Oct 2, 2009

Gen-Y Gardener Debate Heats Up

Over the past couple of days a small skirmish erupted among garden writers and bloggers on the internet. During the GWA symposium this year there was a presentation about Gen-Y gardeners and some of the attendees tweeted portions of the talk. Gen-Y garden bloggers who were following the thread took offense to the generalizations made about Gen-Y feeling entitled, why they supposedly aren't gardening and the usual stuff that gets said when professionals need to find a way to understand a group of people.

Here area few links in chronological order that I hope shed light on the conversation taking place for those who weren't following along and arrived late. Remember how three years ago older garden bloggers were wondering why the youngsters weren't garden blogging? Well, be careful what you ask for.

Adriana Martinez, a Gen-Y gardener, reacts on twitter to the tweet that launched the Gen-Y gardeners discussion.

This week Katie Hobson of Garden Punks posted this in reply to all the talk on Twitter and the GWA symposium about Gen-Y and gardening. Those of you who have been around garden blogs for a while may remember that this isn't the first time we've had this conversation.

This post by Susan Reimer, didn't go over so well with the Gen-Y crowd on Twitter, getting a reply by Katie Hobson here and Gayla Trail here.

My thoughts on this subject:

This is all almost as funny as this one time on Garden Web when some well-meaning folk, started a thread about what they could do to involve more minorities in gardening and get them to post on the forum. You can imagine the hilarity that resulted from that thread when the members who were minorities spoke up.

As a member of Gen-X I can see why Gen-Y is getting offended. It wasn't long ago that I was in the same spot trying to figure out how all these old people could be so clueless and not understand me. I came of age right around the time this whole blogging thing was taking off and older folks were clutching their pearls at the fact that these crazy kids were posting our thoughts for all to read and letting people see them live their lives on webcams, sometimes for money, others just for attention. Those were interesting times.

If Gen-Y remembers these moments perhaps they'll be the generation that puts an end to the cycle of trying to save gardening by foisting it on a younger crop of people. What can be called gardening is bigger than any one person, or group of people, and I find it presumptuous that people think it will die off just because one day we're going to die. And if gardening is to one day die, so what? Maybe it needs a good death to have a great rebirth.


  1. I guess I'm just sick and tired of the whole putting people into boxes and making horribly inaccurate (and insulting) generalizations. I can't really speak to the GWA session since I wasn't there, but holy cow did the tweets from that session light a fire under a few of us! It was just a couple days later I went to the 1st of my Green Landscaper classes and someone stood up, and well, made some tacky generalizations. That's why I felt it was time to write about this issue yet again.

    Are people really that lazy that they need to generalize? Come on folks. We can ALL do better than that.

    Life goes on.

  2. I'm not even sure whether I'm Gen X or Y. I suspect X but I don't think it really matters. If younger folks aren't gardening then the blame is on those who pass on the knowledge for not teaching it. I was lucky and have always had an interest in the garden since I lived for several years with gardening grandparents. I suspect that part of the issue may be money. Older people have been working a while and have the finances to buy property. Younger people just out of school are trying to make ends meet and live in apartments with small spaces. That's not to say they can't garden in pots but their spaces are more limited and possibly more challenging.

  3. So well put, MBT. I dislike generalizations of any kind, having been the victim of them more than once, many of which were because of my Southern accent.

    The older generation should be encouraging the love of gardening by being good examples. I'm happy to say that my two daughters , who never showed an interest in gardening when they were kids, are very much into it now.

    A lot of my clients are very young and successful and while they didn't know how to garden they really appreciated my coaching and I enjoyed watching them learn.

    It delights me to no end to see young children at our local park tending their little garden plots. These will be the gardeners of the future and it good that they are being mentored by the experienced volunteer gardeners.

  4. Katie,

    People need to generalize and try to put people into boxes because there is money to be made. If they can't pigeonhole you and feel like they understand you then they can't sell you stuff you didn't know you needed.


    You bring up some good points and you may be onto something.


    Not only did your daughters get the gardening bug from you, but one of them is even a garden blogger. Carolyn, FTW!

  5. This argument is as old as the hills. A certain percentage of every generation looks on the youth and remarks, "They're nothing but a bunch of lazy, whining, entitled brats who disrespect their elders... and so on and so on."

    What generation hasn't been defined this way by the generation before them? Reminds me of the Neil Young song, "Old man take a look at my life, I'm a lot like you were."

