Many garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries deemed 'essential' businesses
Kate Spirgen

Many garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries deemed 'essential' businesses

Most state governments are allowing green industry businesses to remain open amidst closure of 'non-essential' operations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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Due to an uptick of new coronavirus cases sweeping the nation, many states have issued stay-at-home orders, along with temporary shutdowns for non-essential businesses. Green industry businesses, however, have been deemed as "essential" and remain open in many states, if they follow state and federal guidelines on sanitation and social distancing. 
 
Some nurseries, greenhouses, landscape architects, garden centers and even public farmers' markets are open for business as long as they follow federal guidelines, such as limiting gatherings of people, maintaining social distancing and following other safety protocols to the fullest extent possible. For more information, see our state-by-state breakdown below (most of the guidelines, until further notice, are in effect for two weeks). The list will be updated as new information is announced. 
 

Alabama. April 5: Governor Kay Ivey issues stay-at-home order in effect until April 30. However, residents can leave home to go to work if their workplace is deemed essential. Garden centers, greenhouses and nurseries would be included on the essential list under "companies involved with horticulture."

Alaska, April 15. Gov. Mike Dunleavy implemented a state-wide order closing nonessential businesses. However, growers and garden centers can be considered exempt under the "food and agriculture" essential businesses or if they are able to maintain social distancing guidelines and prohibit gatherings of more than 10 people at a time, including employees.

Arizona, April 15. As of March 23, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order clarifying businesses and operations deemed “essential” by the states. The order is a proactive and administrative measure to ensure consistent guidance across the state and allows agriculture, including farming, cultivation, marketing, production and distribution of goods for consumption. Growers and retail garden centers are allowed to remain open, as are landscaping businesses.  

Arkansas, April 8. Gov. Asa Hutchinson declared a public-health emergency in Arkansas and limited gatherings to 10 people, but has not issued a stay-at-home order or declared any specific instructions for businesses. As of April 8; there are no state-wide mandated closures.  

California, April 15. As of March 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered all residents to stay home during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. Among the essential businesses allowed to operate as normal under the order are the state's agricultural industries, including growers of nursery plants and garden centers, green grocers, farming operations, urban gardens and landscaping business that observe local social distancing and other CDC guidelines for their employees and customers. Garden centers fall under the same distinction as hardware stores, which are also allowed to remain open.

Colorado, April 15. As March 23, regulations have been implemented on a city and county basis, and counties have issued a stay at home order for non-critical functions. Green industries that grow, sell and transport food are exempt from regulations and continue to operate, as do landscape architects. 

Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association Executive Director Glenda Mostek said in a statement “We see garden centers, nurseries, and greenhouses as ESSENTIAL businesses and we know you do as well. This is a message we must deliver with tenacity. Therefore, please use your social media to let your customers know your status, and to encourage them to obtain what they need for spring planting as a diversion from thinking about COVID 19 all the time.” 

Connecticut, April 15. As of March 23, Gov. Ned Lamont issued a stay-at-home order for Connecticut residents. Garden centers, nurseries and agriculture supply stores are deemed as essential and can stay open for business. Landscape services are also deemed as essential to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations. 

Delaware. On March 22, Gov. John Carney ordered non-essential businesses to close at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24. Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production are considered essential and can remain open. Lawn and garden equipment and supply stores can also remain open. 

Florida. As of March 23 and through April 15, grocery stores, farm and produce stands, shipping companies and any businesses that provide food are permitted to operate; tradesmen such as landscapers are also allowed to conduct business. 

Georgia. As of March 23, the population is not under stay-at-home order although theaters, schools and public events are paused. Greenhouses, grocers, landscapers, growers and florists are all open. The state has yet to close businesses, but some cities, notably Atlanta, have closed restaurants, bars and other businesses where people gather (as of March 19). According to Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black, "Food and agriculture are a vital part of ensuring our economy continues to operate at the highest level. We commend the many workers within this industry for keeping us all fed and healthy during this unprecedented time. Georgia is blessed to have an incredibly diverse agricultural sector that includes everything from food producers and processors to landscape and green industries." 

Hawaii. As of March 23, Gov. David Ige said to residents "If you need to go to work, you should go to work. And when you’re done with work, you should come back home.” Most retail florists are open, with shorter hours. Agri-businesses grocers, greenhouses, landscape architects open, as are large home supply and large department stores with gardening sections, some with reduced hours. 

Idaho. As of March 23, there is no state ban on any type of business; individual cities have closed restaurants (Boise), but agribusinesses such as florists, greenhouses, large chains with garden sections are open. 

