On 31 July 2014 at the ASHS Annual Conference in Orlando, FL, the CHMG working group outlined the need for a national strategic plan for consumer horticulture (Bauske et al., 2015). The scope of consumer horticulture is broad; it encompasses both interior and exterior cultivation of ornamental and food plants in residential, commercial, and public spaces, as well as in community and school gardens. Consumer horticulture embraces a broad range of activities of interest to the gardening public (Bauske et al., 2014). Consumer horticulture influences the environment in many ways, affecting water quality and quantity, waste management, wildlife, and other aspects of environmental sustainability (Carey et al., 2013; Zhou, 2014). Consumer horticulture can foster ecosystem services, such as storm water management, temperature regulation, pest control, conservation of biodiversity, sequestration of carbon, and pollination (Lin et al., 2015; Lovell and Taylor, 2013; Wilde et al., 2015). Consumer horticulture also benefits human health and well-being (Hall and Dickson, 2011) via cultural, therapeutic, recreational, and educational services.
In 2008, 31% of all U.S. households (an estimated 36 million households) participated in food gardening (National Gardening Association, 2009), and the number increases annually (Butterfield, 2013). These gardeners represent a broad cross-section of the U.S. population and include all ages, ethnicities, education levels, income levels, marital statuses, household sizes, genders, and regional locations. Consumer horticulture stakeholders also include the 83,389 Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers in the United States and Canada (Extension Master Gardener National Committee, 2015).
Consumer horticulture has driven a robust wholesale and retail industry (Vilsack and Reilly, 2015). National chain stores, independent local retailers, farmers markets, nurseries, and other businesses create and sell seeds, plants, tools, clothes, artwork, and other goods and services to the gardening public. Commercial businesses offer new and experienced gardeners specialized classes, workshops, retreats, and tours. Authors of traditional and social media write books, blogs, and magazine articles for gardeners and homesteaders. Television shows, radio shows, and podcasts further cater to the gardening public.
Given the environmental, health, social, and economic impact of consumer horticulture, it is surprising that a national vision for consumer horticulture does not already exist to guide research, education, and extension programs in land-grant universities and other public and private research efforts. In response to this void, a small group of stakeholders has created the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH). This group has undertaken the development of a preliminary national strategic plan for consumer horticulture. The history of the planning process, the benefits of a strategic plan, as well as an overview of the preliminary plan were presented to 46 participants at the CHMG working group workshop held 6 Aug. 2015 at the ASHS Annual Conference (Bauske, 2015). Input from workshop participants has been incorporated into the preliminary plan. An overarching goal of this plan is to unite national research efforts with the goals of the diverse stakeholders in the industry, the public sector, and the gardening public to advance knowledge and increase the benefits and application of horticulture for an improved quality of life.
Bauske, E.M. 2015 Moving the national strategic plan for consumer horticulture research, education, and extension forward: Creative destruction and rebuilding HortScience 49 S96 (abstr.)
Bauske, E.M., Bachman, G.R., Bewick, T., Bradley, L.K., Close, D., Durham, R. & Meyer, M.H. 2015 The case for a national strategic plan for consumer horticulture research, education, and extension HortTechnology 25 477 479
Bauske, E.M., Bachman, G.R., Bradley, L.K., Jeannette, K., Stoven O’Connor, A. & Bennett, P.J. 2014 Consumer horticulture outreach: Communication challenges and solutions HortTechnology 24 266 269
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Lin, B.B., Philpott, S.M. & Jha, S. 2015 The future of urban agriculture and biodiversity-ecosystem services: Challenges and next steps Basic Appl. Ecol. 16 189 201
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National Gardening Association 2009 The impact of home and community gardening in America. Scotts Miracle-Gro Co., Marysville, OH
National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture (NICH) 2016 Growing a healthy world through the art and science of plants, gardens and landscapes. 27 June 2016. <http://www.consumerhort.org>
National Institute of Food and Agriculture (n.d.). Specialty crop research initiative. 27 June 2016. <http://nifa.usda.gov/funding-opportunity/specialty-crop-research-initiative-scri>
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2014. USDA announces specialty crop block grant program—Historic farm bill support available through state departments of agriculture. 27 June 2016. <http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentidonly=true&contentid=2014/04/0064.xml>
University of California 2016 National clean plant network. 27 June 2016. <http://nationalcleanplantnetwork.org/>
Vilsack, T. & Reilly, J. 2015 Census of horticultural specialties (2014), Vol. 3, Special studies, Part 3. AC-12-SS-3. U.S. Dept. Agr. 27 June 2016. <http://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Census_of_Horticulture_Specialties/HORTIC.pdf>
Wilde, H.D., Gandhi, K.J.K. & Colson, G. 2015 State of the science and challenges of breeding landscape plants with ecological function. 27 June 2016. <http://www.nature.com/articles/hortres201469>
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