The unexpected hot trend of the season? Planting victory gardens

How a 100-year-old hobby is catching on

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Photo by Benjamin Combs on Unsplash

Amidst the pandemic, there’s been a quiet trend that’s seeping into the minds of many Americans.

It’s something that you won’t see on social media (yet).

Instead, it’s something that you only see when you take walks around residential neighborhoods.

There are bags of soil on every block, with some tomato cages or potted plants for good measure.

There are queues at stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, even as other stores begin to open.

Online home and garden pages have seen a 36% increase in page views in the past two months.

People are starting to garden like nothing else, but it’s a little different this year: instead of flowers, it’s vegetables.

People are bringing victory gardens back.

“Victory Gardens” are a phenomenon that sprung up during the World Wars. During those times, food rationing was part of those efforts, which motivated Americans to grow their fruits and vegetables at the time.

However, the term began to be applied outside of the perspective of food rationing with its’ resurgence during the 2008 recession.

Many Americans planted them as a way to ensure their food security, but also to understand where their produce came from.

Which is something that more people are paying attention to, especially with the Pandemic’s disruption of the supply chain?

Where do you get your food from?

For most people, we buy our food through supermarkets, grocery stores, or big-box retailers.

And as a result, many of us witnessed shortages at the store for the first time. Far beyond just toilet paper and hand sanitizer, we saw shortages of many different items: meat, canned goods, pasta/rice, and a lot of frozen goods.

While you may not have realized it, you also got a glance at Just-In-Time manufacturing and the impact that can have on the supply chain if it is disrupted.

Because of this, consumers have changed their behavior as a result of the pandemic. In addition to taking fewer trips to the grocery store, 46% of people are now buying in bulk.

As a result, 88% are unable to find certain items they normally buy.

And for those items they can find, 48% of them are paying higher prices.

Which can be tough on households, especially if one or more of the earners has lost their job.

So it’s not surprising that suddenly people are paying attention to where their groceries are coming from, and if they can perhaps reduce costs or find alternatives if they cannot find certain things. Especially if the alternative is making another trip to the grocery store.

But while certain things may be outside of the capabilities of the average homeowner(such as raising cattle), a garden is easy enough to start.

Not to mention, it can be therapeutic.

Certain at-risk populations, such as older adults, have been stuck at home for several months: when a trip to anywhere involves risk, some people would rather avoid it.

Still, others are going through tough times, having lost their jobs.

In these times, how do you deal with the stress and anxiety of staying at home? How do you remain physically and mentally fit when your normal habits (like taking a walk) could be limited?

For many people, they’re soaking up the sunlight and planting to relieve stress.

Gardening has been found to reduce stress-related cortisols according to multiple studies.

Horticulture therapy has also been found to increase happiness among nursing residents.

There are multiple reasons why this has been the case. Working with soil and just being around plants is thought to trigger the release of serotonin. Besides, gardening has to be done slowly and deliberately: you must slow down and examine the plants in detail to figure out what they need.

But if it’s done right, then you can grow all sorts of different things.

For many, that’s what they’re seeking in these trying times: a way to soak up the sun, but also slow down, relax, and do something productive. When the world is filled with uncertainty and anxiety, this is a small escape that can be productive.

And it occupies a lot of time.

According to Pam Bennett, Ohio state master gardener volunteer program director, “The №1 reason in my mind is, everybody is at home right now. What can we do?”

For many people, this is going on the 2nd month (or longer) of lockdown.

Netflix queues have been emptied, games have been beaten, social media has become boring, and people are starting to get restless.

People have tackled their list of recreational things they’d do “If only they had time”, and now people are starting to seek out opportunities for improvement.

For many, that comes in the form of home improvement. Planting a garden is one of those activities that many people see the benefit of, but just never thought they would have time to do.

And given how easy and cheap it can be (to start, at least), it’s little surprise that many people are turning to it to occupy their day.

While it does seem like for many people, things are starting to head back towards normal, we don’t know for sure: this may just be the ultimate gaslighting that everyone wants to pretend is normal.

It’s unknown if there will be a second wave of infections, and even if there isn’t, there still may be disruptions in the supply chain. As a result, many people may still invest in their gardens as a way to ward off uncertainty.

While it won’t replace the supermarket for many people, patches of fruits and vegetables are symbols of both fear and hope.

Written by

Healthcare-focused UX designer and researcher. Creator of two online courses on design communication and UX research planning:

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