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...
Workplace Trends

January 20, 2017

10 Trends Predicted to Impact the Workplace in 2017

Here are 10 workplace trends that Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel predicts for 2017 that may change the way you do business in the future

Read More
Spring Meadow Nursery Fire

January 17, 2017

Two Major Growers Recovering and Rebuilding After Fires

The blazes occurred at Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses in Zionsville, PA, and Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI. Both companies say no employees were injured, and they plan to pull together and stay on schedule for the remainder of the year.

Read More

January 10, 2017

5 Can’t-Miss Events and Activities at TPIE

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE) is fast approaching. As you plan your trip, here are five can’t-miss highlights from this year’s show.

Read More
Latest Stories
Spring Meadow Nursery Fire

January 17, 2017

Two Major Growers Recovering and Rebuilding After Fires

The blazes occurred at Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses in Zionsville, PA, and Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI. Both companies say no employees were injured, and they plan to pull together and stay on schedule for the remainder of the year.

Read More

January 10, 2017

5 Can’t-Miss Events and Activities at TPIE

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE) is fast approaching. As you plan your trip, here are five can’t-miss highlights from this year’s show.

Read More
sakata-tour-de-fresh-salad-bar-donation

January 8, 2017

Sakata’s Participation in Tour de Fresh Race Results in…

On the heels of riding in the Tour de Fresh Race in July, Allen Satterlee of Sakata Seed America celebrated by presenting a new salad bar to Galt Elementary School in California.

Read More
griffin-aurora-colorado-branch

January 6, 2017

Griffin Opening New Hard-Goods-Focused Distribution Cen…

The planned February opening of the 18,500 square-foot facility is part of the company’s continued expansion into the Western U.S.

Read More
gg-january-2017-cover-arizonaeast-feature

January 5, 2017

Why ArizonaEast Is Expanding Its Succulent Production T…

In Greenhouse Grower's January cover story, learn how Brian and Joe Vitale of ArizonaEast saw a chance to expand and diversify their New Jersey-based succulent operation, and why they jumped at the opportunity.

Read More
Moana plant yard

January 4, 2017

Green Industry Poised for Continued Economic Growth in …

Positive economic indicators point to 2017 being a year of modest growth for the green industry, according to economist Charlie Hall.

Read More

January 3, 2017

Growing Optimism for the Horticulture Industry in 2017

With a new administration and a new Congress, AmericanHort's Craig Regelbrugge says the horticulture industry has reason to be cautiously optimistic that regulatory relief could be on the horizon.

Read More
2016-student-competition-award-winners

January 3, 2017

Southern Nursery Association Research Conference Procee…

On the heels of presenting awards to students in the horticulture industry, the Southern Nursery Association has compiled and published its conference research proceedings.

Read More
Farwest Show Floor

December 31, 2016

Farwest Show 2017 Will Feature New Days and Hours

The 2017 Farwest Show will take place Wednesday, Aug. 23 through Friday, Aug. 25, to allow attendees more time to visit local hot spots.

Read More
kelly-norris

December 29, 2016

Kelly Norris: 4 Ways We’re Leaving Growth Opportunities…

Horticulture is a multi-million dollar industry with lots to offer, yet we’re still overlooking several avenues for growth.

Read More
Top 100 Breakfast Panel for 2016

December 27, 2016

You Said It: The Best Quotes From 2016

Some of the industry’s leading growers and educators had strong things to say this year. Here’s a look at some of the most memorable quotes from 2016.

Read More

December 27, 2016

5 Photo Galleries You Didn’t Dare Miss in 2016

Whether it was industry event and trade show highlights or new developments in technology, these images not only spoke more than a thousand words; they drew thousands of clicks, as well.

Read More

December 27, 2016

Check Out the Top 5 Most-Read News Stories on Greenhous…

From pest outbreaks to overtime rule changes, here are the headlines that grabbed your attention in 2016.

Read More
Grow Summit 2016 group shot

December 20, 2016

Less Talk, More Action At Greenhouse Grower’s GRO…

Investing in technology, developing new marketing solutions, and recruiting young growers were just a few of the issues covered at GROW Summit 2016.

Read More
Workers are required to wear uniforms and use tools restricted to the section of the facility where they work, and street clothes are prohibited

December 16, 2016

House Failure To Address H-2B Exemption Could Affect Sp…

Despite efforts by AmericanHort and others in the industry, the House of Representatives failed to renew the Returning Worker Exemption, a policy that helps ensure that small and seasonal businesses have an adequate workforce for the peak spring season.

Read More
americanhort-hort-scholars

December 15, 2016

HortScholars Program Is Open For 2017 Applications

Presented by AmericanHort, the program is open to students in a horticulture-related degree program, and recipients will have exclusive opportunities for in-depth discussions with industry leaders at Cultivate’17.

Read More
North Creek Nurseries Bright Young Talent

December 13, 2016

Emergent Networking Event On Deck At MANTS 2017

Emergent, the collective group of young horticulture professionals who represent the next generation of growing, will host a reception on Wednesday, Jan. 11, after the MANTS tradeshow floor closes.

Read More
bailey-nurseries-veterans-workforce

December 13, 2016

How Bailey Nurseries Navigates The H-2A Program

Joe Bailey, Human Resources Director at Bailey Nurseries says each operation has to analyze their situation and decide for themselves if the H-2A program is right for them.

Read More