January 15, 2010
Hello, again. We're in the grip of winter. There may be good gardening weather in Arizona, but my garden is locked up tight under a cover of snow. This is a good time to catch up on garden reading, but I am not sure how many blogs I will get a chance to review this month, and the proliferation of modern media outlets is one reason I am glad to have a member of generation Y as my guest on the radio show/podcast this week. (Generation Y refers to the children of the Baby Boomers who are typified by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies.)
| Gardening's Future -- The View from
Kelly D. Norris is a 22-year-old horticulturist, plant breeder, and plantsman who is currently studying for his Masters Degree in horticulture at Iowa State. Due to lectures that Kelly has presented to groups like the Garden Writers of America, he has become the unofficial spokesperson for generation Y and gardening.
We talked about the iris nursery Kelly manages for his family (Rainbow Iris Farm), plants that thrive in Iowa's cold climate, media and communication in the new decade. When he was 14 years old, Kelly found an iris nursery for sale in Texas, and with his parents' encouragement, he called to inquire about purchasing it and moving the plants to a seven acre site on their farm in Bedford, Iowa. Kelly's horticultural focus is on plants that will thrive in Zone 4 like late-winter blooming leatherwood (Dirca palustris), the American smoke bush (Cotinus obovatus), with incredible fall color, and the disease-resistant bee balm (Monarda bradburiana, below).
But the most enlightening discussion focused on the future of garden communication and gardening from the perspective of someone who, like his peers, is in touch with today's fragmented media outlets: blogs, websites, Twitter, Facebook, TV, cable, smart phones, podcasts, radio, books, magazines, newspapers and more.
"One facet of my generation is that we have this complete belief in free speech," he said about all of the personal blogs saturating the Internet. "When I spoke to the garden writers, I was criticized because some people thought I was saying people shouldn't blog." His point was that people should not automatically expect their writing to be read. Of course, he believes in free speech, and also "the freedom not to read the blogs." Unfortunately, many modern consumers expect everything to also be available for free.
Information becomes diluted, diffused, or questionably accurate, when so many people are blogging. "It takes away from the people who are doing quality work," he said. "Highly fragmented markets have a history of not working. There can only be so many hotels and restaurants in so many malls before the market becomes saturated, and somebody has to go belly up. From what I know, there has never been a market that survives on quantity, alone. Some of [these blogs] will go by the wayside.
"There is a need for filters. You're seeing that discussion happen in a lot of different media contexts, particularly in television. We should filter things on behalf of our audience."
Kelly's answer for now is to do quality work, to strive for excellence in all forms of communication. As for gardening, he does not cite specific trends like food growing, for instance, as the focus for the future. "There has always been gardening," he points out, and people have always had a need to participate, whether growing food or designing landscapes. Communicating the passion of gardening is his prime directive, the way to be noticed and have staying power.
"It frustrates me too," Kelly admitted. "I don't have a good answer, other than to do the best I can. When it shakes down, I hope there will be an educated audience out there that will find and stay with the highest quality work."