My daughter Erin is an outspoken millennial who at 21 is just the age we want to entice into our garden centers, and ultimately, our check-out lines. In other words, she is our future.
It would be optimistic to think that millennials have learned as much or more about plants than we did in school. Erin’s elementary school, like so many others in the country, experienced budget cuts. The luxury of having a dedicated growing space in the classroom was not possible. How will the next generation get excited about plants if they aren’t exposed to it when they are young?
In recent years, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs have emerged as a new way to ensure your child’s successful future. The goal of STEM Education is to “develop a competent and qualified American workforce for the 21st century.” Thanks to STEM Programs, elementary students are now using 3D printers, building robots, and practicing math facts via video games. Kids are exposed to a world of fast-paced, new and exciting opportunities to explore.
But where is horticulture’s slice of the STEM pie? How will we entice future employees to work for us instead of glamorous corporate employers? And most importantly, what can I do about it?
Greenhouse Grower has been looking at how to retain our current customers as well as engage the next generation in horticulture. At its annual GROW Summit, the editors facilitate discussions enabling attendees to work together to help grow the industry.
Have you ever heard the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats?” It is an idiom that describes the idea that when an economy is performing well, all people will benefit from it. At the GROW Summit, you see this in action as summit participants work together to help the industry by exchanging, executing, and evaluating ideas.
We Can Work Together To Find Solutions
At the 2015 GROW Summit, we discussed exactly how we can change the future of horticulture based on the findings of Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Consumer Survey. Ideas from every area of the industry were shared. Some topics were a little more grower focused, some more retail related, but every idea was treated with the respect and attention it deserved. Here are some of the topics we discussed:
• How can we recruit the next generation of growers and consumers?
• Millennials are unsure about gardening and research everything online before making a purchase. As an industry, how can we make that process easier?
• Should we stop using the term “gardening” because Millennials don’t see themselves as “gardeners?”
• How can we make plants fun and create a sense of accomplishment, even for Millennials’ small do-it-yourself projects?
• Can we make growing information readily available and easy to understand?
• What is the best way to deliver cultural information?
• How can growers realize more profits by calculating and reducing their production costs?
• Can we use videos to educate students about careers in horticulture?
I was thrilled to be included in this think tank of industry professionals. Although some participants were competitors, we all came together to provide some great solutions for the industry. I look forward to seeing them implemented in the future.