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Everyone keeps talking about Victory Gardens, but how do you get started? Even if you have never had a garden before that’s alright, Appalachian Sustainable Development has your back, we are creating this blog series to walk you through your Victory Garden step by step. In our first Victory Gardening blog (featured in the Bristol Herald Courier), we convinced you to join the Victory Garden phenomenon and now you are ready to get started.

So let’s start with step 1: seeds! Nature’s tiny bundles of joy that start out tiny and grow up to be nutritious veggies to feed our families. You might also like to start with baby transplants for those varieties that are more challenging to grow from seed. These baby veggies are called plant starts because you have a little head start on the growing season. Ok, but how can you get plant starts and seeds? 

Did you know you can use SNAP/ EBT to purchase seeds and plants for your garden?! For instance, the fruit trees and blueberry bushes on the Food City sidewalk are absolutely allowed to be purchased with food stamps and are a worthwhile long-term investment. Vegetable transplants and seeds are eligible purchases on your food stamp account, but not all stores that sell plants have the ability to accept a SNAP card.

SNAP/ EBT is only accepted at places that sell food, this is why you may use your SNAP at Walmart which sells food AND seeds but you cannot use it at Lowes, which does not sell food products, but does sell seeds. The rules around farmer’s markets vary by location, most farmer’s markets and CSAs accept SNAP/EBT funds and offer a 50% discount on SNAP purchases. So when you venture out on a supply run, be strategic and use your SNAP benefit to make an investment for a longer-term food supply. 

The chart below is a list of local retailers and national chain stores in the area for where to stock up on supplies for your victory garden and if you can use SNAP there. This list is not exhaustive of the options available in the region, rather these are a few of the businesses which might still be considered essential and still operational. To see a more comprehensive selection, go check out ASD’s Local Food Guide, available for download here:

Dollar GeneralLimited selectionYes No Yes 
Food CityNo Dry beans Fruit trees Yes 
Wal-MartYes Yes Yes Yes
Lowe’sYes Yes Yes No
Home DepotYes Yes Yes No 
JR’s ProduceNo Yes Limited selectionYes 
Local farm CSAsNo No VariesVaries 
Southern StatesYes Yes Yes No 
Farm BureauYes Yes Yes No 
Farmer’s MarketsNo No Yes At 50% off
Tractor SupplyYes Yes Yes No 
Wolf Farm Natural ElementsYes Yes Yes No 
Russell County Co-opYesYesYes No
Big MYes  Yes Yes No 
Indoor FarmsNoYes Yes No
Petals and LaceNo Yes Yes No 

Many local suppliers have garden necessities stocked up for now, but there are reports of shortages from many national seed suppliers so the stock may not last. Think creatively and consider joining a local farm CSA for plant starts, many farms offer transplants this time of year and look at the selection of dry beans in the supermarket. 

By now you know that during this crisis, it cannot be predicted which of these businesses will still be open at all or have shifted to online ordering with pick up and delivery options. Be sure to contact the business directly to make sure they can help before you make your plan. If you get your seeds and plants with SNAP, the tools will be your only out of pocket expense to get started on a path to food sovereignty.  For now, all you really need is soil and to keep the seedlings alive and happy by watering them, so get started with your seedlings today and tune in next week for a budget of helpful tools for your garden.

Della McGuire, Grant Writer
Appalachian Sustainable Development


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