Gardeners trending younger, more diversified

I’ve heard for many years that many of the skills our parents and grandparents grew up with — such as gardening, canning and crocheting — are dying arts, since the younger generations aren’t interested in them. There would be little hope for our society when it loses its ability to feed and produce for itself.

Fortunately, though, that no longer may be the case, especially in gardening. It seems we are turning new ground in gardening demographics.

As this year’s garden trend points out, gardening, specifically food gardening, is on the rise among younger generations. Experts in other fields also will tell you that younger generations are once again returning to those domestic survival skills that came naturally to our parents and grandparents.

For example, at our office, we see many more young people interested in canning, and handicrafts like crocheting, knitting, sewing and quilting are popular hobbies in younger crowds. People also are fermenting their own beverages.

It seems as if DIY is a current and growing trend.

It’s not just the younger segment of the population that is gardening more. Looking at the cultural makeup of the country, we see minority groups as a growing segment of the population. Hispanic groups now make up the largest minority in the country, and Pew Research estimates that this segment will account for 29 percent of the U.S. population by 2015 (whites will account for 47 percent, blacks 13 percent and Asians 9 percent).

The cuisines found in many Hispanic countries prize fresh, simple ingredients. Growing these ingredients at home is common, especially where access to fresh markets is limited. Herbs, tomatoes and peppers are common homegrown staples. I’ll also point out that many Asian cultures also prize fresh, home-grown ingredients.

What does this mean?

With this increase of gardening in younger groups, such as the millennials, and an increasing population of cultures that traditionally garden, it is no wonder that sales of vegetable plants was higher than ornamental plants last year for the first time since the industry started keeping records.

 Bedding plants such as impatiens, petunias and marigolds are giving way to tomatoes, greens and peppers among these younger groups.

Surprisingly, the millennial generation, filled with up-and-coming gardeners, composes 25 percent of the U.S. population, meaning that there are now more millennials than Baby Boomers.

Studies cited by the Garden Media Group in the 2015 Garden Trends report state that millennials spend somewhere around $400 per year on gardening.

Much of what they spend has to do with young men, who spend on average $100 more per year than the average gardener. This is much in part due to the continuing trends of younger men growing ingredients to ferment into beer and other intoxicating beverages, growing ingredients for barbecues and entertaining friends and satisfying a fixation on growing and consuming hot peppers (no joke).

Of course, another factor driving this trend is the desire of these younger groups of people to be more conscious of what they consume. These groups tend to shy away from processed foods in favor of whole ingredients. (Ronald McDonald has been saddened recently by a sudden drop in sales.)

What better way to guarantee the wholesomeness of your food than to grow it yourself? These young foodies are growing their own ingredients and sourcing them locally more than ever.

I have even seen this trend play out in my own work. In the past few years, I’ve noticed younger audiences at garden workshops. This past year, I had more young people than I’ve ever had in my Master Gardening class. They were there to learn how to grow vegetables … and hot peppers — they really wanted to grow hot peppers.

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