“I don’t think we’ve ever had this few plants left after a sale,” said Emily Roberson, outreach and development coordinator for Moab’s Youth Garden Project, “and the sale isn’t even really over yet!”

Each year, the Youth Garden Project holds a plant sale in the spring to raise funds for the nonprofit’s programming. In late winter, YGP farmers plant seeds to grow in the organization’s greenhouse, hardening off many of the small plants a few weeks before the sale. Locally grown tomato, pepper, herbs and other fruit and vegetable starts are all sold to support YGP’s mission to provide educational programs on their 1.5-acre plot of land next to Grand County High School.

However, this March, staff at YGP realized that this year’s sale would have to be drastically different, Roberson said.

As concerns rose about the spread of COVID-19 around the world, it was clear that the normal system where people came in person to the garden grounds to browse and select their plants just wouldn’t work.

“We were just a month out and we knew we had to figure out what another way was going to look like,” said Roberson. The staff decided to move the sale online and offer optional delivery of plants to Moab and Castle Valley residents. With little time, they learned quickly.

“It was definitely a lot more work to do it this way since we had to figure it all out,” said Roberson. “Nara Bopp helped us with setting up our online shop and the whole team had to come together to quickly put orders together.”

The effort paid off when the online sale went live at 9 a.m. on April 20.

“We received 252 orders on the first day,” said Roberson, with 137 of those orders coming within the first hour.

“We definitely reached our fundraising goal,” she said.

Roberson said that the first few days of the sale were hectic for staff and reported that some popular plants sold out “almost immediately.”

“There are still some plants left,” Roberson noted. As of April 28, latecomers could order kale, ancho and chimayo peppers and a few assorted vegetable starts online at www.youthgardenproject.org

The plant delivery service proved popular as well, with 20 deliveries going out the first day. Purchasers also have the option of picking up their orders at the garden.

“We are ecstatic that people were cool with a pivot to this new system,” said Roberson. “There have been so many encouraging messages from people who were grateful that we were able to still put on the sale.”

“I'm really happy that we were able to pull it off this way,” Roberson commented. “After all, this is the year that everyone seems to be saying ‘I’m going to start a garden!’”

Roberson says that the garden is staying busy.

“We’re still here and still have our fully functioning garden to take care of!” she said.

While there are currently no volunteers to respect physical distancing recommendations, YGP staff and interns are growing food for their community-supported agriculture subscribers, continuing to teach a class for Grand County High School students online and planning to restart their primary youth programming again “when it is safe to do so.”

Roberson said that residents curious about what is happening at the garden or curious about starting their own garden should follow the nonprofit on social media.

“We’re going to start filming short videos to go online, and that’s the best place to get updates on our programming as well,” she said.

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