Holly Pasmore refers to today’s youth as the entitled generation, a group of kids who sit on their butts, play video games for countless hours and expect others to cater to their needs night and day.
Forget about digging in the dirt or playing in the garden. It’s hard enough motivating kids to get off the couch or eat something healthy than expect them to take an interest in our industry.
“Most of the young generation thinks everything should be given to them–even sports trophies,” says Pasmore, a grower at Bear Creek Farms in Stillwater, Okla. “Everybody who plays gets a trophy because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Now, nobody has to try to earn those trophies.”
And because ideas like trophies for all have been accepted, the notion of hard work equaling rewards is unknown. Or at least undervalued. So where will our industry, one rooted in hard work, find its next leaders? Who’s going to take the reins from the growers, breeders and university experts who are so dedicated to their crafts? Our industry, after all, represents the epitome of hard work for up-and-comers: pulling weeds, spraying chemicals and hand watering in 100-degree heat.
These are the tasks you performed early in your career–they’re tasks you were expected to do–but can we expect today’s teens to embrace hard work and horticulture the same way? Vicki Stamback, the president of Bear Creek Farms who hired
Pasmore, isn’t sure.
“I think horticulture may not be as popular as it used to be because it’s a lot of work,” she says. “Maybe the money isn’t as much as it is with other professions. So people have a tendency, unless they really love horticulture, not to gravitate toward it.”
Pasmore and Stamback, like many growers, found their passion for horticulture from their family and on the farm and fields in which they respectively grew up. They learned to embrace hard work because they experienced the outdoors. But today’s kids?
They offer our industry less hope than the generations that preceded them, but their role, unfortunately, is more important than ever. So does that mean we bow down to our future successors and dumb down their career paths to ensure our industry lives on?
Heavens no. Horticulture will require our time, sweat and tears as much tomorrow as it does today. It’s a labor intensive industry, yes, but those involved are part of it because the rewards are worth the work.
Today, one in 10 adults is unemployed–and a remarkable 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, according to a Pew Research Center study, has been either underemployed or unemployed during the recession. Despite those unemployment numbers, leaders at a few prominent greenhouse operations have told us they’ve struggled in recent years to find competent growers and managers. But because there’s an oversupply of workers available, you’d figure at least a few would be qualified–maybe even overqualified–to serve those operations.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the greenhouse floriculture industry. Maybe the hard work turns off the entitled generation. Maybe kids are disinterested because they don’t understand the rewards.
Parents, of course, need to do a better job parenting. And kids need to get their butts off the couch. But we, too, can have a role in our industry’s future leaders: sell our industry’s rewards first, and hope the notion of hard work is rightfully restored.