Photo credit: Flickr/englishsnow
Gardening and newspapers have one thing in common.
How do we reach the next generation, the under-35-year-olds we need to survive into the future?
They hype about this group, Gen Y, is this:
- They aren't interested in gardening and outdoor life.
- They are too busy playing video games and hanging out together.
- And they lack the work ethic you need to sustain a garden.
Kelly Norris, a member of that generation and a member of a gardening family business, tried to convince a skeptical audience at the recent Garden Writers Association convention that not only is Gen Y ready to garden, gardening better get ready for Gen Y.
After all, there are 70 million people born betwen 1977 and 2000 -- more than the number of Baby Boomers -- and most of them are college age now. By 2014, they will be 47 percent of the workforce.
The gardening industry saw booms in perennial sales in 1982-85 and 1993-97. Baby Boomers were taking an interest in gardening in waves, and we can expect more such waves.
Norris makes the very good point that we shouldn't be trying to sell Gen Y on plants and pots. We should sell them on the joy of gardening. When they get it, they will buy the plants and pots.
"We need to spread the word about how great gardening is," he said. "We need to sell gardening, not products. We need to put value in what we do."
The other thing about Gen Y? This is a generation which likes mentors, and this gives us, the older generation of gardeners, a chance to introduce them to gardening.
This is how we sell it, he said.
- Growing your own food is cool!
- Gardening is a way to connect with people.
- It is hard to screw up a garden, and it is easy to fix.
- Appeal to their sense of competition -- do you have the best garden in the neighborhood?
- Gardening can add value to your home, which is your most important investment.
- And, get this, you are SAVING THE PLANET.
He was an enthusiastic speaker and he made a fascinating case, but I am not completely convinced we can get the next generation to repeat what we have done -- in gardening or anything else.
Most of us came into gardening later in life. We might have to wait a couple of decades before Gen Y, which has so many more demands on their lives, has time to do this.
But, hey, I am in the newspaper business. I have my own troubles.