    These sorts of remarks make me laugh but also get under my skin for a variety of reasons.

    I'm 36 now but when I started gardening I was in my early 20s and certainly felt like an anomaly. I started You Grow Girl 10 years ago when I was in my later 20s and still felt like an anomaly. But all it took was starting the site to discover that there were a heck of a lot of people my age and younger who were gardening.

    I've since gone on to make my living as a garden writer and communicator. And along the way I've had to check some of my own biases because as I started to meet my "readership" (sorry, I kind of hate that word) I discovered that people of all ages could relate to what I wrote and were buying my book... not just the youth.

    The fact is, gardening is not any one thing, it is actually a large diaspora of individuals gardening in different ways, different spaces, and for vastly different reasons. The only thing we have in common is that we are all growing plants... and some people open the definition up so widely that even that commonality is not always assumed.

    The fact is that the young people are taking up gardening just as much as the older generations were when they were younger. In some cases they are doing it in the same way. In other cases they are coming up with new ways to garden. So perhaps therein lies the problem -- they're doing it differently.

    But I think that all of this hubub comes down to the fact that really there is a group of retailers/marketers/etc who want to sell their stuff (whatever it is) to young people. They think, "If we could capture this "market" and get them "gardening" we'll strike it rich!! How do we do it? Let's begin by defining this group."

    And I laugh. Because at the end of the day I have just as much in common with someone my own age as I have with someone else who is 40 years my senior.

    All of that crap is marketing speak. As someone who makes my living in this business, I have to adopt that language and play that game to sell to publishers etc, and it is what it is. But when I sit down to write, I do not start from such a narrow-minded place. I don't define myself with a label, "Gen x", and I don't define others that way. The idea of that makes me want to vomit.

    And that's why these "How do we sell to the youth?" schemes don't work. Because they start by narrowly defining a large and varied group, and continue to undermine them from that point on.

    Do you like being talked down to by marketers? Do you like the idea of a bunch of people sitting down in a room defining who you are and do you feel okay about accepting that definition and taking it up as your torch? I don't.

    Screw that.

  6. I was just working out in my garden-digging up and re-arranging it all, and thought about all of this discussion. Then, my neighbor came out to mow her lawn. She is about 30 years older than me (at least), and she HATES yard work and gardening. Her gardening philsophy is to rip out and cut down. Which is totally fine. It works for her.

    It is pretty funny, and I guess speaks to everyone's marketing agenda, that nobody has been talking about 40 or 50 or 60 year olds who don't like to garden. Apparently, the marketers have given up on them. I guess with the recession, those people don't have untold wealth to spend in their non-existent retirements.

    It is like, by moaning about why Gen Ys don't garden (whether that is a fact or not), they are saying that everyone in the older generations DO like to to garden, and that is equally as general and pointless.


    But, you are right, in order to make money, people have to segment, and in order to segment, they have to define.

  7. Oh lordy--that was my tweet that was re-tweeted and started the fray!

    I'm @gardenofwords

  8. Insert Descendents-Suburban Home here.

    Actually, there was another tweet prior to the one noted here that I responded to but was equally irking. Gayla raised the question about being talked down to. That is exactly how I felt while reading those tweets; addressed to me no less.

    Whatevs. Generalizations are very convenient. I've always done it my way and will continue to do so and I'm not going to justify it to anyone.

  9. Agree this is all so timeless. I'm 49 now, but can't remember a time I wasn't a gardener. Had my first garden in early 20's, was a plant fanatic by mid-20's. And even 20 years ago, the 20 something gardener was a talked down to seemingly anomaly.

    And what was so odd to me at the time was having a bit of a scientific background - always thought of plants in their latin names, read and studied all kinds of horticulture stuff. Often the people talking down to me, making age based assumptions at garden centers or plant talks, actually were less knowledgeable than I. Usually I just had a good inner chuckle......

  10. Who knew gardening blogging could be so unintentionally entertaining. I'm sorry. I know to some this is "serious business" and all, but I couldn't stop laughing at the he said/she said-ness of it all. For the record I am a Gen-X gardener and my Gen-Y daughter is following in my footsteps. And while we follow blogs, neither of us has the time to put into creating one, hence we don't blog.
    But thank you to all that do. We both learn a lot of hints and tips etc.


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