Can We Turn the Green-Lining into a Green-Collar World?
People who work with plants are generally an optimistic bunch. We embrace the power of plants. We know how they can calm, soothe, heal, nourish and inspire. We know they make a positive difference to our physical and mental health. We also know they can help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges including the changing climate and feeding a growing population. And because of this, we identified a plant-based “green-lining” in the global pandemic.
While no pandemic has a “silver-lining,” we saw a “green-lining” emerge and wrote about it on our BLOG. The growing interest in houseplants, home vegetable and flower gardens, and improving backyards, patios and balconies were all an unexpected boost for the plant industry. Demand for flowers, trees, plants, seeds, and other garden supplies frequently exceeded the available supply. Often delays in getting product to consumers were due to supply-chain issues; but more often, it was because of the lack of a workforce to get the products to market. That said, Seed Your Future ended 2020 with palpable excitement about the future.
Our mission to grow awareness of the power of plants and the rewards of careers working with plants seemed to be poised right where we wanted it to be. After all, with the growing interest in plants, if we do our job well, we can turn that into more interest in careers working with plants - right? We were riding high with enthusiasm and declared 2021 the Year of Plant Power.
With our awareness campaigns and projects with partners such as Scholastic launched in full force, and our movement’s volunteers full of optimism and drive, I found myself caught unprepared when a phone call challenged my thinking.
In talking with a seasoned horticulture professional, he expressed pessimism that the “green-lining” would have any long-term impact on appreciation for plants and interest in careers working with plants. He surprised me, and I admit my first reaction was one of exasperation (who wants to listen to Cassandra when you are Pollyanna?). I refrained from jumping through the phone to tell him how wrong he was. Instead, I asked questions about his perspective. He noted other times in history when he thought renewed interest in plants (e.g., Victory Gardens of the 1940’s) did not translate into long-term plant-passion and plant-career interest.
I heard him. I understood his points. And I questioned, will this “green-lining” indeed be different?
By a coincidence of timing, that same week we were judging the Scholastic BLOOM! Plant Mash-up contest submissions from students across the country. Almost 5,000 middle-schoolers identified challenges in their own community, then imagined a plant-based solution founded on the qualities of two plants they “mashed-up.” What an incredible inspiration! The students were so thoughtful and creative. Our judges had a challenging time selecting the winners. Check out the winning submissions here. It renewed my optimism. These students get it. They are our future. But will that be enough?
Alone, it won’t be enough. But together, we can be more than enough. We can change the trajectory. We can eliminate plant apathy. We can inspire more young people to pursue the “green-collar” careers that will make a difference to our world. How do we do it? Our job is to show others the way. Review the tips we shared in 2020 – they still ring true today.
If each of us can inspire even one person to pursue a green-collar career, we can ensure a strong pipeline of future talent — talent that will take the reigns and provide the technology, science, art, education and business acumen to ensure the future of our people and our planet. Together we can turn this green-lining into a world with a bounty of green-collar professionals. Join us in seeding the future by seeding their future!
Have a plant power idea to share, or a comment about this BLOG post? Share your thoughts here.
- Susan E. Yoder, IOM is the executive director of Seed Your Future.