How Gen X & Y Horticulturists Will Change The Industry [Opinion]

lauranewcolumnGrower Homework: Seek out young professionals in the industry and in your operation to develop new ways to do business, improve communication and address consumers. How have you cultivated ideas from younger generations? Feel free to share your ideas via eMail,, or tweet @Laura_GG_TGC.

Emergent, a Collective of Young Horticulture Professionals, is a Facebook group more than 1,300 strong, where enthusiastic horticulturists “meet, greet, coordinate and create a new movement in the Green Industry.”

The group’s mission: “Together we can make big, positive changes to raise awareness and appreciation of gardening for future generations.”

And they’re doing it. From the Cultivate’14 Town Hall Meeting: “Breaking the Frenemy Impasse,” where young professionals representing several industry channels discussed the disconnects along the different levels of the supply chain; to the Retail Café, where garden personality, writer and blogger Shawna Coronado showed anyone who wanted to learn, how to market using social media.

And from Kelly Norris’ seminar, Gardening With A Y, where the under-30 breeder, speaker, farm owner and Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens horticulture manager emphasized selling gardening experience with style, passion and technology to appeal to generations X and Y; to the Cool Summit, where Emergents gathered and grooved to the music of their somewhat older supporters.

But it doesn’t stop at Cultivate. These dynamic young minds are creating change tangibly through the work they do, and also conceptually, in the way they think, solve problems and discuss what’s possible. One fascinating online group discussion digs into a horticultural identity struggle, in which many members admit they feel limited by the current definitions and parameters of industry careers.

In reading these threads and learning about their work, it struck me how many young entrepreneurs we have in our midst, from plant breeders setting out on their own to authors, speakers and app developers to ambitious growers and retailers. This next generation of professionals is redefining what it means to be a horticulturist, and their excitement and enthusiasm is spreading.

It’s rubbing off on the older generations of this industry, it’s making an impression on their friends and acquaintances and it’s likely going to change the face of the industry and the gardening public.

Communication is key, and doing business inefficiently for the sake of tradition isn’t going to fly with these kids. They know information is at the fingertips of every age group, from grandmothers to toddlers, and have their own ideas about how to address their consumer peers.

They know direct consumer marketing from all industry channels, by sharing information on how to use plants and creating demand, is more effective than top-down marketing from the breeder to the grower to the retailer to the consumer.

And they know the challenges of the future: water shortages, population growth, need for more food production, loss of arable land and bigger cities with more urban dwellings.

They’re looking for satisfying careers that will allow them the capacity to address these social and business problems. They’re passionate about making a difference in this industry and for the greater good of humanity.

So let’s engage and learn from them. No matter where we’ve each “emerged” from, with the right dose of passion and enthusiasm, our industry can work together to rise above the challenges we face.

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