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Don’t Worry, Michigan: You Can Still Garden During The Pandemic

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Updated

Due to the new coronavirus and the unprecedented time that we’ve all found ourselves in, many non-essential places of business are closing for the time being while the nation works to slow the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the curve. 

Recently, an extended "stay at home" order was put in place by Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, which also bans keeping garden sections of stores open for businesses with more than 50,000 square feet (think Walmart or Home Depot). Many Michigan residents have been confused by the order, and instead interpreted it as a banning on gardening all together. 

This, however, is not true. 

Gardening is still permitted in Michigan.

When Gov. Whitmer put this new order in place, many nurseries and garden centers interpreted the new rule as a ban on selling fruit and vegetable plants, which is false. 

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The point of the order is to restrict people’s trips from home to get essentials such as fuel and food. Large retail garden centers have been ordered to close temporarily. 

It’s possible the rumor began from a far-right news outlet.

According to PolitiFact, in a regular feature called "How the Left Destroys the Nation," a website founded by the leader of a far-right group posted the headline, "Michigan Governor Bans Gardening, Sale Of Fruit and Vegetable Seeds, Gardening Supplies Prohibited."

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In reality, executive order 2020-42, requires larger stores to block off certain areas of their sales floors as a way of limiting the number of people in those stores. The order does not ban gardening or the sale of any product.

There is a lot of confusion about the executive order.

Many Michigan retailers and customers have expressed confusion about how to comply with the order and frustrated with a lack of guidance from the state. 

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One Michigan nursery owner is still unsure if he’s an essential business or not. He told the Michigan publication, Bridge, that he is remaining open due to the unhelpful guidance from Michigan government. They explained, “The Michigan Farm Bureau advised him not to sell plants, but after consulting with lawyers, he’s decided to stay open, limiting the number of customers in the store and offering curbside pickup.”

Gov. Whitmer explained the order is to keep everyone safe.

Even after releasing an FAQ addressing some questions raised by the order, customers and retailers are still frustrated by the confusing order, and Governor Whitmer understands that. 

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During a news conference, Whitmer said, “I recognize that there are a lot of passionate gardeners in Michigan, and I’ve heard from a lot of you. Right now, my immediate concern is trying to keep everyone in Michigan safe.”

“It’s OK to be frustrated, it’s OK to be angry,” Whitmer continued, “and if it makes you feel better to direct it at me, that’s OK too, I’ve got thick skin.”

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According to Bridge, The Michigan Department of Agriculture directed them to the governor’s office when asked for clarification of rules for retailers. 

In an email to Bridge, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown wrote: “While the order places certain limits on how goods are sold at stores 50,000 square feet or more, it does not ban Michiganders from buying any item.” Looks like it’s safe to get some fresh air and tend to that garden! 

The best way to prevent contracting or spreading coronavirus is with thorough hand washing and social distancing. If you feel you may be experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, which include persistent cough (usually dry), fever, shortness of breath, and fatigue, please call your doctor before going to get tested. For comprehensive resources and updates, visit the CDC website. If you are experiencing anxiety about the virus, seek out mental health support from your provider or visit NAMI.org.

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