We're Not Normal (opinion)
When you ask why Gen Y isn't gardening, you also have to listen to the answer. Even if it's not what you want to hear.
November 13, 2012
I am an unusual person, perhaps even a bit odd. I say this because by age 14, or maybe even earlier, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be an editor of a horticultural magazine. And, somehow, by a path that involved some twists and turns, I actually am.
I’m also unusual because I was gardening as a child and loved it, and with the exception of a small break during college when I owned no outdoor space, not even a balcony, I have always grown plants. And even then, I had houseplants.
I have always known that my passion for plants is stronger than that of the average consumer. By virtue of the fact that you are a greenhouse grower, operator, or are in some other way associated with this industry, chances are your interest in plants goes beyond the norm, too. So it’s important that we step outside of ourselves and listen to what “normal” people think about gardening and buying plants. That’s especially true for the Gen Y group we are all so concerned about in terms of our industry’s future.
When I was in my twenties, I was the only one of my friends who gardened or even thought about plants at all. Flash forward to today, and we are all homeowners and parents, and I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked for gardening advice. My friends are all more than interested in plants now — and they’re spending money.
So I was surprised when our assistant editor, Karli Petrovic, who also works for our sister retail magazine, Today’s Garden Center, stirred up a small firestorm of controversy when she wrote a column about why she and her generation are not gardening yet.
In her column, “Why I’m Not Gardening and No One Else My Age is Either,” Karli pointed out that she and her friends are not gardening for a number of reasons, including lack of time, money and space. She said her generation is more focused right now on building careers than buying plants, but said to give them time.
Several readers objected, saying they knew young people who garden— how could Karli speak for a whole generation? One reader said, “Really don’t understand their attitude. To me, coming home to water plants or garden was a stress-reliever when I was in my 20s.”
All of us could point to someone in their twenties who gardens. But is that the point? Those people, as much as we appreciate them, are not the norm for their age group.
Karli’s full opinion and all of the comments, both positive and negative, can be found at TodaysGardenCenter.com. And for those who find yourself upset with her honesty, I encourage you to sit back for a moment and listen, even if what you hear is uncomfortable. I believe she speaks for the majority of her generation, and we bury our heads in the sand at our peril. We need to find ways, even on a small scale, to appeal to people like her, who are not quite there, but will be soon. Because we’re not normal. They are.