WHEN THE REALITY OF THE pandemic hit, nearly a year ago, something unexpected happened: Americans began gardening. Alarmed by a possible breakdown in food supply chains, and inspired by wartime Victory Gardens and lockdown boredom, people across the country who never grew food before developed green thumbs.
For many pandemic gardeners—including me—the experience was a revelation. I watched as, on the windowsill of my apartment, roots unfolded, leaves unfurled, and small fruits swelled into ripeness. It was a persistent beam of light in the face of unceasing uncertainty. Petra Page-Mann, cofounder of Fruition Seeds, considers the impulse to cultivate a fundamental part of human history. It’s a “latent 10,000-year relationship with plants, that’s always been there in their blood,” she says when I bring up the latest crop of pandemic gardeners.
One unintended result of this renewed interest in gardening, though, was a mad dash to buy seeds. Last year, when Gastro Obscura published its first guide to unique, small seed companies, many larger companies had stopped taking orders due to overwhelming demand. Since March 2020, “we have been selling like crazy,” says Erika Wilkins, owner of the seed and home goods company Artie’s Home. This year, luckily, seed companies are more prepared.
For the seasoned gardener or those embarking on their first growing season, these eight companies offer locally adapted and culturally specific seeds to add some variety to your plots. Most of these growers are committed to seed saving as a community practice—so as this growing season progresses, pass on the love by sharing your seeds.