Seed Your Future has embarked on a tough task — promoting horticulture and inspiring people to pursue careers working with plants in a world where plants are everywhere, yet overlooked. This game-changing movement is out to change the status quo, beginning with galvanizing and recruiting the youth that will lead the industry into the future.
Seed Your Future is a non-profit coalition of horticulture companies, gardening organizations, schools, colleges and universities, public gardens, youth organizations and supporters that envisions a U.S. where everyone understands and values the importance of plants and the people who work with them.
“We are an invisible industry unknown to virtually all young people,” says Anna Ball, Co-chair of Seed Your Future’s National Leadership Cabinet and CEO and owner of Ball Horticultural Co. “We need plant people and non-plant people. We need growers, plant breeders, landscape designers, and production managers, but we also need those interested in areas like internet technology (IT), human resources, business, engineering, and other types of fields. In other words, people can put their career into horticulture.”
In just a few years, Seed Your Future has quickly moved from talking and planning about what it wants to do, to actually doing it. In April it launched BLOOM!, a pro-active campaign created to address plant blindness (the inability to see or notice the plants in one’s own environment) among U.S. youth, particularly tweenagers.
Created in conjunction with Scholastic, BLOOM! provides concrete resources that are being used and incorporated into lesson plans, and measurements are in place to track progress. Additional resources are available for anyone in the industry to use to open young people’s eyes to the power of plants to change the world at WeAreBloom.org.
“The industry can help cure plant blindness by stepping forward in new and innovative ways to create meaningful connections to plants,” says Paul Redman, Co-Chair of Seed Your Future’s National Leadership Cabinet, along with Ball, and President and CEO of Longwood Gardens. “We can’t continue to present plants in 20th-century terms of communication. We have to go where the young people are today and speak their language to capture their minds.”
BLOOM! has already started to catch kids’ attention. Scholastic and Seed Your Future recently ran a Plant Mash-Up Contest where kids could submit imagined hybrids they created from any two plants. They drew a picture of their new plant and described how it would benefit the world. The response was phenomenal, with thousands of kids taking part. If you want to get some inspiration from these future leaders, check out the BLOOM! social media feeds captured at WeAreBLOOM.org.
Plant Blindness is Only Part of the Problem
By addressing plant blindness, Seed Your Future is also tackling a related issue the industry faces. Horticulture is a growing field with an incredible array and diversity of careers, and more people need to know that, according to Ball, who says reality does not equal perception when it comes to horticulture. The example she gives is those who have heard of horticulture but think of it as a crummy, low-paying, hot, sweaty job, never realizing that it is a field that encompasses art, science, technology, and business.
“Now is the time for every person within the horticulture and green-collar professions to become involved with Seed Your Future, because we have reached a make-or-break point due to the ever-decreasing number of well-trained, educated horticultural professionals to fill jobs,” Redman says. “This is not an isolated issue or one that should be minimized.”
With BLOOM! in place to start planting the seeds about the power of plants and potential career paths in horticulture, Seed Your Future is already looking ahead toward the future.
“We decided to focus our initial efforts on tweens because our research found that to be the time when kids are most receptive to learning about potential future careers,” says Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director of Seed Your Future. “We are taking a multi-pronged approach to tackling these issues. Now that BLOOM! is taking off, we’ll target other audiences with their own unique campaigns — perhaps high schoolers, undeclared or unhappy majors in college, professionals unfulfilled in other career fields, and other potential groups. We just have to decide which one we will go after next.”
What It Takes to Mobilize an Industry
None of Seed Your Future’s progress would be possible without an army of volunteers. One of Seed Your Future’s game-changing traits is its ability to rally the industry around a common cause. Respected industry leaders pushing the movement forward helped the organization gain momentum from the start, setting the stage for recruiting volunteers. Seed Your Future also has a contemporary model of volunteerism with no place for boards, egos, and bureaucracy. Instead, volunteers are free to move in and out of short-term and long-term opportunities based their interests and time availability.
Besides volunteering, Yoder says something everyone can do right now to support the movement and inspire the next generation is to tell his or her story.
“The passion people feel for plants and their work comes through when people tell their story,” she says. “An easy way to do this is to make a video and share it on social media, and it doesn’t have to be a slick video because kids say they don’t like that.”
Now it’s your turn to seed your future — make that video. As part of the BLOOM! campaign, resources are available for those who need help making a video, or better yet, ask a tech-savvy youth for help and introduce them to the power of plants.
To learn more about Greenhouse Grower‘s 2018 GameChanger of the Year, visit SeedYourFuture.org.