Kate Spirgen

This year has seen changes we wouldn’t expect to see in a lifetime. It seems the entire industry (along with the rest of the world) has been turned on its head, and after months of changing orders, shifting demands and even panic in some cases, I think it’s safe to say that everyone is sick of COVID.

Dr. Aisha Ahmad, an associate professor at the University of Toronto, recently put out some words of wisdom that I took to heart: “The 6-month mark in any sustained crisis is always difficult. We have all adjusted to the ‘new normal,’ but might now feel like we’re running out of steam.”

And after an entire season of adapting to the “new normal,” it’s difficult to know what normal was, much less what it is anymore.

But, as Ahmad says, we should not lose heart. Instead, she says we’re going into our next adaptation phase. That’s true for our day-to-day life, but it’s true for the green industry, as well. As winter approaches and we look forward to next spring, it will be another few months of adapting to yet another phase of change.

How are things changing for you and your garden center? How are you going to adapt to the new normal? The new customers and the steadfast customers shopping in new ways? As much as we might wish things would go back to the way they were, new ways of thinking about shopping are here to stay. And new opportunities are ripe for the picking.

It’s especially difficult to manage all of this in a time when there’s so much opportunity, yet also so many challenges in the industry. And in times of turbulence and change, we look to what’s familiar and what’s comforting.

We look to what we can grow and nurture. We look to what we can actually control in times of chaos. Your customers are looking for that, too. They’re looking to you to provide that houseplant they can care for in the winter months. They’re working from home and hoping to make their makeshift home office a little cheerier.

That’s the beauty of this industry. It provides people with the plants that make them happy. When I talk to growers, they always say that the greatest joy they get is from growing something that people can enjoy.

From what I’ve been hearing from friends in retail, garden centers, restaurants and otherwise, who are feeling the weight of the “new normal,” to put it bluntly, things are not alright. And that’s OK, for now.

But plants will always make people happy. And that’s a great “new normal” for the industry.

Kate Spirgen