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Sowing our future one student at a time

Susan Yoder, executive director of Seed Your Future. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Every once in a while, you meet someone or hear about an organization that feeds your hope for the future.

Such is Seed Your Future, not exactly an organization, but more of an effort to encourage young people to explore horticulture as a career. The national initiative is spearheaded by Executive Director Susan E. Yoder of Martinsville, Indiana. Yoder has a career working with and for youth, from The American Camp Association to the Boy Scouts of America.

Why is this initiative important? Because horticulturists are the future plant scientists. Horticulturists develop foods, grow them along with other beneficial plants. They research plants for medicinal uses. They design and care for landscapes. They use plants to control environmental problems, such as erosion. They select plants to mitigate hazardous materials in soil or water.

This is not some fly-by-night initiative. Its mission is “to promote horticulture and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.” Seed Your Future’s vision lays it out: “We envision a U.S. where everyone understands and values the importance of plants and the people who work in the art, science, technology and business of horticulture,” and it speaks to me personally.

Some of the biggest names in horticulture comprise the board of directors and advisory panels. Representatives from organizations like Ball Horticulture, Longwood Gardens, Scotts-Miracle-Gro, Proven Winners, Bailey Nurseries and Dummen Orange. National FFA, Association of Zoological Horticulture, Chicago Botanic Garden, Scholastic Corp., American Association of Horticultural Science, American Public Gardens Association and several universities also are in the mix.

“Their number one issue is a lack of qualified workers,” Yoder said. Of the horticulture jobs open in 2014, 61 percent were unfilled, and the experts don’t expect more current results to be any different, she said.

Lack of public awareness of horticulture is the greatest challenge, especially among 18 to 34 year olds, according to the organization’s research. That indicates the need to expose children in middle school and high school to horticulture. Seed Your Future is working with FleishmannHilliard to develop a marketing plan that puts a face on horticulture and promotes the important role it has in our future, Yoder said.

What can we do? Learn more about the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) of horticulture. Encourage youngsters to be curious about and enjoy nature. Explore hort careers, such as researchers discovering a control of a dreaded fungus disease to growers of plants for pollinators. Check out other volunteer opportunities at Seed Your Future’s website. And spread the word: ILoveMyPlantJob.

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3 comments to Sowing our future one student at a time

  • Wow!!! I remember meeting her last year at the GWA Conference. It is all about getting the information out to re-engage people with the earth. I am trying to pull together a seed swap for underserved communities in Ward 7/8 in Washington, DC for the sole purpose of earth re-engagement. This is such a wonderful article. Warms me up on a very cold Saturday morning!
    Thanks for sharing JoEllen!

  • Thank you, Jo Ellen, for writing this article about what Susan and ‘Seeds of Change’ are doing. Their effort is spot on with an important gap that needs to be filled in our US education system – we forgot to teach children how to take care of themselves, the soil around them and the health of the earth.

  • Julie Iverson

    This effort is very encouraging in a time when many of us are worried about climate control and want to promote keeping our earth healthy through a multitude of resources. Horticulturists are so very important to the wellbeing of our food supply and in helping encourage home gardeners to practice sustainability. What a great movement to get this going! I’m going to share this with my friend who is a science teacher and often does garden related projects with her students.

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