[nafex] FW: Membership

Lon J. Rombough lonrom at hevanet.com
Tue Jul 10 17:19:37 EDT 2001

This is from a discussion on the Garden Writers List.  It fit the discussion
on membership quite well so I thought I'd pass it along.
-Lon Rombough
Grapes, writing, consulting, more, plus word on my grape book at

From: claude sweet <sweetent at home.com>
To: Gardenwriters at topica.com
Subject: Re: [GWL]: Was: Magazines; Jeff Balls comments
Date: Tue, Jul 10, 2001, 12:29 PM

Just a few comments to add to Jeff Ball's points.

The hands on dirt gardener of today leaves his/her dirt caked shoes by
the outside door and washes the grime from their hands prior to booting
up their computer to check for email messages.

In my experience, gardening/horticulture clubs, societies, and
organizations not aimed at the professional horticulturist, grower, and
university faculty member have declined in membership for the last
decade and perhaps longer. Both national and regional groups experience
similar problems. Some volunteer horticultural groups are attempting to
reduce mailing and printing costs by developing an internet presence. 

The age of the participants in most volunteer amateur horticultural
groups continue to increase with the median age being 55 plus. The
number of people who actively attend meetings or volunteer to serve as
officers, newsletter editors, etc. rarely exceeds 5% of the total paid

There are many reasons why people in their 20s and 30s don't participate
in gardening groups. They are establishing their careers and starting
families. Home ownership is the next highest priority and most first
time home buyers are short of cash to furnish the home so landscaping
receives a low priority.

After achieving home ownership any extra money left over at the end of
each month is divided between other priorities, such as entertainment,
eating out, family vacations, retirement funds, college funds, need to
assist aging parents, etc., with little left over for the person
seriously interested in growing any specialized group of plants.

People in their late 20's through 30's may however, join organizations
to receive their newsletter and/or purchase magazines/books to read and
reflect upon them in quite moments - dreaming of a time when they can
indulge themselves by growing their own fresh fruit and vegetables,
planting a cut flower garden or erecting a greenhouse to grow exotic

Lets face it, the number of people who have enough property to plant a
family fruit orchard, vegetable, and/or flower garden is less today than
in the 1950's. The value of property, especially in urban areas near
major cities has increased. The result is that new housing is being
constructed on smaller and smaller lots to maximize the number of
dwellings. Lots of <5,500 sq. ft (8 dwellings per acre) doesn't leave a
lot of room for specialize gardening activities, especially when the
needs of pets and kids must be considered.

Perhaps the problems of the demise of national gardening publications
and mail order nurseries will give rise to more opportunities for
specialized regional enterprises to emerge. There is a need to have a
realistic business plan based upon ethical principles not the marketing
hype and poor quality merchandise associated with Michigan Bulb Company.

>From this disaster there may rise from the ashes a wiser group of
investors. The changing interests of the market are represented by the
public visiting the mass retailers (Home Depot and Lowes). They
represent people interested in home improvement projects and purchase
plants and garden supplies for indoor and outdoor gardening projects.

Times are a changing and we can either move forward or get out of the
way of others who will see this as a time of opportunities. 

The challenge is to identify the niches that the mass produced plant
material retailed local brick and mortar retailers don't find
profitable. Providing information is part of the need that needs to be

In my experience people may attend one day programs or semester long
classes at local community colleges or adult classes at local high
school, but traffic, parking, the simple fact that only one spouse
enjoys gardening are obstacles that internet email forums may satisfy
and attract more people than traditional approaches. Can this be
developed on a fee basis? Something to think about.

Claude Sweet
San Diego, CA


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