Takao: Waiting No Way To Reach Next Consumers
OFA President Danny Takao responds to Associate Editor Kevin Yanik's November column about why waiting for young people to become our industry's next group of consumers is the wrong approach.
November 12, 2010
I wanted to respond to the last commentary about waiting for the next group of consumers. I've been in the nursery industry all my life and have been through a lot of recessions and downturns. But never have I seen so many growers go out of business or get out of business without it having some impact on those who stayed on.
What I mean is when a greenhouse or nursery closed in California, there was a mad scramble to fill that market share from everyone. In the last eight to 10 years, we must have had more than 200 or 300 acres of greenhouse and 2,000 acres-plus of outdoor production disappear without putting much of a ripple in the market. This would cover cut flowers, foliage, bedding and nursery growers here in California.
The current thinking here in California is "be the last man standing to get market share." That's not a good strategy for our industry. As a matter of fact, that's a very poor way of keeping our industry and the supply chain healthy.
You and I have discussed America In Bloom, and with some more adjustments that could help keep our plants in front of the consumer. The economy is going to have to overcome a lot of issues to get healthy in the next three to five years. If we sit back, I could see what has happened in California moving across the country. I know from friends throughout the country they are starting to feel what we have experienced in California.
What if AIB/OFA could create something like the National Gardening Assocation website that our industry could help support? Along with beautifying our cities, we help our kids understand the value and beauty of gardening again. I've read in the future we are going to have a major obesity issue with our kids, which, in turn, creates a diabetes issue. We should really be stressing how gardening can help solve these problems.
One more observation about gardening: I've heard more young guys complain to me about how much work gardening is and then, in the same breath, tell me they go to the gym and work out. We somehow need to show them the following: 1) Wouldn't you rather be out in nature than looking into the parking lot on a treadmill for an hour? 2) Where can you get both a physical and monetary return for your efforts? A well-kept yard maintains its value more than a neglected one; and 3) It's cool to be in the garden!
I also wanted to bring up this conversation I had with a kindergarten teacher: She wanted to start a very small garden for her kids. Due to her diligence and persistence, she found some grant money and, with permission from the principal, started a very small garden. But what if she wasn't persistence or diligent? What would have happened?
As Susan (Petak) from Wessel Farms says, we need to get consumers early. Our industry does great work communicating to our grower segment, but what if instead of holding California Spring Trials one year, we divert that money to marketing into our national marketing campaign? What kind of business would that generate for our retailers and growers?
That kindergarten teacher - and any teacher around the country - should be able to access one website (that our industry controls and manages) that directs them to information that explains how to create a vegetable/flower garden; where to start, what grants are available, when is the right time to start and everything she needs to know so kids are successful.
Lack of information is a major reason why, up to now, a lot of people don't garden. People say they have the brown thumb syndrome, and whose fault is that? I would think we could even help them with starter plants and supplies from our industry. It would be a minimal investment for the future of our industry.
We need to rethink how to keep our plants relevant to anyone, regardless of their age. Or, we might go the way of the phone booth.