In the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people expressed food security concerns and WVU Extension experienced an unprecedented increase in clients interested in growing a garden, canning and other topics related to the family food supply. While many retail stores reported a dramatic drop in revenue in the spring of 2020, lawn and garden stores as a general category reported an 8.6% increase in 2020 compared to 2019 as reported in the Census Bureau Monthly Retail Trade Survey. Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Fairfield, Maine, saw a 270% jump in orders the week of March 16, after U.S. President Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus. In West Virginia, over 25,000 people requested free seeds through the Grow This! program. Furloughed and newly working-from-home individuals were interested in gardening as a relaxing hobby to occupy their time as well as a way to increase local food production.
With the increase of new gardeners, WVU Extension Agents organized the Beginner Gardening series to provide relevant, scientifically based information through a series of factsheets and videos tailored to those that are new to gardening or are interested in expanding their gardening skills to a new area. Over 30 publications were made available online and shared through social media and the catalog is expanding. Topics include everything from variety selection to soil testing and season extension. A Gardening with WVU Extension Service Facebook has been developed with bi-weekly educational posts. Members can ask questions and receive a response from an Extension Expert.