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Growing Together

A career in crisis – where have all the children gone?

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

Members of the horticultural industry are viewed as stewards to the plants, trees and shrubs we all have the good fortune to encounter on a daily basis.

In fact, many growers entered the horticultural profession for not only their love of nature, but the ability to create and support something for the good of the whole world.

But as many media outlets have been reporting over the last few years, the horticultural industry continues to struggle with labor challenges – especially when it comes to encouraging the next generation to enter the field.

Cole Mangum, Vice President of Production at Bell Nursery in Burtonsville, MD says, “There’s an age gap in commercial horticulture, a drastic and obvious lack of people under the age of 40. Our largest concern is in finding that next generation of greenhouse growers.”

It’s worth noting that Mangum is already an anomaly in the industry at 32 years old (his grandfather founded the company).

Many have tried to figure out why there’s such a lack of interest in the horticultural industry today and the following statistic may reveal the answer.

According to a May 2018 article in The Washington Post, the average American child spends five to eight hours a day in front of a digital screen, often at the expense of unstructured play outdoors in nature.

When time in front of a digital screen outweighs the time spent outside playing in the dirt, planting flowers, climbing trees and marveling at nature’s splendor, it’s no surprise the younger generation has little to no interest in what horticulture is all about.

Beyond the many health benefits of spending more time outside (more creativity, less hyperactive, improved socialization, physical fitness, etc.) getting children and teenagers outside more often can help inspire them towards a career in horticulture.

And it’s not that difficult to do. Just open your door and put one foot in front of the other and encourage children to get off the couch and on their feet.

Educate children on plant health care, show them the bounties of planting a vegetable garden, let them run around your front lawn barefoot before collapsing under the shade of an old oak tree. The point is to get them outside and show them just how many things that touch their daily lives are because of the horticultural industry.

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