Why Horticulture? Inspire and not Scare
Horticulture is not an easy industry to make a fortune. It requires putting in extreme amounts of work over long hours. Often times the money you make depends on three months out of the year. To be successful in the industry means to operate rapidly in any condition as efficiently as possible, and at the same time hope that mother nature doesn’t completely destroy your selling season. When you think about it this way, why would anyone want to work in this industry? Why would anyone want to open a garden center? For that matter why would any student out of college want to go to work in horticulture?
This is where one of the main problems lies in the communication between existing professionals in the industry and the youth (specifically students considering careers in horticulture). One of the things that we as an industry like to do is tell people how hard the work is and how often things don’t go as planned. We like to emphasize how the weather was terrible, or how “you don’t really make any money on mums”; you just grow them to stay relevant in the fall. This is understandable. The horticulture industry is not a place for those unwilling to put in massive amounts of time and effort. It is in our nature as social people to seek justification for our endeavors and therefore “complain” when things don’t go as well as we had hoped. However we have to watch our audience when we do this.
If there was no money to be made in the horticulture industry nobody would sell plants. No one would raise vegetables. No one would have landscaping around their homes. If there was no market for horticultural products we would be extinct just like the typewriter industry. There has to be a way to make a profit. Sure people aren’t making Bill Gates money in our industry, but we have more to offer. Our industry attracts people that like different things that you cannot find anywhere else. Our industry combines living things with chemistry with business with conservation with marketing. It’s one of the few industries that combines all of these different elements which make it attractive to people with diverse interests. Everyone in our industry loves what they do. Face it, there is a reason each and every one of us does what we do.
Recently I came upon a saleswoman (for a wholesale grower) giving a presentation to a group of students. Throughout the presentation she kept emphasizing that the money isn’t good and neither are the hours. Hearing her talk I wondered if I was in the right industry. I couldn’t imagine what the other students were thinking. I was raised in the industry. It’s all I know, and yet she made it sound as if I would be living in my car if I decided to work in the industry. Finally at the end of the presentation I asked her “Why are you in this business?” She then said it was because she loves plants, and that she loves getting people the plants they need, and that it was a job that could pay all of her bills. Why didn’t she mention that in her presentation?
People often claim that we aren’t getting enough young people interested in our industry. This is because we aren’t showing young people the positive aspects of pursuing a career in horticulture. Presentations like the one above are not rare. I see things like this all the time. I agree we should inform students that this industry is built upon hard work, but at the same time we need to show young people the benefits that horticulture can offer them. We have to show them how this industry can offer them experiences that no other industry can. We have to let them know that a career in horticulture can support a family, and it can be enjoyable too!
The question is: how do we do this? How can we get more young people to stick with horticulture? How can we convince people to be more positive in their approaches to the youth? We have to change the mentality of an industry and that isn’t an easy thing to do.
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