Trendspotting: Millennial Gardeners

Wanted: One word to make gardening cool and sexy

By Michael Leach

One of TV’s green thumbs needs help selling gardening to the Millennial generation.

Joe Lamp’l, host and developer of Growing a Greener World on PBS, seeks a horticultural equivalent of “foodie.” This special word will make plants and gardening seem as “sexy, cool and hip” as foodie does the food industry. Plantie, gardenie just don’t work for him. Start thinking and send him your suggestions. Tell us, too.

Getting the garden industry to care about Millennials was the thrust of his keynote program,  “Can You Hear Me Now? Voice Beyond the Greenhouse,” at the recent OFA Short Course in Columbus. The annual event is one of America’s largest horticultural industry gatherings.

Millennials, which he defines as 17- to 34-year-olds, are second only to baby boomers in numbers and potential buying power, an obvious draw for the breeders, retailers and growers represented of OFA, the Association of Horticulture Professionals.

Gardening should be a natural for Millennials. He said they’re into cooking, volunteering, sustainability and self-expression. They’re even into slowing way down in their off hours. That’s why cooking appeals to them.

Trouble is, they’re burdened with educational loan debt and unlikely to stake a claim of suburban turf anytime soon. So garden centers, growers and breeders need to develop a tiered approach to help them first grow things on front stoops and balconies and then decks and yards.  Plus, the industry should help them enjoy the “journey” of gardening rather than just selling them something.

His favorite garden center, for instance, offers cooking and gardening classes, plus help with composting and rain harvesting. A visit to the Greener World website shows Lamp’l doesn’t just preach social networking and a multimedia approach to telling the gardening story.

No wonder. This group is seriously into their cell phones and all the Internet wonders of the world those devices summon with a touch: entertainment, news, games, maps, restaurant reviews, apps, socializing and paying those college loans. Sometimes they even make phone calls.

Those of us already savoring a gardening lifestyle know the real pleasure lies as much in the journey of nurturing as in having an appealing landscape. It’s too good to keep to ourselves. But how do we get the word out?

As for that special word, send it to:



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8 responses to “Trendspotting: Millennial Gardeners

  1. Hey, I was thinking of the word “Farmster”. These hip, young gardeners (and aspiring farmers, whether urban, suburban or rural) are way into the idea of GYO and growing with a purpose. I think it encompasses the idea of future gardeners and the millennial generation. Thoughts?

    • Michael Leach

      The “ster” is especially appealing and hints at hipster, hip and such. Perhaps that American Gothic image of farmers is fading away with the rage for Farmville. And you’re certainly right about those of us in the GYO crowd being farmers at heart. Who knows, maybe this word will appeal to the nongardening but green Millennials. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • No problem! Yeah, I believe that the older icons of farming are being augmented to fit today’s lifestyle and ideals, but that could be a good thing. I think the Millennials (myself being one) are looking for ways to connect with nature, especially since technology is so ingrained in our lives. Plus, getting something tangible from gardening (i.e. a good harvest!) helps to prove your time’s effort was worth something. More and more Millennials will get into gardening if it’s made easy, affordable and utilitarian for them.

  2. Michael Leach

    You’ve hit on a main thrust of Joe’s comments. The industry needs to step up efforts to do as you suggest: make gardening easy, affordable and useful. Joe also said gardening activities need to fit on a windowsill, balcony or deck, because not everybody has a spread in suburbia. Any suggestions?

    • I see the rise of Container Gardening to continue, especially for renters and those who live in urban settings. It makes one’s garden portable, and easily changeable. The functionality of CG really makes it easy for beginner gardeners! More online resources are going to important to connect with the younger generation. They want info at their fingertips, often via smartphone, and we have to be able to provide that to them, whether it be plant/product info, how-to videos or online forums (FB, Pinterest, Twitter, etc) for information sharing. CG is also relatively affordable, especially is you’re recycling old pots, or re-purposing something for you home. In the end, I see gardening as a emotional, as well as utilitarian, experience for Millennials. Inspire them with plant material, connect with them 1-on-1 as much as possible to make the experience inclusive, and keep innovating for them. The gardening industry will only grow as much as it’s products and services do.

  3. Michael Leach

    Thanks. These are terrific ideas. I hope some of the industry types are reading your comments. If we can ease the Millennials into the process of gardening, they’ll get hooked like we are.

  4. Pingback: Selling gardening to Generation Y (aka the Millenials). | Plantola

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