This week (it's mid-August as I write this), I’ve heard several people talk about making the most of the last weekend before the school year starts. Summer is a time when families with children can enjoy the nice weather and try activities that perhaps they’re not able to during the school year. From my experience, I’ve seen that what kids do during the summer helps to shape their future interests and the person they will become. It might be anything from going to sleepaway camp, learning to swim at the local pool, spending time with extended family or any number of other fun events, but it will make an impact on them.

I remember getting ready for summer by planting sunflower seeds in peat pots in the laundry room and excitedly waiting for it to be warm enough to transplant them outside. Then, I would watch my sunflowers grow taller and taller, until they more than doubled my height. In later years, my parents created a 12’ x 12’ space in the yard to plant a garden with marigolds, tomatoes, peas, peppers and whatever else I wanted. I have fond memories of sitting in the garden and playing with the worms that I found while weeding. And today at lunch, more than 20 years later, I ate a purple bell pepper that I picked from the garden at my own house.

While kids seem to be busier than ever, exposing them to gardening and plants at a very young age is crucial not only to ensure we have future customers, but also to encourage them to pursue a career in horticulture. As you probably see from the articles we post about scholarship winners, there’s support out there for those who want it.

However, one reader named Mike commented on one of those articles and said they’re not receiving nearly enough applications for those awards. Perhaps it’s a matter of increasing awareness. But it also could be due to the declining enrollment in horticulture programs across the country.

So here’s my question to you — what are you doing as a grower to encourage and inspire potential young gardeners and future horticulture industry professionals? Are you involved in community outreach programs? Do you host local gardening groups at your greenhouse? Donate plants to community parks? Share young plants with area schools? How are we as an industry connecting with young people? Where could we improve? Drop me a line at kvarga@gie.net and let me know what you think.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a garden to tend.

Karen E. Varga, Editor

kvarga@gie.net

216-393-0290 | Twitter: @Karen_GIE