Illinois. The Illinois Green Industry Association received guidance March 29 from the Illinois Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity about essential businesses.

Nurseries and greenhouses: "We are not currently aware of any jurisdiction limiting the ability of growers to continue operations. Agricultural production is considered a critical/essential component of the national infrastructure and we expect it will continue to be treated as such. The resource being used to make this determination is from the Department of Homeland Security based on a memo you can view here. Page six specifically addresses agriculture production. In Governor Pritzker's Executive Order, the Department of Homeland Security memo is specifically referenced as the source for Essential Business guidance. Ag production is clearly called out, so there is no question that nurseries and greenhouses should continue maintaining their operation according to recommended CDC guidelines." 

Garden centers: As of April 7, the Illinois Green Industry Association confirmed with the Illinois Department of Commerce that garden centers and greenhouses open to the public can remain open for purposes of maintaining inventory, and to fulfill online and phone orders for pick-up or delivery only.

This document offers addition clarification.

Indiana. As of March 23, residents are under a stay-at-home order (schools, businesses, public gatherings etc.) but agribusinesses such as landscapers, greenhouses, large chains with garden sections, etc. are open for business; retail stand-alone florists are closed. 

Iowa. As of March 17, all restaurants, bars and schools are closed; other businesses have reduced their hours but are open. There is no stay-at-home order issued and all agribusinesses are open to the public. 


Kansas. As of 3/24, there is a statewide stay-at-home order in six counties (Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth, Miami, Doniphan, Douglas); otherwise, the state is open for business with no closures for agribusinesses. 

Kentucky. As of March 22, Gov. Andy Beshear declared an executive order stating, “Retail businesses that are not-life sustaining may provide local delivery and curbside service of online or telephone orders.” Additionally, all businesses that fall under the “Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies Dealers” may operate if they follow appropriate social distancing.   

April 17: Gov. Beshear's order is still in place with no set end date. Nurseries, greenhouses and IGCs remain open. However, landscaping businesses not allowed to operate.

Louisiana. As March 24, greenhouses, independent garden centers and nurseries are all considered essential businesses and may continue to operate as of March 24.  

April 17: Gov. John Bel Edwards' stay at home order is effective until April 30. IGCs, nurseries and other agribusinesses are still considered essential.

Maine. As of March 24, non-essential businesses must shut down. However, nurseries, garden centers and greenhouses are considered essential under the Food and Agriculture section. The order notes, “Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs” as being essential. It also noted that employees engaged in the manufacturing and maintenance of equipment and other infrastructures were necessary for agricultural production and distribution. 

April 17: The lockdown has been extended until May 4. IGCs may only conduct curbside/delivery orders and pickups.

Maryland. Nurseries, greenhouses and independent garden centers are considered essential and may remain open. Retail businesses that remain open are strongly encouraged to modify their operations to conduct as much business as possible remotely, and to limit in-store interactions where practicable (e.g., by making products available for delivery or curbside pick-up to limit in-store browsing). 

April 17: Maryland's stay-at-home order has not been lifted, and there is no set end date. Nurseries, greenhouses, IGCs and landscape businesses all remain open for business in accordance to social distancing guidelines.

Massachusetts. As of March 24, Gov. Charlie Baker’s emergency order deemed that “Farm workers and support service workers to include those who field crops; commodity inspection; fuel ethanol facilities; storage facilities; and other agricultural inputs” were classified as essential. Businesses that produce or manufacture agricultural and infrastructure equipment may continue to operate as well. 

April 17: Gov. Baker extended the state's lockdown until May 4. Farmers markets/farm stands, nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers and agriculture supply stores are still in operation and considered essential.

Michigan. As of March 24, all agricultural industry businesses are safe and considered essential under section 8a of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive COVID-19 order. In section 5c, the order noted that businesses and operations maintaining in-person activities must adopt social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers and patrons. 

March 27:
English Gardens, a Top 100-ranked IGC, announced it had been ordered to shut down until April 14 after the governor declared that greenhouses and garden centers are not essential. However, a small crew of workers is allowed to maintain plant shipments that have already been ordered for the spring season. Read more here.

April 5: Benton Township Police have ordered Lowe's to stop selling non-essential items, including items from its garden center.

April 8: 
More crackdowns are issued for non-essential businesses to close down, with all IGCs included. The Farm Bureau has requested that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to allow garden center to reopen. Now, a petition for clarification on the order is circulating, and IGCs can sign it here.

