The Future of Horticulture is in the Hands of …. Urban Lumberjacks and Plant Whisperers
As Executive Director of Seed Your Future, it’s been my privilege to share our research findings with groups across the county who are concerned that there are not enough people pursuing careers in “horticulture.” Across the green-collar industry, employers, colleges and universities, gardening groups, certification and training programs, and public gardens all stuggle with what they have identified as a decades-long decline in interest in the world of “horticulture.”
In fact, that’s why the Seed Your Future movement was formed — to promote horticulture and inspire more people to pursue careers working with plants. We just spent the last three years conducting research with the industry, with American adults, and with focus groups of middle-schoolers, their parents, their teachers and their guidance counselors.
What did we find?
It’s not about them — it’s about us.
That’s right. It’s not about the theory that young people and their families “just don’t care about plants.” It’s not about the theory that there is “apathy about the future of our planet.” And it’s certainly not about “young people don’t have a strong work ethic.” (All quotes we heard from industry insiders by the way.)
It’s about us. It’s about the way we talk about our industry, our work, our love of plants and the natural world. Kids told us that we need to stop using words like “horticulture.” They told us we need to tell them about how plants are “cool”, how plants can “solve the world’s problems”, and “why they should care.” They also told us that if we don’t tell these stories in short, “cool” videos and through social media, they “couldn’t care less.” They told us that telling them about careers with titles that sound “boring” doesn’t interest them.
So, what can we do? Quite a lot. And it’s not “rocket science” (which by the way, tweenagers think is an “old-person saying” – yikes.) As we’ve been developing our youth outreach and social media/public relations plans (which will launch in March), we’ve been sharing our findings with the industry and asking employers to take to heart what kids have told us. Some have already embraced what they’ve heard. They’ve thought about how to talk about their own jobs in a way that will resonate with young people. I’ve been challenging people to create new titles (or at least taglines) for themselves and to create their own videos and social media chatter about how they #ILoveMyPlantJob.
Urban Lumberjack and Plant Whisperer are a few of the new titles people are giving themselves. I’ve heard dozens more. A few of the gems that are already resonating with kids: Land Artist, Plant Scientist, Exterior Designer, Plant Curator, King of the Lab, Drone Engineer, Flower Guru, and Plantologist.
So, let’s focus on what we as a movement can do together to inspire people to embrace what we already know – that without people who are “plantologists” we won’t be able to feed the world with food that is safe and nutritious; to preserve native habitats; to imagine landscapes and bring them to life; to tend to landscapes that welcome us home and invite us outdoors to play; to soothe and delight with flowers and foliage; to wonder and experiment; and to ensure the future of our planet.
Intrigued? Learn more about what we found and what we are doing about it in the article: Horticulture is Weird - Plantology is Cool.
Susan E. Yoder is the Executive Director of Seed Your Future. She joined Seed Your Future in September 2016 and brings with her more than twenty-five years of experience working with nonprofit organizations. For most of her career, she has worked with organizations that focus on youth development and providing children, youth and families with opportunities to grow and thrive. She is passionate about the outdoors and the positive impact it can have on physical and emotional health. She is dedicated to finding more opportunities to move the traditional classroom outside, thus providing youth with the opportunity to learn about — and in — the natural world. An avid gardener, her personal motto is “Think Outside – No Box Required.” Contact her at syoder@SeedYourFuture.org.