These are two important things I learned from the keynote lecture on change and sustainability by Kierstin De West during the Garden Writer’s Symposium. Kierstin is the CEO, co-founder and key strategic and research mind at Conscientious Innovation, a Vancouver, B.C., consultancy.
While developing brand and creative strategies with a keen interest in culture, consumers and their marketplace, Kierstin saw all indicators pointed to a cultural shift. Consumers were starting to make lifestyle and purchasing decisions based on a set of predefined values: integrity and social responsibility.
Kierstin developed the SHIFT Report which is the most cohesive set of research on people’s attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors around sustainability and social responsibility, and their impact on lifestyle choices, brand relationships and purchasing decisions.
Some of the questions the Shift report answered were:
What does sustainability mean to consumers?
Why do we need to see more than “green” in that definition? Is sustainability just a passing trend or are we in the midst of a cultural shift?
Sustainability was defined as: “Meeting the current needs without screwing up the potential for the future to meet theirs.” What a perfectly understandable, non B.S. definition. I Love it.
What does sustainability mean to people? “Feeling connected to my family, friends and community.” I’ll surely second that.
Some of the things Kierstin said after researching the habits and wants of gardeners (from total amateurs to professionals) really resonated with me. Here’s a few:
“How can we take care of the environment if we can’t take care of ourselves?” True dat!!!
“ We are living and drowning in The American dream.” I’ll second that thought too…
She also said they found that feeling connected to your community increased with the level of gardening skill. Isn’t that interesting?
In fact, she found that social sustainability issues went up in ranking as gardening levels went up in the folks who responded to the survey. Gardeners are the best, aren’t they?
The last thing she mentioned was that knowledge and time are the key barriers to conscious consumption. So, we must continue to educate to help people achieve their goals. Here’s a link to the Shift Report, if you are interested in reading more.
Kiersten was one of the most in touch speakers I’ve seen in a while. She had great things to say. The survey was given to 5,000 people throughout the US, so pretty believable statistics too. Don’t you just love it when a presenter gets up there and says they did a survey for 350 people. Seriously?
Statistically, those numbers mean crap. In other words, the results are probably statistically invalid. The possible margin of error is too high to rely upon the data. 5,000 responses, that’s a good chunk of people. 50,000 would have been even better. I know, I’m never happy…
Rarely, am I inspired by a speaker, but inspired I was and it affirmed my thoughts and desires to shake this industry up and try to get everyone more connected to their community.
So, this cultural shift towards being conscious and being more connected to the community is NOT a fad.
I hope not!
How do we keep it going and keep people interested?
That’s the real question.
While I walked the floor of the Commerce Tradeshow tweeting the cool things I saw for the folks at ANLA, I did hear people saying vegetable gardening is out.
Several people I talked to said It’s too hard for people and they’ve had too many losses. Especially after a summer like this when all they could do is sweat and water their garden. They never got to enjoy it and if there’s no joy, they’d rather buy the produce elsewhere.
I was afraid of that. Education is the only answer, right?
Although I wouldn’t be too sad if people stopped growing at home to support their local Community Supported Agriculture Garden (CSA). But what about the kids?
They’ll never learn then. There has to be a happy medium. School gardens and CSA, perhaps. Hmm…
Last Thursday, I attended the annual Open House event at North Creek Nurseries. Lots of nurseries have open houses, but North Creek really knows how to do open houses well. No fancy shows or displays, no guest speakers. Just this is what’s going on at North Creek and here’s what we do well.
Their specialty is native plants, so North Creek already has a connection to “greening” the landscape through their tireless promotion of natives.
They’ve recently taken this one step further with the addition of an employee run organic vegetable garden.
We’re not talking little plots that were set aside in the corner of a field somewhere where the employees can borrow the land to grow vegetables that they might not have space for at home.
No way, man!
We’re talking a full-fledged, community garden that is planted by, worked by and consumed by all 70 employees.
How’s that for a moral booster in these trying times when folks are just happy to have a job and expect no pay raises or extra benefits?
Each week, the garden is tended by it’s full time gardener and her helpers. At the end of the week, they harvest what is ready, the employees take what they need and the rest goes to the local Kennett Square Farmer’s Market to raise money for the care of the garden. When they have a bumper crop, it is donated to the local food pantry.
They even educate the employees with cooking demonstrations and weekly recipes to help them use the mighty list of ingredients they talke home each week from the garden.
Here’s a mini documentary I made on the people and ideas behind this very successful, highly valued veg patch. Enjoy the video!
Really? Are you kidding me?
I’ve known that since late July. We’ve really had one good rain storm since late July and not much before that. There’s a 40% chance it’ll rain on Sunday, so fingers crossed please.
If it doesn’t, I’m threatening to throw in the towel on my garden. All of it.
I mean it this time…
It looks so depressed. I learned from local garden center manager Peter Bieneman of Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping, that the squirrels and the birds are not stealing my green tomatoes.
Get this… Are you ready for this?
He says it’s the rats. Good grief. They want the water inside the tomatoes.
That’s it. I give up (again…).
I’ve had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes, but not one- I repeat NOT ONE large tomato. I go out to the garden and see three or four nice bug green ones and before they can even turn the slightest shade of pink, they are gone.
Rats…that’s what I get for living in the city. No deer, but rats. How do you like that?
Next week, I think I will rant, once again on the lack of interesting plants for fall containers. Let’s see if it’s gotten any better. Watch out local garden centers, I’m going shopping this weekend and you might want to save me something cool for my pots, or I’ll get you in the next Weeding Gnome.
Remember – mums do not count.
Sic… I wouldn’t do that.
Until then…Happy Weeding!
President, Plants Nouveau
PS. The only plant that looks half decent in my desert-like, rat infested (haha…just kidding), oh so tortoured garden right now is Heuchera ‘Dark Chocolate’.
This is one of the selections we gave away in our goody bags at Garden Writer’s and boy am I glad we did. It just looks fantastic and it has much less slug damage than any of my other coral bells. The dark chocolate colored foliage is a bit dull now and it’s much more milky-chocolate from the heat and drought, but it’s still quite lovely and I really do appreciate the fact that it has not whined once all summer.
I just keep thinking forward to Spring 2011, when I’m sure I’ll have forgotten about the wretched year of weather we’ve had and I’ll be happily planting lots of containers and loving my garden once again.
Once an addict, always an addict. Will I ever learn?
Spring is often like a halcyon drip…