Someone recently said something to me that makes complete sense.
“You’re not marketing for business today or tomorrow. You did that months and years ago. You’re marketing today for business months and years from now.”
Didn’t we leave a generation or two of potential gardeners out of our current picture?
There are a vast number of people who grew up in suburbia, or disengaged from gardening. Most of us got an interest in gardening from a parent, grandparent, or other relative. (Some of you ended up with the whole business from them!)
But most of our non garden industry friends were left behind and in turn their offshoots have also been left behind because their parents and grandparents didn’t turn them on to gardening.Looking back on our error of omission is painful now. We should have seen this coming, and we should have done something about it. Where would we be if the garden industry had done a better job cultivating our future customers, who would now be our customers today?
What if we don’t cultivate tomorrow’s customers now?
With those questions I’d like to introduce to you my friend and self adopted “granny”, Roberta Paolo, the founder and director of Granny’s Garden School located in Loveland, an exurb located northeast of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nearly a year ago Granny invited me to get involved on her board of directors. I did some checking and found one part of her program to be particularly intriguing, and that is the Schoolyard Nature Network. You’ll hear more about that from me as time goes on.
For now, I’d like to have you read a blog post that Granny wrote for a Washington D.C. area education blog.
School gardens are all the rage right now. Judging by what is going on in the Greater Cincinnati Area where I am located, there have to be thousands of new programs being launched across the country this year.
The combination of the impact from the book Last Child in the Woods and the resulting groundswell of concern that led to the grassroots development of the organization “Leave No Child Inside” along with the rising problem with obesity in children and the concern about global warming topped off by the establishment of a garden on the grounds of the White House has resulted in an explosion of interest in developing school garden programs.
This is both good and bad. At this time and in the next couple of years a lot of money will be invested in school garden programs. Most of this money will be spent to buy “stuff,” It will be used to build raised beds, buy rain barrels, grow labs, curriculum and lesson plans and install green houses and/or hoop houses, install rain gardens and buy all kinds of “kits”. There are more companies everyday offering tools, garden boxes, over-priced kits and other supplies targeted to educators with school garden grant money to spend. Could you use a folding fabric wheel barrel ($70) or how about the Potato Planter, $29.95 (It’s basically three heavy plastic bags about the size and shape of a 5 gallon bucket (soil and potatoes not included).
Very little, if any, of the millions of dollars will be spent to pay people to run the programs. When the person with the passion whose enthusiasm powered the garden initiative can no longer volunteer or moves on for whatever reason, the program will die and the grounds people, who are left with the mess to clean up, will be there to say, “I told you so.” This will make it that much more difficult to get administrators to take a chance the next time a person with a passion comes along with an idea to enrich the school experience for our children.
Starting a school garden program is the easy part and it does not have to take a lot of money (We ran our program the first year on less than $200. You do not need much “stuff” and you can get almost everything you need donated.) Starting a garden program can be as simple as digging a hole and planting a seed. The real challenge is in sustaining it. If you are up to the challenge, it could be the most rewarding thing you ever do.
Next: Where to start – Identifying the resources at hand.
Roberta Paolo (aka Granny)
With that, I’d like to let you know now that YOU might be one of the resources at hand. This choice will be up to you of course, but if you want to learn from our look backward where we left a generation of two of people who could have been gardeners and bigger consumers of all our industry has to offer then you might consider it.
Here’s how you can get involved and market for your own better future.
The Schoolyard Nature Network will be training teams from school garden education programs again beginning in June 2011. Keep your ear to the ground for someone in your area who would be interested in this training (if you don’t know them already). Consider setting aside some money in your 2011 budget to sponsor a team to attend the School Garden Training Camps. These folks would be the key to creating the next generation of gardeners right there in your own community.
Are you willing to do this to build the market for your own future?