Selling the Benefits of Gardening to Gen Y

It was a subfreezing Saturday morning at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market in Denver, but this stalk of Brussels sprouts gave Adrienne Hott something to smile about.

Adrienne Hott blogLast Saturday I had the chance for a one-on-one Tweet up with Jean Ann VanKrevelen, Portland food writer, director of social media for Cool Springs Press and co-author of the forthcoming book, “Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving Fresh Food.”

Jean Ann (@JeanAnnVK) was in Denver for a family event and looked for fellow garden writers on Twitter, where she found me @WesternGardener.

We met at the Cherry Creek Farmers Market, despite the subfreezing temps that made for frozen fingers and wilted lettuce.

Jean Ann brought along her niece, Adrienne Hott and Adrienne’s husband Chris, who were visiting from Phoenix. They were exceptionally good sports humoring Jean Ann and me as we admired the glorious fall vegetables including perfect pumpkins and colorful winter squash.

When Adrienne spotted the tall stalks of Brussels sprouts on one vendor’s table she was absolutely delighted. She’d never seen what sprouts look like before being displayed in bins at the grocery store.

Later we all warmed up with coffee and talked about gardening, specifically what the next generation of gardeners–Generation Y–thinks about gardening. Jean Ann posted a podcast of our wide-ranging conversation at her website called Good Enough Gardening.

For those of us who can’t remember when we didn’t garden, it’s interesting to hear that for some members of Gen Y, gardening is considered a luxury in terms of the amount of time most young adults can devote to it and the amount of space they have for planting.

It was fun to be able to give Adrienne simple ideas for getting started, such as growing fresh herbs she can add to Italian recipes or planting containers of vegetables that will do well in a sunny spot outside her condo’s backdoor.

It seemed to me she was mostly worried about making the same mistakes we’ve all made: watering plants too much or too little.

Despite Adrienne’s interest in growing her own food, it’s going to take some work to cultivate the next generation of gardeners, especially those like Adrienne’s husband Chris, who aren’t convinced the benefits of gardening outweigh the time, space and effort involved in the process.

Based on your own gardening experience, how would you sell the benefits of gardening to the next crop of gardeners?


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You’re absolutely right about teaching the next generations where food comes from, as well as how to grow their own. Thankfully, I think there are more young adults who are interested. We just need to be available to help so they don’t lose interest!

Thanks for your comment, Amy. Adrienne and Chris both said they’d love to get involved in a community garden, but felt they didn’t have any extra time now. So, there’s definitely interest and I agree with you that we need to be available to help.

Our society has become disconnected from nature and the earth. We need to pass on the idea of respecting the earth to our techno generation.

Agreed. Although, I do think change is happening. There were 7 million new gardeners this year trying their hand at planting vegetable gardens because of the recession.

I think one good way to sell gardening to Gen-Y is to get a community conversation going during the growing season. Social media is perfect – they can share ideas, successes, tips, and although it’s on-line, it’s also a good way to connect.

Have you tried anything like this yet, Carol? I’d be interested to hear more about it.

Hi Jodi. If the Gen Y’er expressed interest in gardening but said that they didn’t have time, I would talk about the importance of doing things you want to do even when you don’t think you have time to do it. Gardens don’t have to take a lot of time. Just start small and take baby steps. It they aren’t convinced that gardening is worth their time, I would tell them about all of the studies that have found that gardening and spending time with Nature eliminates stress-related diseases – e.g. depression, anxiety, obesity, etc. Beats drugs! Great podcast with Jean AnnVK!

Thanks for these great suggestions, Gaye! I think for many people the term “gardening” = a big time investment. As you pointed out, gardens don’t have to take a lot of time or effort. My experiments growing veggies in containers on the patio are good examples of what can be done with little bits of time and a sunny space.

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