Governor Orders Closure Of Gardening Centers At Large Stores During Lockdown
CORRECTION: Our information source, Michigan Public Radio, claimed that there was a ban on the sale of fruit and vegetable plants. They have since issued a correction that retail outlets are interpreting her order to be a ban on the sale of those products. Retailers are interpreting the order to close gardening centers to include restrictions on the sale of seeds, and have stopped selling seeds. We have updated the article to reflect this is the interpretation of retailers.
Lansing, MI – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer set off another firestorm of criticism after she extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 1, and required stores larger than 50,000 square feet must close their gardening centers. Retailers are interpreting the order to restrict sales of plant and seed sales as well.
Whitmer issued the order on April 9 and immediately faced backlash from thousands of garden centers and the gardeners who use them, Michigan Public Radio reported.
According to Michigan Public Radio, retailers interpret the order to mean that residents may only purchase groceries and fuel and garden centers have been ordered to close temporarily and farmers markets must stop selling seedlings.
“Currently there is a ban on all plant sales at the market. So, that is a big portion of our May market and so we might have to limit particular vendors at that time,” a spokesman for Grand Rapids’ Fulton Street Market told Michigan Public Radio.
Garden centers have said the order makes no sense because they can do contactless sales and growing vegetables at home actually reduces a person’s exposure.
“[I] just want us to be able to do curbside pickup and help our local customers to be able to do their own gardening and put the money back in the local economy,” garden center employee Callie Gafner told Michigan Public Radio.
“If you’re growing them yourself, you're reducing the contact between people because you're not going anywhere,” Gafner added. “You're going out in your own garden and picking them up rather than going into the store and coming into contact with how many people.”
Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski has sent a letter to the governor “ask for a reconsideration of retail garden centers to be included as essential infrastructure workers.”
Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said Whitmer’s latest order was the "wrong call" and said it was "bad for Michigan families," WZZM reported.
"Instead of essential vs non-essential, we should think safe vs unsafe," Chatfield tweeted, and specifically listed lawn care, construction, motorized boating, realtors, and buying seeds and gardening supplies.
"All these are safe. But the Governor says no. We can ensure safety & be reasonable. Let’s do both," Chatfield posted, according to WZZM.
GOP Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey was also very critical of Whitmer’s decision, WZZM reported.
“The Senate Republicans believe a strategic application of 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' is appropriate going forward,” Shirkey said in a statement. “Individuals living in regions of the state that are experiencing little to no growth in infection rates should be able to return to their jobs to support their families if proper safety protocols are put in place.”
U.S. Representative Josh Amash (I-Michigan) called on Whitmer to use better judgement, WZZM reported.
“The governor needs to allow communities and businesses to establish safety procedures based on actual conditions. Not every place has the same risks, and it’s not good governance, good health science, or good economics to pretend they do,” Amash tweeted on Saturday.
Whitmer responded to the criticism on Saturday but didn’t back down, WZZM reported.
"We are living in a difficult time, & the unknown is scary,” Whitmer tweeted. ”But I do know that we must remain steady. We can’t allow fear or panic to guide us. The lives of Michiganders are at stake. We must stay the course to save lives.”
"It's important to remember that we are all in this together,” the governor continued. “That creating all sorts of exceptions for what is going to last for three more weeks - is what this stay at home order is. Every exception we make makes it porous and less likely to be successful.”
"We know that these tactics work,” she added, according to WZZM.
Michigan has 24,638 positive cases of coronavirus as of Monday, with 1,487 fatalities, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.
The state is third in the country behind New York and New Jersey for number of coronavirus cases; however, 78 percent of Michigan’s cases are restricted to a three-county region around Detroit, WZZM reported.