Bread bakers and candle makers

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday, the 26th of May, 2020.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Well, today marks the end of Season 2 of The Olasky Interview. We’ve brought you 12 of the best interviews by Marvin Olasky, past and present. So be sure to check those out.

EICHER: Yes, and especially today’s final episode. We’re finishing on a high note with Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This interview took place just this past October in Asheville, at our most recent WORLD retreat. 

You may recall Mohler is a member of WORLD’s board. And he was so kind to come and address our staff—and answer their questions, too. 

So you get not only Marvin Olasky’s questions, but several WORLD staffers doing the same. Including some voices you know well, Megan Basham and J.C. Derrick.

REICHARD: It was a fun time—back in the day when people met in groups! 

But it’s different now … and a lot has changed.

Americans have spent a lot more time at home than usual over the past few months. Aside from work, child care, and household chores, some people are using their extra time to start a new hobby.

Here’s WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: When governors began issuing mandatory lockdowns, most allowed garden nurseries to stay open. 


J and J Garden Center in Layton, Utah was one of them. Debbie Allred has worked there for a decade. She says the last two months have been unprecedented.

ALLRED: We’ve had actually about two months, two-and-a-half months of kind of Black Friday shopping everyday. We’ve actually emptied out all of our back greenhouses. 

Across the country, gardening is growing during lockdown. University garden extension offices report a surge in calls. Garden bloggers I spoke with said they’ve had record numbers of website visits and book sales. One called Home Gardening with Pete saw a 200 percent increase in web traffic since March. 

J and J’s Allred says many of the customers she helped had never gardened before. Some didn’t even have yards

ALLRED: I’ve helped a lot of people living in apartments. And they just basically have pots to plant their tomatoes… as well as planter boxes. 

Novice gardeners like Kellie and Chad Den Hartog in Iowa say gardening has been a fun way to fill extra time during lockdown. 

Den Hartog: Chad and I like to go out and do things on our weekends a lot. We don’t have kids or anything yet… and kind of thought that gardening would be a good way to fill it up and then you get to see the fruits of your labor hopefully in a couple months. 

Now they’re just waiting on their fresh ingredients for homemade salsa. 

Den Hartog: So I have tomatoes and peppers and jalapenos and onions. 

Breadmaking is also proving popular during lockdowns. The evidence? Unprecedented demand for flour and yeast at grocery stores and traffic to bread-making websites. 

Esmee Williams is the head of predictive analytics for popular cooking website, All Recipes. The site gets 3 billion visits a year. 

WILLIAM: So it’s like having this really cool lens into American kitchens. We can really get a sense of what’s happening.

Williams says over the past three months what’s been happening in the kitchen is bread.  

WILLIAMS:  So in April, views of bread recipes are up 385 percent year over year. Views of recipes that use bread machines, up 232 percent in March. In April that number was 404 percent year over year. 

One bread that has risen above the rest during quarantine is sourdough, which doesn’t use yeast. Jim Challenger runs a smaller Instagram account dedicated to the fermented bread. But it’s quickly growing.

Challenger: So I think I got 1,500 followers between last Friday and this Friday.

Emilie Raffa also runs a sourdough blog. Her page views shot from half a million a month to three and half million. 

RAFFA: I think in times of uncertainty.. as humans we tend to go back to basics and baking bread whether you know how to do it or not, has been such a huge part of our society all over the world.

Certain crafts have also taken hold. One perhaps unexpected winner? Candle-making. 

Calla Hoover is a hair dresser in Salt Lake City. While she couldn’t work, she took up the craft. 

Hoover: I was trying to think of something else that would be relatively quick to make, that I could potentially use as gifts to give people throughout the year.

Candle making fit the bill. 

Hoover: I’ve been making really small candles.. I’ve made maybe 300?

Knitting and crocheting have become other quarantine craft favorites. 

Jordan and Lindsay English own yarn manufacturer, The Fiber Seed in Ohio. They’ve seen their online sales double since March.

JORDAN: The majority of the people who are buying yarn are not elderly. They are actually probably… I would say in a range of 60 down to 20, and it’s a very vast and wide community.

Karen Hostetler runs Mountain Meadow Wool in Wyoming. Her online sales of knitting starter kits have also taken off. 

HOSTETLER: I would say five months ago we would sell maybe three kits a month. We are selling 2 to 300 kits a month now. 

So why have these activities in particular become so popular? 

Tom Meyvis is a marketing and consumer behavior professor at NYU. He points out all of these hobbies are hands-on in a time when we are forced to rely on technology for work, school, and social contact. Meyvis says as people are forced to use technology, they long for physical objects even more.  

Meyvis: So live experiences, tactile experiences where you can hold something, hold someone. That’s being taken away. And so I think there’s a greater need for these tactile, real experiences.

Christian von Uffel is a marketing and consumer behavior consultant. He says working with our hands also helps people relax and unwind. 

And, while normal life is disrupted, hobbies give people something to discuss.

Von Uffel: We don’t have those normal things that we get to talk about so we need to find social anchors to have conversations around. 

So when life does resume its normal rhythms will people keep up their newfound hobbies? Calla Hoover says her candle making days are drawing to an end. 

Hoover: I’ve not fallen in love with it. I’ve enjoyed it. 

But Kellie Den Hartog says her gardening days will go on. 

Den Hartog: I’ve really, really enjoyed it. Going out and checking on them and seeing them grow or die… It’s been fun. 

Either way, everyone I spoke to said their new hobbies helped them through an unprecedented time.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg in Layton, Utah.

Creative Commons/Nathanael Coyne

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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