SUNDRE - Area greenhouse operations have opened their doors for the season.
The provincial government recently announced that all agricultural businesses, including greenhouses and nurseries, are deemed essential services.
“We are delighted,” said Jan Lahring, who for going on 30 years has owned and managed the Bearberry Creek Greenhouses, Nursery and Water Gardens with her husband Heinjo.
Despite the late season snow, they opened on Friday, May 1.
“With the warmer weather, people are starting to call,” she added.
“I think this (pandemic) has been quite a shake up for everyone, and a lot of people have given a little more thought to producing a little food for themselves. We have a short season where we can feed ourselves out of the garden and maybe keep some stuff for the winter.”
• COVID-19 UPDATE: Follow our COVID-19 special section and interactive map for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.
The greenhouse generally opens at about this time of year, which can be early for the area, she said.
“But some people who have greenhouses are able to start up their tomatoes and things if they have heat and they get a bit of a head start.”
Mindful of federal and provincial health officials’ recommendations to mitigate the potential risk of exposure to COVID-19, she said the plan is to limit the number of people inside at any time.
With a fairly large space that includes two greenhouses as well as an outdoor portion, and since there typically are not too many people perusing plants at the same time, she said, “we’re hoping at this point not to need to make appointments.”
Booking appointments can be challenging in part because it’s impossible to know how long customers will be shopping for. So for the time being, they’ll follow official guidelines, she said.
“If there are more than 15 people on site at a time, they’ll pretty much have to wait until someone comes out,” she said.
“We’re going to have different tables and shelf areas where people can put their plants as they gather them. They’re all stations that are far enough apart,” she said.
Sundre Garden Centre opened May 1.
Rae Buchan, runs the greenhouse with help from two of her daughters, Cheri Funke and Lori Buchan.
“We’ll be open for soil and seeds,” said Buchan, adding plants are expected to start arriving early last week.
The garden centre is opening at essentially the same time of year as usual, she said. The only difference at this point will be adhering to official health and safety guidelines.
“We’ve got to limit how many people we let in at a time,” she said, adding it comes down to how much space is available inside at any given moment. Anyone who shows up when it’s busy will be asked to wait outside, she said.
During the challenging circumstances people face as a result of the pandemic, she said gardening could provide an opportunity to keep busy.
“People are going to want to grow their gardens,” she said, adding herbs and tomatoes seem to be among the favourites.
Locally cultivating more food that does not have to be trucked in from thousands of miles away will be beneficial not just in playing a role to alleviate stress on struggling supply chains, but also in the freshness factor, she said.
“It always tastes better when it’s grown by yourself!”