Deena Miller of Sweet Roots Farm and other local
farmers are growing more vegetable starts to meet
increased community demand for backyard gardens
in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Nevada County April 10, 2020 – With spring planting here, local farmers are rising to the call to meet a growing demand for veggie starts, keeping the patio nursery well-stocked at BriarPatch Food Co-op.

In recent weeks, nation-wide orders for vegetable seeds has spiked, overwhelming seed suppliers across North America as more and more home gardeners scramble to gain a sense of food security during the global coronavirus pandemic, according to Modern Farmer.

In response to that, BriarPatch has teamed up with local growers to supply a reliable source of locally grown vegetable, herb and flower starts for the home garden.

“We have a nice selection of starts outside and are continuing to bring in a good variety from four different growers, multiple days a week,” said BriarPatch Manager David Benson. Look for starts from local growers Sweet Roots Farm, Starbright Acres Family Farm and Fresh Starts Organic Farm and Grizzly Hill Organic Farm and Nursery.

“We feel really grateful that we can help”

Sweet Roots Farm delivers to the Co-op every Tuesday morning.

“We can feel a strong increase in desire from family, friends and our community for plant starts to create edible, medicinal and flower gardens. We typically increase our sowing this time of year anticipating the spring when people are getting their gardens started, but after the shelter in place order we doubled our planned sowing and we will continue to increase the number of flats until we run out of seed or supplies,” said Deena Miller who operates her three-acre family farm with husband, Robbie.

Starts coming from Sweet Roots Farm in 2020 include brassicas such as broccoli and kale, edible flowers, basil, beans, beets, celery, chard, culinary and medicinal herbs, corn, leeks, lettuces and salad mix, peas, artichokes, eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, muskmelons, pumpkins, summer squash and winter squash. The farm also regularly brings bouquets of cut flowers.

“For food security, education for kids or a calm and positive practice while staying home, gardening has many physical and psychological benefits. We feel really grateful that we can help people create gardens right now,” said Miller.

Miller’s family has been trading what they grow for eggs, meat, veggies and other goods with their farmer friends and feel fortunate to live in a community of diverse small farms. She says many local farms are seeing an uptick in their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscriptions. She doesn’t believe local farms that grow or raise food will be threatened by COVID-19, but is concerned what this could mean for her cut flower business that is largely dependent on the wedding industry.

For those hesitant about shopping, Sweet Roots Farm will offer no-contact plant porch drops through their website, with a one-flat minimum. This service will be available to people living within five miles of Grass Valley and Nevada City. The farm is also working on a donation program for folks who want to buy a flat of garden starts at a discounted rate for someone who can’t afford it.

Starbright Acres Family Farm is also changing the way they do business.

Farmer from Starbright Acres are sanitizing their farm store daily, ensuring all employees wash hands regularly and they only go out for essential business. They are now offering a CSA and nursery start sales from their website.

Farmers Aleta and Ken Barrett are watching the pandemic carefully, especially after Saturday, when the organizers of the Nevada City Farmers Market decided it was best not to open.

“Yes, we are very concerned with the potential reduction of farmers market sales. We are especially concerned about the impact on restaurants reducing the quantity of orders or closing all together,” said Aleta Barrett.

At the BriarPatch patio nursery, look for gardening starts like tomatoes and cool season veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, sugar snap peas, kale, beets and kohlrabi. Later in the season, look for warmer season varietals like eggplant, sweet peppers, hot peppers, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, plus some herbs and flowers. In the store’s produce department, rutabaga and purple daikon can be found and later there will be garlic scapes, green garlic, bunched radishes, cucumber, peppers and more.

Supporting local farmers is important right now.

Do so by shopping at the Co-op, sign up for a CSA veggie box or ‘friend of the farm’ card, become a member of a flower or herd share, buy plant starts from local farmers and order take out from restaurants who buy from local farms.

“This is a very different reality than just a few weeks ago. Kindness and patience are what will carry us all through. Get outside and stick your hands in the earth if you can. We farmers are blessed to be farming at this time and we will do our very best to grow and provide for this wonderful community we love,” said Barrett.

Check out Sierra Harvest’s new resource page for more ideas:

Learn more: Sweet Roots Farm