Why America Needs Plant Evangelists

Carol Miller resized for online
Carol Miller

Consumers under 50 years old aren’t all that different from those over 50. Humanity doesn’t change all that drastically from generation to generation. But when it comes to gardening, we’ve found that this group really is dramatically different from their elders.

For the past three years, I’ve been working with Dr. Bridget Behe of Michigan State University through our own 10% Project to better understand why gardening and plants have decreased in popularity, and to figure out if we as an industry can reverse that trend.

We’ve conducted research in Georgia, Ohio, and most recently, in Ontario, Canada. The Canadian study is still on-going, so I’m not free to share specifics from that study. However, the results so far are in line with what we’ve learned from other parts of North America.

Here are two points I think everyone in the industry should be aware of.

People Aren’t Spending As Much Time In Their Yards As They Used To

If you only go into your yard to mow the grass, you’ll associate the term “gardening” with chores. Younger consumers focus more on all the work involved and see little of the pleasure that beautiful gardens can provide.

The great outdoors is appealing, but today’s consumers experience it away from home. It’s in a ball field for the kids’ game, on hiking trails, or at a nearby waterfront. Dinner party guests are more likely to gather around a kitchen island, not the grill or patio. Kids play indoors or attend structured programs like sports or dance classes. No yards involved.

At first glance, this seems like too big a trend for our industry to counter. Luckily, our research shows that parents worry about how disconnected their children are from nature. They want them to understand where food comes from, and they want them to have family memories built around the seasons.

There’s a tremendous opportunity to appeal to parents. Marketing messages can tap into their desire to keep their children healthy and help them build self-sufficiency. Growers and retailers can offer their expertise on which plants are ideal for beginners. They can identify and assemble all-in-one kits and projects designed to make gardening fun and successful.

Younger Consumers Don’t Know A Lot About Growing Plants, and They Hate Feeling Ignorant

We haven’t done a good enough job of making plants approachable. Consumers see a beautiful yard and assume only someone with an arcane, mystical understanding of nature can achieve that type of success.

That same attitude used to exist for interior design and cooking. But personalities and popular television shows have helped make everyone feel like they have some skill.

While we may not be able to control the programming at HGTV, we can act as ambassadors to our own communities. That means we all should get out to venues where people gather and emphasize how fun and easy it is to bring plants into daily life. We can all find ways to meet our neighbors and community leaders and help them understand plants better.

These barriers are not insurmountable. In fact, consumers are right on the brink of falling in love with gardening the way they have with cooking and home improvement. All we need to do is show them the way to success.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Why America Needs Plant Evangelists

  1. As an old old gardener I see a lot of things that are generational gaps. Most young people would rather buy produce than grow it…..that is because it is easier, what they dont see is the chemicals applied to make the produce look saleable…..chemicals that I have strong reason to believe are cancer causing…..the 2nd thing is young kids are not taught to garden…..as a child I remember my mom giving me bean and radish seeds to plant, she did this because both sprout rapidly and produce something you can eat……as a child picking and eating what I planted was a miracle, I was forever hooked with gardening. when I was a kid mom was home all of the time, dads salary was enough to support our family, now it is just the opposite, both parents work to make ends meet, gardening has taken a back seat to other chores both parents work on after their regular job . Perhaps gardening could be taught in schools at entry level.

  2. Great article. We have built a platform for ‘Plant Evangelists’ on Plantsmap.com so that others can learn and be inspired by them. We hope to cure ‘plant blindness’ across demographics and make it an inviting place for anyone to join in regardless of experience or growing interest. It allows for a shared knowledge base to learn together but at the same time you get to keep your own plants and collections as yours with your information. Our demographics so far show a nice equal range from 18 to over 65.

More From Business Management...
National Collegiate Landscape Competition Feature

April 27, 2017

Hoffman Nursery Cheers On the Next Generation of Horticulturists

Hoffman Nursery was a sponsor of the recent 41st National Collegiate Landscape Competition, an event that offers several opportunities for companies in the green industry to meet and recruit the next-generation of horticulturists.

Read More
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Paul Ecke, Jr. Scholarship and Altman Family Scholarships

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Oregon Lean Nursery Consortium

April 15, 2017

How Oregon Growers Are Making Lean Improvements With Help From Their Peers

The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium recently helped two Pacific Northwest growers realize significant productivity gains and labor savings.