Minnesota. As of March 18, only non-essential businesses, such as bars and gymnasiums, have shut down; there is no shelter-in-place order. If one is issued, agricultural and green-industry businesses would most likely be considered essential. 

April 8: Garden centers in Minnesota are allowed to remain open. Read more from the Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association here.

March 27: Garden center, landscaping and nursery workers were deemed ‘nonessential' in an update to Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 emergency order.

April 9: Garden centers and nurseries may remain open, but retailers must follow social distancing and sanitation protocols. Heavy emphasis was placed on zero-contact sales, such as creating one-way traffic aisles and limiting the number of people in stores.

Mississippi. As of March 23, all businesses remain open in the state of Mississippi; it is one of the few states that has yet to issue any restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

April 17: A stay-at-home order was issued by Gov. Tate Reeves on April 3, but as of right now IGCs, nurseries and other agriculture businesses may remain open.

Missouri. The state government has not declared any specific instructions for businesses as of March 24; there are no state-wide mandated closures.  

Montana. Businesses such as greenhouses and garden centers remain open.

Nebraska. The state government has not ordered any businesses to close as of March 24. It is, however, following CDC guidelines to limit gatherings to 10 people. 

Nevada. On March 20, Nevada Gov. Steve Disolak's executive order closed most businesses, but declared infrastructure operations such as agriculture, farming, and farm and produce stands as exempt, as are hardware stores. Those exemptions include greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries.  

New Hampshire. The state’s current guidelines do not include any specific guidelines for mandated business closures.  

New Jersey. In general, businesses are closed, but hardware stores, farmer’s markets and food producers are on the state’s exempted list. That includes greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries.  

New Mexico. On March 23, New Mexico ordered non-essential businesses to close. Farms and hardware stores – and by extension greenhouses, garden centers and nurseries – remain open.  

New York. Update April 1: At this time, horticulture is designated as a non-essential business ((with the exception of nurseries/greenhouses selling food producing plants.) Guidance issued on March 24 is no longer applicable.

Check here for any updates.

North Carolina. The Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) released the federal guidance on critical infrastructure workers, which includes agriculture. The nursery and landscape industries are not explicitly outlined in the document, and it is believed that the decision ultimately lies with the state.

Update: March 27: Gov. Cooper issued Executive Order No. 121, which includes several references applicable to the nursery and landscape industry:

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 1, Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements

Nurseries, greenhouses, garden centers, landscapers and other agribusinesses serve the public in open spaces, “except at the point of sale or purchase” in some cases as allowed by the executive order.

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 5, Essential Infrastructure Operations

This section references “building and grounds management and maintenance including landscaping.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 8, Food, Beverage Production and Agriculture

This section references “other production agriculture, including cultivation, marketing, production, and distribution of animals and goods for consumption.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 15, Critical Trades

This section references “landscaping and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences and COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 26, Manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries

This section references “manufacturing companies, distributors and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as…agriculture.”

Section 2, Paragraph C, Subparagraph 30, Additional COVID-19 Essential Retail Businesses

This section references “lawn and garden equipment retailers.”

North Dakota. As of April 7, the North Dakota Nursery, Greenhouse, & Landscape Association confirmed with the state Department of Agriculture that nurseries and greenhouses, including those open to the public for retail sales, are allowed to remain open. As of April 7, the state had not activated a shelter in place declaration. 

Ohio. As of March 25, there is a stay at home order in place for the state. Production agriculture is specifically listed as critical/essential, and nursery and greenhouse production is federally classified as agriculture, indicating growers should be able to remain operational at this time. The Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association says landscape, lawn care, and landscape irrigation companies require “careful discretion.” Construction and public works projects may be considered isolated from the pubic and relatively safe. Critical trade and other service providers who are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences are mentioned in the orders. Some landscape projects and services may fit under this category. Although the order's essential business guidance does not clearly call out garden centers, many garden centers offer fruits and vegetables to customers for home gardening, and sell firewood, pet supplies, and other household essentials.

See essential business guidelines here.

Oklahoma. As of March 25, nurseries and greenhouses are considered essential businesses and permitted to remain open. Garden centers are also open.

April 2, 3:01 p.m. EST: Gov. Mike DeWine announced the stay-at-home order will extend until May 1, and some new rules were announced. Stores must set and post maximum amounts of numbers of customers who can be in their businesses, and garden centers received special recognition in that they are allowed to be open.

