Why “that’s actually a thing” is the wrong thing to say

Abundant research studies are clear – green spaces, pleasing landscapes, and plants in an otherwise concrete-jungle can reduce crime, support positive physical and mental health, and build strong communities.


After spending the last few days here at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition being awed and inspired by the students who will be our green-collar workers of the future, this morning I was deflated by Greensboro, NC WFMY Anchor Eric Chilton. He was on air highlighting events in the area. He noted the National Collegiate Landscape Competition and then added “That’s actually a thing” and gave a little chuckle.

In my opinion, his comment diminished and disrespected not only the young people from 62 colleges and universities across the country who are competing this week, but an entire industry. Without horticulturists, 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.

Across the green-collar industry, employers, colleges and universities, gardening groups, certification and training programs, and public gardens all struggle with what they have identified as a decades-long decline in interest in the world of “horticulture.”  This has created a serious workforce gap. It’s no wonder why when comments such as these, in my opinion, imply something less than positive support for what this industry is all about.

This stereotype is what inspired leaders across the industry to come together to do something about it. Seed Your Future was created to change these misperceptions, promote horticulture and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

I welcome Mr. Chilton and others who are surprised that the National Collegiate Landscape Competition is “actually a thing” to learn more about this vital, viable, and rewarding industry. I urge you to learn about the teams who on Saturday, will be declared the winners of the competition. Learn about what it took for them to understand plant science, artistry, weather, environmental impact, technology, business, and more. I suspect that you’ll find wonder and develop respect. These young people are our future. They’ll be the ones who help solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. I for one, cannot wait to see what they can do!

Susan E. Yoder, IOM
Executive Director