Read More
Latest Stories
National Collegiate Landscape Competition Feature

April 27, 2017

Hoffman Nursery Cheers On the Next Generation of Hortic…

Hoffman Nursery was a sponsor of the recent 41st National Collegiate Landscape Competition, an event that offers several opportunities for companies in the green industry to meet and recruit the next-generation of horticulturists.

Read More
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Pau…

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Oregon Lean Nursery Consortium

April 15, 2017

How Oregon Growers Are Making Lean Improvements With He…

The Oregon Nursery Lean Consortium recently helped two Pacific Northwest growers realize significant productivity gains and labor savings.

Read More

April 11, 2017

Jerry Halamuda of Color Spot Nurseries Retires

The co-founder of Color Spot Nurseries has retired, effective immediately, and has named a replacement.

Read More
NICH Plants Do That infographic feature

April 11, 2017

New Infographic Highlights Economic Impact of Plants

A new report from the National Institute for Consumer Horticulture shows how horticulture positively affects people’s lives wherever they live, work, shop, and play.

Read More
Vegetable and Hydroponic Production At Vineland

April 10, 2017

Growing Beyond Your Comfort Zone Can Be Rewarding

With experience in biocontrols and IPM, ornamental growers have much to offer in producing emerging horticultural crops.

Read More
Socius Webinar

March 30, 2017

Webinar to Offer Tips on Properly Managing Your Busines…

“How to Survive and Thrive: New Revenue Building Tools for Growers,” presented by Socius, takes place on April 6.

Read More
Basil Planting feature

March 29, 2017

How You Can Embrace Greenhouse Food Production With Con…

Maintaining balance, learning continuously, and seeking support will help make your transition into producing greenhouse food crops a smooth one.

Read More
If your Wi-Fi is truly secure, your staff can help customers on the sales floor starting today

March 25, 2017

What Marketing Approach Can Attracts the Most Customers…

Inc.com surveyed more than a thousand customers to find out which marketing strategies worked best to entice them to try out a new business

Read More
Leanne Kenealy, Hoffman Nursery

March 24, 2017

New Horticulturist At Hoffman Nursery Will Focus On Dev…

Leanne Kenealy, who brings great experience in plant evaluation, says introducing consumers to new plants can hopefully generate renewed excitement for gardening.

Read More

March 21, 2017

How Greenhouse Vegetable Growers Can Prepare for a Prod…

The United Fresh Produce Association is holding a Recall Ready Workshop in April that is designed to help growers properly manage a recall, from liability to communications.

Read More
Greenhouse Loyal Customer

March 16, 2017

How Brand Enthusiasts Can Be Your Most Loyal Customers

A marketing expert shares three core principles that direct-to-consumer companies can follow to create brand enthusiasts.

Read More

March 14, 2017

Expanded Customer Footprint, E-Commerce, Succession Key…

Costa Farms' acquisition of indoor foliage producer Delray Plants rocked the industry, but the story behind Delray Plants' sale is the same as for many growers struggling with succession planning. For Costa Farms, the strategic purchase expands its customer footprint and also fast tracks its foray into e-commerce.

Read More
Steve Black and Bridget Behe

March 14, 2017

AmericanHort’s First-Ever CareerUP Event to Take Place …

CareerUP is a day-long workshop that is designed to provide the skills, information, and inspiration that young professionals need to advance their careers, love their jobs, and help the industry grow.

Read More
Horticultural Research Institute Logo

March 12, 2017

Horticulture Research Institute Rings in New Year With …

More than 150 industry professionals attended a reception at MANTS, which introduced new officers and celebrated the more than $190,000 in donations for HRI research fostering business-building knowledge for the horticultural industry.

Read More

March 10, 2017

Costa Farms Expands With Purchase of Indoor Houseplant …

Costa Farms annnounced March 10 that it has acquired Delray Plants, one of the leaders in the indoor houseplant industry. The two operations are committed to the same values, principles, and goals to grow the industry, and will fit well together to accomplish this, say Randy Gilde, CEO of Delray Plants, and Joche Smith, CEO of Costa Farms.

Read More
Startup Stock Photos

March 10, 2017

Passionate Horticulture Writers Wanted To Join Our Team

GreenhouseGrower.com is looking for people to join our team and submit original content to our website about floriculture and greenhouse production of emerging crops.

Read More

March 7, 2017

Local Florists Celebrate Women’s Day and SAF Prom…

Florists across the U.S. are celebrating International Women's Day, March 8, and raising awareness for non-profit organizations. The Society of American Florists is raising its own awareness of what happens when women receive flowers with a new video for International Women's Day.

Read More