A report released by the National Gardening Association this month shows that 17 percent more households have started an edible garden in the past five years. To that, we have to say “Right on!”
At the forefront of this “back-to-the-garden” movement are millennials (ages 18-34), who are gardening more than ever before in accordance with the independent, idealistic characteristics they’re known for. More than 13 million millennials reported being food gardeners in 2013—a 63 percent jump from 2008. Also on the rise in the past five years are urban gardens (up 29 percent) and community gardens (up a whopping 200 percent).
While the NGA’s report didn’t get into why people are gardening more, I suspect a few things might be playing into the current trend:
The push toward local food and the devastating reality that our children don’t know that chicken doesn’t come shrink-wrapped from the grocery store has caused a desire for more transparency in the food system. A rise in farmers markets has allowed us to talk face-to-face with the people who grow our food and perhaps inspired us to go hyper-local and grow food for ourselves.
A 2007 study put a smile on gardeners’ faces when it suggested that the Mycobacterium vaccae present in soil could be a mood-lifter.
As doctors and researchers continue to point out how our country is packing on the pounds, we’re looking for ways to incorporate more healthy food into our diets. Perhaps this has contributed to the surge in the organic foods industry, but for those on a restricted budget, growing lettuce in a container on your porch is a cheaper way to get the nutrition you need.
Many gardens and urban farms have started as ways to help connect people with healthy food and jobs. Gardens across the country intentionally raise food for purposes such as donating to hunger programs and teaching job skills.
Let’s be real: Gardening is tough, both physically and mentally. If there’s not a little bit of passion behind what you’re doing, your garden isn’t going to last long. Karissa Lewis of Full Harvest Farms in East Oakland, Calif., says it best when she quotes Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and then go do that.” In her case, it was her passion for pot—yup, good ol’ ganja—that led her into starting a full-fledged garden and urban farm. (Companion planting at its best, right?)
Check out the NGA report for more info on the growth of gardening in the U.S. And remember, if you’re a garden newbie, you’re not in this alone.