the backbone of our sales did not sell well at all. We were caught completely unprepared. We got through it, but it wasn't pretty. You can't triple your inventory of plants quickly. They take from 6 to 12 weeks to grow, and there is no way around that.

Lots of funkiness here!

     So, what should I plan for 2021? I have ordered another greenhouse that we will be putting up over the winter. A new shed will be built to make pulling orders run more smoothly. I will hire more people.These things are easy to figure out. What is vexing me is trying to figure out how much of what to grow. Will the new gardeners be back, and want the same types of plants? Will they be ready to try new things? What the heck should I grow?!

     Within the horticultural industry, there are hints. Seed supplies are low, and selling at a much quicker pace than usual - even now in October, when no one is planting. Gardeners who waited to order last spring got burned by an industry that could not keep up with the insane amount of increased demand. So, they are ordering earlier. Canning jars cannot be found to buy. To me, this means that folks are still insecure. And, of course, covid rates are still going up. And, it is an election year. You would not think that this would affect the gardening industry, but it does. If a Democrat wins the Presidency, Republicans get insecure and plant gardens. If a Republican wins, Democrats start prepping. It's kind of funny, really. The irony in all of this is that our country has not actually experienced any produce shortages in the 22 years that I have been selling plants. We were lacking paper and canned and dry and frozen goods in the stores last spring, but the produce departments were well stocked through out. And yet, when folks are insecure about the future, they plant gardens.

Funky dunky cucumber

     I guess we need to just grow lots and lots of everything, which is easier said than done! But, it is what we must attempt. Because I need to concentrate on producing so much more, I will be cutting back on introducing funky new varieties, and will be adding just a few more standard types of varieties. I will also be reintroducing some standard varieties, like Amish Paste and Arkansas Traveler tomatoes, that I had dropped in favor of more funky things. Can you tell I love the funky? But, I also love the fact that so many people are getting into gardening, and I want to supply them with what they want and need to be successful. So, those of you who have loved our funky new varieties every year - please bear with us through this tumultuous time. 

     I am also working like crazy to get our website ready to start accepting orders in early December (a month earlier than usual), so that the Nervous Nellies can get their orders in early. 

     Having more business than you can handle is considered a nice problem to have, and I am grateful. But, I really wish that I had a crystal ball.

What's this, a funky hot pepper??