Oregon. On Monday, March 23, Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 2020–12, which mandates social distancing. However, wholesale and retail nurseries are permitted to remain open for business. The Oregon Association of Nurseries reports that it confirmed this with Gov. Brown's chief of staff, as well as Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. Retail businesses must designate an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies, consistent with guidance from the Oregon Health Authority. Retail businesses that fail to comply with the Executive Order will be closed until they demonstrate compliance.

Pennsylvania. As of March 25, Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stay at home order and the list of counties includes: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Erie, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties. Greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production operations, as well as landscape service companies, have been deemed essential/life sustaining and may continue to operate, according to the Pennsylvania Nursery and Landscape Association (PNLA). PNLA has submitted an exemption for retail garden centers.

April 1 update: The governor issued a stay at home order for the entire state. Landscape services and greenhouse, nursery and floriculture production may continue to operate during the order. For retail garden centers that remain closed, the PNLA wants to help. Go to www.PNLA.com for more information. 

April 16, 4:30 p.m. EST: Gov. Tom Wolf has denied a blanket exemption for independent family-owned garden centers. The PLNA has created a petition to ask Gov. Wolf to reopen garden centers. However, greenhouses and nurseries still remain open. Nurseries and greenhouses may remain open.

Rhode Island. As of March 25, there were no restrictions against production greenhouse and nursery operations or retail garden centers.

March 30 update: Production nursery and greenhouse operations may remain open, but retail garden centers must close their in-store retail portion. Retailers are allowed to have curbside pickup but orders must be paid prior to pickup.

South Carolina. According to the South Carolina Green Industry Association, effective April 1, Gov. McMaster issued an Executive Order to close certain non-essential businesses for the duration of the State of Emergency as a result of finding it necessary and prudent to take additional proactive action to reduce the public health risk of COVID-19. Landscape services and green industry businesses are not included in this list of non-essential businesses and should be allowed to remain open.

South Dakota. As of March 23, Gov. Kristi Noem issued an executive order asking businesses to restrict gatherings and hospitals to postpone elective procedures. This order leaves enforcement up to South Dakota counties and cities. 

Tennessee. As of March 23, Gov.  Bill Lee called for state businesses to utilize “alternative business models.” The order outlines ways businesses and citizens can work to protect susceptible populations and encourages all businesses to take steps to protect vulnerable people, like establishing exclusive shopping hours for those at a higher risk. 

Texas. As of March 19, Gov. Gregg Abbott’s executive order to mitigate COVID-19 includes avoiding social gatherings of 10 or more people, practicing social distancing of six feet, and employing frequent, thorough hand washing and surface disinfecting. There is no shelter-in-place order for the entire state, but individual counties are enacting shelter-in-place orders, which require the closure of non-essential businesses. Because nursery, greenhouse and garden center businesses fall under the agriculture umbrella, they are considered essential. However, employers should only require essential employees to report to work and allow and employees to work from home if feasible. 

Utah. As of March 20, an order prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people. Businesses can have more than 10 employees present but should implement social distancing with six feet between workers and communal areas. Managers should screen employees every day for COVID-19 symptoms and those with symptoms should not be permitted to work. Employees of any business who handle cash must take cleaning measures after each transaction. 

Vermont. As of March 23, Gov. Phil Scott ordered "to close all in-person operations" meaning gyms, fitness centers, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors. On March 23, he directed all remaining businesses to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures. Businesses that are not required to close or are unable to implement work-from-home procedures, must maintain the CDC protocols. 

Virginia. As of March 23, lawn and garden equipment retailers meet the criteria that deems them as essential and may remain open during normal business hours. 

Washington. As of March 23, in accordance with an issued stay-at-home order, Gov. Jay Inslee has designated hardware and home improvement, garden stores and nurseries that support food cultivation and production, as essential workers.

West Virginia. As of March 24, Gov. Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home order that directs all West Virginians to stay home and limit movements outside of their homes beyond essential needs. Farmers markets, businesses that manage produce, hardware and supply stores and agricultural operations are considered essential.

Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association has been working non-stop on behalf of the membership and the industry. As of March 24, according to the "Safer at Home" order issued by Gov. Tony Evers, “All individuals present within the State of Wisconsin are ordered to stay at home or at their place of residence,” with some exceptions. Businesses and organizations that are exempt within the industry include essential infrastructure like food and beverage production, as well as agricultural operations.

Wyoming. As of March 19, Gov. Mark Gordon ordered a closing of all public places for a two-week period to help slow the spread of COVID-19 except for those serving essential personnel.