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Mary H. Meyer, Douglas Needham, John Dole, Brain Trader, Jennifer Fox, Marnie Conley, Michael Neff and Jean Shaw

The American Society for Horticultural Science (Alexandria, VA) and Longwood Gardens (Kennett Square, PA) engaged FleishmanHillard (FH, Washington, DC), a nationally recognized communications and marketing firm, to conduct research with internal and external audiences to determine the public perception of horticulture and careers in horticulture. Through stakeholder focus groups and general public online and phone surveys, the importance of horticulture, career perceptions, and the need for the promotion of horticulture were examined. Students, faculty, industry, and administrators in horticulture have a broad understanding of the field, much more than the public, especially young, ethnically diverse, and lower income participants. Although lack of public awareness is one of the biggest challenges in horticulture, it is also its greatest opportunity. Sixty-five percent of all phone survey participants as compared with 41% of 18–24 years old revealed a general awareness of the word horticulture. General public found agreement (48% to 59%) with four statements about the essential, universal, and invaluable worth of horticulture; however, strong agreement was less, ranging from 26% to 46%. Only 26% of respondents felt strong agreement with the statement, “Horticulture is a diverse area of study, and it offers viable, fulfilling, and respected career paths that I would recommend to others.” The research found strong stakeholder support for a national promotion of horticulture.