CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — It’s no secret that home gardening boomed once the pandemic hit.
Nurseries and garden stores around the country and here in metro Detroit saw supply shortages as seeds and equipment flew off the shelves.
In a report published this year, researchers from the University of California Davis found that during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, people were gardening for a variety of reasons, including having more free time and wanting to connect with nature.
The survey, which was conducted during the summer of 2020, also reported that 81 percent of respondents had concerns about food access, particularly with exposure to the virus while obtaining food, and selection and quantities at the store.
Now, more than two years into the pandemic, inflation is higher than many people have seen in their lifetimes. One of the areas we’re feeling that most? Food.
James Homiak grew up gardening with his family. He recently started a new, small plot at his home in Chesterfield Township.
Homiak was driven to gardening initially not for the financial savings, but for the difference in produce quality and taste.
“It’s not the same. To have real produce and to have that real tomato, it’s a big taste difference,” he said, overlooking rows of heirlooms, romas, and beefsteaks.
When it comes to his grocery bill, “I mean, it’s all expensive at the stores nowadays,” Homiak told Action News.
“A tomato plant is like $2. So, in the long run it’s a huge savings,” he said.
Homiak estimates he spent between $60-$80 upfront to get his latest garden started.
Back in 2009, the National Gardening Association published a report that showed a $70 initial investment in a home garden can yield on average, a $600 return on investment.
Of course how much money you actually save on a home garden depends on several variables; like the type of crops you’re growing, soil you’re using, equipment you already have, and how large of a plot you’re gardening.
Dave Roberts is the community garden manager for Midtown Detroit, Inc. He too said gardening interest soared early on in the pandemic, and for a variety of reasons ranging from more free time, to anxiety relief and community building.
Fresh food access he said, was also a big driver.
“We’ve always had a lot of people, and a waiting list to get in, but 2020 it really exploded,” he said, speaking about the North Cass Community Garden in Midtown.
The 98 plots are gardened by around 150 people. The current wait list there is two years.
“We get a lot of new gardeners. People who are just trying it out for the first time in their lives,” Roberts said.
He said a number of people do use the garden to supplement their groceries.
Roberts grows a variety of vegetables both to eat and to share.
“This feeds myself and my friends, and sometimes I’ll be giving away produce to people I don’t even know,” he said, inspecting freshly harvested lettuce heads.
The Channel 7 community garden isn’t new this year, but plots behind the station are also full, including with first time gardeners.
Homiak is also in the process of using a rain barrel to water his water his garden, which will save on his energy costs.
And canning, something he grew up going as a kid with his grandmother, will soon make a comeback at his home. He found three gallon crocks to start pickling on Facebook Marketplace, but he’s still searching for more two-part canning lids, which remain in short supply due to a surge in demand that started in 2020.
“Kind of like a family activity I’m hoping, and other than that it’s cost savings and again, it’s knowing what you’re eating,” he said of his canning venture.
Newell Brands is now the exclusive provider of Ball home canning products. Ball’s website states:
“We have increased production, safely implemented additional shifts at our manufacturing facilities, streamlined production to prioritize and maximize output of top-selling canning jars and lids, eliminated scheduled off-season production reduction, and expanded our pack-out locations to replenish stock as quickly as possible. As a result of these efforts to maximize supply, mitigate consumer disruption, and meet growing consumer demand, we can confirm that we are continuously working to supply all customers in time for canning season.”
Action News has reached out to both Newell and Ball for an update on its production and supply of canning lids.
Click here to learn more about the North Cass Community Garden.
Interested in trying gardening? Click here for tips on how to get started.