Greenhouse Canada

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Local flowers and businesses lift spirits amid pandemic

March 16, 2020  By Greta Chiu

Debbie Foisy of Deb's Greenhouses is leveraging her greenhouse and garden centre to lift consumer spirits. Photo Credit: Deb's Greenhouses

As consumer demand for health and sanitation products continues to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, retail priorities are being shifted away from what’s regarded as non-essential items, impacting local sectors like floriculture. If ornamentals are considered a low priority item at retail, then floriculture farms may see a substantial impact to their sector as a whole.

“We need to remind consumers that these are Canadian businesses and families they’re supporting when they buy flowers,” says Andrew Morse, executive director of Flowers Canada Growers. “Buying flowers is something positive that you can do for your mental health at this difficult time.”

Seeing the unease in her community over COVID-19, Debbie Foisy, owner of Deb’s Greenhouses in Sturgeon County, Alta., has been looking for ways to ease the panic and help families cope with closed schools and daycares.


As her garden centre doesn’t officially open until the end of April, Foisy has committed to creating one Facebook Live video per day, teaching her audience about food growing and other fun projects that can be done in the comforts of their own home. She’s also looking to host one-on-one workshops, as long as they’re allowed.

“I’m offering my space up for private bookings, and thus far, it’s getting amazing response on social media,” says Foisy. “Individuals or families can book to have the greenhouse to themselves to wander and enjoy. This is not a ploy for sales, this is a happy place and we can share it. Greenhouses need to be the hope. Families will have cooped up feelings within days and our space might provide relief.”

Foisy also has an online store and is open to booking shopping appointments limited to a certain number of people. “We will watch and follow Alberta Health Services’ recommendations,” she says. “I am not in panic mode. I am ready to take action as needed.”

Her business’ policy allows staff to trade shifts and to bring their children to work when needed. With an immunocompromised staff member on their team, Foisy says they already have extra protocols in place to maintain sanitary conditions.

As for sales, Foisy isn’t worried. “If there are retail restrictions, then we will adapt,” she says, noting that there’s still time for things to calm down before they open for the season. For the moment, she’s focused on how horticulture can improve the lives of families and help ease their burdens. She’s started the hashtag #GreenhousesAreGood, and encourages other garden centres to use it as well. “Our businesses have always provided hope and we will continue in the sincerest way possible.”

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