GAMECHANGING – AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE PLANET

On July 16, 2018, it was my honor to accept Greenhouse Grower magazine’s Gamechanger of the Year Award on behalf of the Seed Your Future movement. Joining me on stage were three of our talented volunteers who also happen to have been born between the years of 1981 and 2000. Why the vagueness about their ages when you know they are of a generation that many tag as a name ending in “…ials”? It’s because, frankly, I am tired of the labelling of generations as being one thing or another. There are great traits and not so great traits across all ages and people. Let’s just stop it. Let’s never again use the terms that label generations – I’m not even going to use them here.

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My ire has been growing for some time about this issue. It finally sprouted leaves when an invited speaker at the Cultivate18 Conference used a sing-song-y-little-kid voice and made disparaging remarks that fueled a stereotype that no young people are interested in growing plants – only in looking at their phones.

How incredibly insulting and minimalizing to the students, interns, HortScholars and young professionals at the Conference who spend every single day living their love for the art, science, technology and business of growing plants. I could have just sat there and let the stereotyping comments pass-by. But then I remembered some inspirational comments from the CareerUp event the day before. “If you don’t speak up, nothing will ever change.”  

At the foundation of Seed Your Future’s research findings is lack of awareness of the fulfilling, meaningful, impactful careers in the green-collar industry and one of the largest contributing factors is that most kids are not exposed to the natural world, plants and plant-careers in the ways that generations before them were. Indeed, times have changed, and we lost a lot of the green-collar career pipeline because we stopped intentionally teaching plant-based concepts inside and outside of the classroom. (Of course, there are wonderful examples of exceptions, but this is generally the norm.)

Gamechangers break cycles. Yes, Seed Your Future is attempting to do that, and you can find out more about that by reading about us. But what about me sitting there listening to this speaker?  I decided I want to be someone who helps change the game. I did two things. First, I contacted the speaker. He gave out his contact information during his presentation. I wrote to him and invited him to talk with me. Time will tell if he’ll make the time to contact me back. (I'll keep trying!)

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I also started an online conversation with a Facebook group I belong to. I challenged the group to consider how we in the green-collar world can work together to help educate uninformed “stereotypers”. The dialogue has been energizing. Perhaps you have some ideas as well. If you do – don’t keep them to yourself. Speak up.

If we are ever going to change the downward spiral of interest in plants and plant-based careers, it is only those who love it and are passionate about the work that can inspire others. Without horticulturists, we won’t be able to feed the world with food that is safe and nutritious; preserve native habitats; imagine landscapes and bring them to life; tend to landscapes that welcome us home and invite us outdoors to play; soothe and delight with flowers and foliage; wonder and experiment; and to ensure the future of our planet.

Let’s change the game!

-Susan E. Yoder, Executive Director, Seed Your Future