The Horticulture Industry's Age Problem is Bigger than you Think
Reposted by Hillcrest Garden, Inc. | Article by SAF
A major national newspaper recently highlighted the challenge of engaging younger professionals in horticulture fields — and the potential rewards of the myriad career paths within the floral industry.
“As older plant growers, nursery managers and groundskeepers reach retirement age, there are too few [young people] arriving to replace them,” wrote Adrian Higgins in an Aug. 5 story in The Washington Post. “Plants feed us, oxygenate us, heal us, shade us and clothe us. Plants are the stuff of legal booze and illicit drugs, and, perhaps more obviously, they simply delight us. Despite this reliance, most Americans are said to be able to identify no more than 10 species growing around them. This indifference seems to be one of the woes facing the green industry.”
The assessment is one that industry members underscored.
“There’s an age gap in commercial horticulture, a drastic and obvious lack of people under the age of 40,” said Cole Mangum, vice president of production at Bell Nursery, a Society of American Florists member in Burtonsville, Maryland. “Our largest concern is in finding that next generation of greenhouse growers.”
“We have more employers calling us than we have students to fill the jobs,” added John Dole, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University, and the winner in 2014 of SAF’s Alex Laurie Award for Research and Education. “We aren’t meeting the needs of the industry.”
The story goes on to detail industry efforts to address that challenge, including the nonprofit Seed Your Future, which has dedicated the past five years to devising a strategic plan to address the need for more young workers. The group recently launched a new campaign, Bloom!, that uses “social media platforms and personalities to make the connection between plants and topics that interest sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.”
The education component is key, Susan Yoder, Seed Your Future’s executive director, told the Post.
“Kids aren’t even going to consider a career in horticulture if they don’t know the impact of plants in our world,” Yoder said.
Yoder and Anna Ball of Ball Horticultural Company will talk more about Seed Your Future next month during SAF Palm Springs 2018, the Society of American Florists’ 134th convention in Rancho Mirage, California.
Look for more coverage of that initiative and other efforts to recruit young people into the floral industry in the September issue of Floral Management magazine.
President, Hillcrest Garden, Inc.