By Katie Preece
As the country continues to lock down over the coronavirus, the vast majority of individual states are under some kind of executive order to “shelter in place.”
According to a recent poll from Morning Consult and Politico, 74 percent of registered voters either somewhat or strongly support a national quarantine to fight the spread of coronavirus.
Despite that, many Americans are still uneasy about the situation. Nearly 20 percent were somewhat or strongly opposed to such a quarantine according to a report from The Hill, and 34 percent only “somewhat support” the idea.
In Michigan, which has been one of the states hardest hit by the virus (mostly Detroit), quarantine edicts from Governor Gretchen Whitmer have caused a growing backlash across the state. Michiganders have been especially vocal in opposing a handful of restrictions.
Michigan Closes Down Gardening Centers and Plant Nurseries Amid Pandemic
COVID-19, the viral pandemic sweeping the globe, causes numerous flu-like symptoms, but is considered a respiratory illness that causes severe damage and fluid buildup in the lungs.
As Michiganders have begun spending a majority of their time at home, air quality has become more important than ever before. Many residents have been alarmed at a new section of Whitmer’s executive order that includes the closing of garden centers, plant nurseries and more.
“To regulate entry, stores must establish lines with markings for patrons to enable them to stand at least six feet apart from one another while waiting,” the controversial order reads, which limits the number of people that can enter each store.
“Large stores must also close areas of the store that are dedicated to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint.”
This comes as devastating news to those planning to stay busy with gardening and home improvement projects while confined to their homes.
When you tell a group of mitten hippies they can’t buy gardening supplies, you get an angry mob. This is spring time in Michigan. If you plant it, it will grow.
Small Garden Shops remain open
But before you jump to conclusions, take it for what it’s worth. These restrictions do not include small specialty gardening shops. They need your support right now more than ever.
I spoke with a local hydroponics shop owner in the downriver area, near Detroit, Michigan who hopes for an increase in business as his big name competitors are forced to rope off their product.
He is hoping you don’t give up on the idea of your dream garden too easily. He reminds us, “April showers will bring May flowers.”
Michigan Farmers Fight Back, Demand Plants Be Named “Essential”
Do you consider houseplants and gardens to be essential, especially during a time of emergency?
We’re all familiar with the “victory gardens” that helped save lives during the first two World Wars, and it’s no secret that food security and a healthy environment with healthy oxygen is important during challenging times, whether during a war or a pandemic.
In order to “fight for the right” to garden, the Michigan Farm Bureau is pushing back, pleading for Whitmer to clarify the extension to deem the sale of retail plants as essential infrastructure, especially if retailers agree to offer curbside delivery for these items, as they do with groceries and other essential products.
“For many growers, if they’re not allowed to sell the plants already growing in greenhouses, it will mean a complete loss and an entire year without income for both the owners and their employees,” MFB’s horticulture specialist Audrey Sebolt said.
“We’re hopeful Governor Whitmer will take the lead from Ohio Governor DeWine, who on April 2 designated retail garden centers as essential infrastructure.”
Sebolt estimates the industry has $580 million-$700 million in retail sales on the line, should growers be prevented from selling.
Lawn Care Services, Motorized Boating Also Banned
Whitmer has also deemed lawn care services as non-essential, despite the fact that they can easily be completed while upholding “social distancing” guidelines of six feet apart and minimal if any human contact.
Michigan has become a political battleground during the coronavirus crisis, with Whitmer battling Trump over ventilators, cities challenging Whitmer’s authority, and many locals becoming vocal over what is being seen as unnecessary loss of their rights.
Michigan, which is known as the “Great Lakes State,” has also banned motorized boating, much to the chagrin of rights advocates.
Embattled Warren mayor Jim Fouts is also among those fighting Whitmer’s edicts, saying he won’t ticket those residents who hire lawn care services.
“I respectfully disagree with the interpretation that it’s not an essential service. I think it clearly is an essential service,” Fouts told WXYZ Action News. “I’ve received a number of calls from senior citizens, from people with special needs, they may be wheelchair-bound, a number of things — but they aren’t able to do their lawn.”
The Detroit suburb of Roseville’s Police Department issued a statement via Facebook, saying that they consider basic landscaping services as essential to sustaining sanitary conditions, as not tending to overgrowth could result in stormwater system issues or rodent infestations. Residents will be allowed to mow their own lawns or hire a service to do so, but those contractors hired must comply with the executive order and CDC guidelines.
Political leaders spar during coronavirus crisis
Now we have a situation where we are in a state of emergency and the President is feuding with the governor, and the governor is issuing orders that city officials are publically refusing to enforce because they disagree on what is essential and non essential business. It sends a very confusing and scary message to the citizens.
“Do as I say, and not as I do.”
Cannabis deemed “essential” in Michigan
Michigan is one of several states who have both recreational and a medical marijuana program in place. The cannabis industry was deemed an essential business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor even made emergency provisions in her executive order for employees of marijuana businesses to bring their children into establishments. We have no reason to believe she would outright prohibit sales that keep that supply chain going. From here, we will depend on each city’s interpretation and willingness to enforce her order.
Family-owned businesses are at grave risk of dying off.
While some states like Minnesota have made their lawn and garden centers “essential,” others like Pennsylvania, thanks to Governor Tom Wolf, and Michigan have not.
The orders have been handed down in the name of protecting people from the coronavirus, but is that really a smart idea considering the life-sustaining properties of plants? Many freedom and human rights activists are not happy.
“Many of our independent family-owned garden centers are now in danger of going out of business,” wrote business owner Gregg Robertson from the city of Hershey in an op-ed to Pennlive.com.
“The Governor’s COVID-19 shutdown order has closed all independent family-owned garden centers in Pennsylvania, including local businesses such as Stauffer’s of Kissel Hill in Hummelstown,” he wrote.
Think outside the box. Don’t let government control consume you.
Despite the executive orders that threaten our freedoms during this trying time, there are other ways to start your own garden. Try visiting hydroponic shops (in Michigan at least), regrowing root vegetable scraps, shopping online, or even trading and bartering with neighbors.
It might prove to be a little more difficult than you initially planned. But nothing worth having comes easy.
Don’t freak out. Get creative. After buying cloth pots and worm castings at the hydro shop recently, I went to Ace Hardware.
It’s a small store, and I was able to buy the vegetable seeds and peat moss that I needed.
Consumers may still be able to order supplies online for pickup and delivery from some retailers.
This year I won’t go to a big store and pick out a sturdy plant to harvest. This spring I will turn seeds into sprouts and sprouts into plants! I can and I will.