Young Leaders Panel Discusses The Reinvented Gardener

Young Leaders Panel Discusses The Reinvented Gardener


What do the industry’s young leaders think about how the role of the traditional gardener is changing? We talked to a group of young marketers and savvy growers from operations across the country in our first-time Google Hangout for Greenhouse Grower‘s 30th Anniversary issue, and we posed them a question:


A popular opinion in the industry is that generations after the boomers will become plant consumers once they settle down, get a job, buy a house, have a family. Do you agree or disagree?

Here’s what they told us.

Susie Raker, C. Raker & Sons: I’m a mom; I have a 2-year-old daughter; I have a family owned business, which is extremely time consuming. I love what I do and I love the plants I sell. But I can’t find time myself to garden, so how am I supposed to convince someone else to do it? I know that’s not a warm and fuzzy comment but we are definitely competing for time so we have to put the value proposition out there for consumers.

Stephanie Whitehouse, Peace Tree Farm: Yes, Susie, this is so true! When it comes to traditional gardening, like planting perennials, planting garden beds, planting up containers, yes, this is true that we do not have enough time. We will start gardening once we have a kid, once we have enough money to pay off all of our loans and to buy a house.

But I also would answer that question by saying no, because I firmly believe that Gen X and Gen Y are redefining what gardening means to them and they are already doing this by planting food and using it in their everyday cooking and becoming better foodies.

Rob O’Hara, Rainbow Greenhouses: Yes, I sure hope we can count on it but it’s just going to be done in a different way. I think people are gardening for a purpose. Like I want to brew beer, so maybe I’ll grow my own hops. I want to know where my tomatoes come from so I’m going to grow my own tomatoes. All of these things serve a purpose or a solution to a problem that they have. They want to accomplish something.

The Food Network has been one of the best things for our industry because now people want to have their fresh herbs. They want to have mint because they want to make mojitos on their patio in the summer time. That’s what drives me to plant a garden — a big patch of mint, just so i can have mojitos all summer long.

Kristine Lonergan, Garden State Growers: Absolutely, yes but the driver is a little bit different, with the trend toward a lot more outdoor entertaining, particularly for younger people who buy homes. So that does translate into a lot more people gardening, particularly container gardening. The younger generation is a lot more aware of eating healthier. They want to grow their own because they read so much, whether true or not, about pesticides. They want to eat more organic. So the combination of those trends is in our favor.

Joe Lutey, Wojo’s Greenhouses: I think that how we traditionally think of gardening will continue as people are becoming homeowners, raising families and spending more time at home rather than being out and about. A lot of that will be pressure to fit in more than to be a gardener, necessarily. They’ll want their house to look as nice as their neighbors’ and the peer pressure aspect of that is something that we can use to our advantage.

But gardening will be reinvented and people will be doing it not to be gardeners — nobody wants to be a gardener anymore. They want to be entrepreneurs and grow their own products to sell. They want to be home brewers and grow their own hops. They want to be foodies and grow their own vegetables that they can cook, eat and tell their friends. It influences their status by growing their own and being able to tell their friends about it. Traditional gardening is probably going to disappear and it’s just a matter of how it’s reinvented by our consumers and what we do to capture that.

Jennifer Hatalski, Hort Couture: I totally agree that gardeners are going to be reinvented but I do think there is going to be that block of gardeners who will be somewhat traditional just because of what they did with their families. They’re going to want to keep those cool memories alive of what they did with their moms and their grandmas. So there’s going to be some little portion of traditional gardening kept alive but in a different way.

What Kristine said about lifestyle and being healthy — that is something that we need to hit hard on in our marketing. Personally, I’m on a huge Instagram kick and I am amazed with the things that people put together with fresh fruits, foods and vegetables, and share on Instagram about their healthy lifestyle. So if we really dial into the healthy lifestyle and show people how they can grow plants themselves and then create recipes and containers, we’ll just be playing a part in that experience and really giving back.