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Apr. 3, 2020 | Friday
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COVID-19: NOTL greenhouses devastated by mass Easter flower cancellations
Maureen and Byron Dodd and kids Logan and Maryna sell flowers in Virgil on Saturday. (Richard Harley/Niagara Now)

After mass cancellations for Easter flowers, two Niagara-on-the-Lake greenhouses were busy this weekend doing their best to offset their losses.

Jennifer Thwaites of Thwaites Farms was outside the arena in Virgil selling hydrangeas for European Planters.

She said there was a good number of people out buying flowers.

“It's been good, considering the circumstances. (We’re) definitely getting some decent waves of people in,” Thwaites said.

“I’m set up here with Dodd's Greenhouses as well. (There’s been) lots of support from the community, which is so nice.”

Maureen Dodd, of Dodd’s Greenhouses, said there was quite a bit of traffic, given that there was little promotion about the sale.

The greenhouses grow flowers to typically start shipping in mid-March, leading up to Easter, she said.

“We’re usually sold out by the second week of April, but this year that’s not likely to happen,” Dodd said.

There are about 20,000 pots of pansies and she expects only half will sell, if she’s lucky.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on farmers “all across the board,” she said.

“For the whole industry, I mean many industries, but definitely the growing industry,” she said.

Jim Van der Zalm, of European Planters, called The Lake Report Friday, to talk about the effect the pandemic is having on business.

“We’re in the greenhouse industry and we’re in an even worse predicament at the moment (than other farmers),” he said. “We have all our Easter flowers ready to be shipped, and they were all presold, and now they’re all cancelled.”

“It’s not just myself, it’s other greenhouse growers also, who do grow an Easter crop, and everybody is sitting at no orders anymore, or pretty low, or we’re being told like, ‘Hold on, hold on. We don’t know yet. We might need them next week.’”

He said the flowers are ready to be shipped, so Thwaites, who is his daughter, and her siblings have been doing their best to get them sold.

“But I mean, you got 15-something thousand pots there. The local people will not be able to consume (that amount). And this is just our business,” he said.

He said typically 75 per cent of their product goes in boxes to the United States and the other 25 per cent is sold through local wholesalers up to Toronto and London.

Van der Zalm said typically the greenhouses are “dead against” selling locally and competing with local flower shops.

“I mean it hurts our local flower shops … but now it’s a situation where it’s survival,” he said.

Through the years he’s only sold to local shops instead of big box stores, he said.

Dodd said it’s was nice to see the support from people in town.

“The local community support is amazing. We’re all doing the best we can, but to help your local businesses is always important for the community, definitely.”

She said people are stopping in to brighten up their day and support local growers.

Mother and daughter Tricia and Meladori Weaver said they stopped in after driving by and seeing the stands open.

“The flowers are making us smile with the sunshine, and getting through this tough time of isolation and the virus going around. We’re brightening up the house,” Tricia said.

“(We’re out) just to support the local growers,” added Meladori.

Anyone wishing to purchase flowers from European Planters can give Trevor van der Zalm a call at 289-687-0188. For Dodd's flowers, call 905-468-5200.

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