Stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic and need something to do? The Cal Poly Pomona Nursery may have just the thing for you.
The nursery has canceled its annual Pepperzania plant sale in its greenhouses this April and instead will make the 150-plus varieties of sweet and hot peppers available to order online for shipping direct to you or a new no-contact curbside pickup.
“This is a huge undertaking, but we’re glad to be able to continue to offer our peppers for sale to the community,” nursery Manager Monica Salembier said.
Spring is traditionally the busiest time for the nursery. Student employees are usually transplanting more than 30,000 food-producing plants to be sold through the nursery at the Cal Poly Pomona Farm Store, including herbs, vegetables and fruit trees. In addition, the nursery is getting ready for the Pepperzania plant sale in its greenhouses.
But it’s no longer business as usual during the coronavirus pandemic. Events like Pepperzania are now canceled, and the nursery has had to change its practices for the safety of employees, students and customers.
”We have stepped up our sanitation protocol: all door handles, carts and equipment are wiped between uses, and greenhouse student employees are independently working in separate greenhouses,” said Kelsey Swayze, a graduate student who works in the nursery. “We are working hard to stay on top of the Centers for Disease Control guidelines while still striving to provide much needed healthy vegetable plants for our community.”
The challenge with Pepperzania’s cancellation is that the nursery has a limited window before the plants overgrow their pots and are no longer saleable, she said. That led the nursery to decide to sell them online instead.
The nursery began selling plants online in December 2018 and shipping them to customers. The online sales portal gives students real-world experience in the evolving business of internet commerce, in addition to the experience of producing the plants.
Swayze is continuing to prepare for Pepperzania while working from home.
“My normal daily tasks at the nursery include assisting customers with retail sales, managing our social media accounts and coordinating the online store orders and shipping,” she said “Luckily, a majority of my job can be done from my laptop so I am able to work remotely. To allow for less people at work I have opted to work from home.”
Swayze remains in communication with Salembier and nursery propagator and fellow graduate student Javier Rodarte through live online documents and phone calls to stay current on greenhouse inventory.
“In the coming weeks, I will be uploading our pepper, herbs and vegetable plant inventory to our website for our virtual Pepperzania. I am ecstatic to continue to be able to work, support our local and state-wide gardening community and put the safety of our fellow staff members and customers first,” she said. “It is great to be able to take the theories we learn in the classroom and apply them to real-world situations to provide affordable healthy vegetable plants to our local community.”
In addition to the pepper plants, the nursery will have more than 50 varieties of other vegetable plants available through its online store, www.calpolypomonanursery.com later in April.
Plants will be available for online pre-order purchase and can be picked up using a no-contact curbside pickup beginning April 10. Priority shipping will begin Monday April 14.
The Farm Store and nursery are maintaining regular hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week.