Seed company sprouts new business during COVID-19 outbreak

It's business not exactly as usual for Halifax Seed Company.

The company has been in operation in Halifax since 1866, but the COVID-19 virus has brought on a crisis like no other.

"This would be the time of year where we would be ramping up from a seed-starting perspective, getting our garden centre going," Emily Tregunno, Halifax Seed's general manager, said from the backyard of her home in Bedford. That's where she's working.

"We're still planning those things, but we're working quickly at how we can sell differently — what are the options available to us in order to get product to our customers safely and at the same time do it safely for our employees."

Paul Palmeter/CBC

The retail store, normally busy this time of year, is closed due to concerns about the virus. But online orders have been coming in at a rapid pace and are keeping employees busy.

With all orders prepaid, there is no contact between staff and customers as they pull in with their vehicles and have their purchases placed in the back.

The company is being careful to stay within the guidelines of physical distancing and having no more than five employees working at the same time.

"It's literally just one day at a time and sometimes it's hour by hour as things change," said Tregunno. "The mental health of our staff is incredibly important and there are a lot of balls being juggled in the air right now."

The company has not had to lay off any employees and are working to reduce risks they may face while filling orders.

Paul Palmeter/CBC

Sales and management teams are working remotely, helping with social distancing.

The company supplies many commercial greenhouse operators with seed and so far this spring they are selling more small greenhouse kits to residents who are now more concerned about food safety.

"People are looking for fresh things they can do and they are also looking for something to do at home that's inexpensive," said Tregunno. "We want to make sure that anyone who wants to grow their own vegetables is capable of doing so."