Demographics of Gardening

eddie_ga_7a(8)February 15, 2005

I have been a speaker at several symposia and as I stand at the podium it is obvious to me what the demographics of garden are: It is middle-age white women. That seems to be the majority in the audience. You may argue that more men mow the lawn than women and I would say that lawn care should not be grouped with real gardening. Of course there are exceptions to every rule but someone in my position needs to take these things into consideration so I can target my programs for my audience effectively. Any other opinions or anyone like to expound on this topic or know of any studies?

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In keeping with your observations Eddy, the demographics of the garden buying person is also middle class, middle income white ladies. Somewhere between 35-65 yrs old. Not sure if that helps you - these are as varied a breed of folks interestwise as any other. They are generally very polite though! There is a better mix in some of the specialty area though. Herbs is definately 95% females, hostas and rosearians seem alittle more varied.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2005 at 10:00PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

I am sure you are right about the mix but I do not make any major adjustments because of it. Before moving to this location I used to do garden tool maintenance at a local nursery. A young lady MG assisted me a couple of times and showed good mechanical ability. I was contacted here 165 miles away to see if I could help with this workshop. The young lady who had helped me was hesitant to do it by herself. With incouragement from me and others who knew her she consented to do it and has done a good job for several years now. We must get over the idea that the fair sex is not mechanically capable, and encourage them to follow where ever their talents lead them. Al

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 10:05PM
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Al, I had to laugh at your comments about the "fair sex." My sister was a very beautiful woman who attracted lots of male admirers. When she and a girlfriend showed up at the local community college for a class in small engine repair (they were tired of getting ripped off by the repair shops!), they were just about hooted out of the room! The guys thought they just wouldn't want to get their hands dirty and their nice manicures messed up. Little did they know that my "fairer sex" sister had been raised on a farm and was the typical tomboy girl. These two "girls" showed them a thing or two!

The lesson is this: Never, never judge a book by its cover or a person by their gender! I know some men who would rather die than get their hands in the dirt! LOL

Eddie, to your original comment, I can only speak for myself as a Master Gardener, so here goes! Our MG group is probably 80% female. I was surprised when I signed up for the class at how few men were taking the course, but realized that I was being "sexist" myself, thinking mostly men worked in the gardens and veggie patches. WRONG!! I think the beautiful lawn syndrome is sometimes a male thing but that work is often done by the women in their lives, too.

But I don't feel like you need to "target" the audience or make adjustments to your presentations to reflect that. If you talk to the lady MGs like they were "ladies" who don't want to get their hands dirty you're likely to have a tomato throwing exhibition on your hands! LOL

The lady MGs I know are all unisex when it comes to their gardens. They run the tillers and lay stone walls and can shovel with the best of them. And if they can't it's because of age and infirmity, not because of their gender. We want to know about fertilizers and manure and pesticides and pruning and biotechnology and and and, just like the men in your audience. Yes, tell me about the latest pretty flowers on the market, but don't neglect getting down in the dirt with me and telling me how to dig the hole and plant that pretty flower, too. Give me tips on the latest labor saving tools and techniques, but also tell me about the maintenance schedules for those tools.

So if you're speaking to a group of dedicated gardening people, remember that the ladies in your audience share your passion for gardening and want to know the nitty-gritty details, just like the men.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2005 at 9:39AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Eddie, you are reminding me of the reason I wound up in a private school. It seems I was embarrassing the boys in the Geometry class. I think you are mixing up garden clubs and gardening clubs. Sleepless

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 3:32AM
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Okay, please, no kicking me around here for my obs on demographics, but here ya' go. My own MG class was mostly female. Subsequent to finishing the class, I've taught several follow-up classes. And in those classes, mostly all woman.


Here goes; it has nothing to do with a inherent female love of gardening, but everything to do with the fact that more women than men had the available time to go through the course, classes of which were held early weekday afternoons. The only men in these classes were retired, with one exception, and that was a man who worked overnights in a warehouse. The women, however, ranged in age from 30s to 60s, and only one of them held a full-time job outside their home, so they had the flexibility to take the course.

I'm male, and the reason I was able to take and teach MG classes is that my job starts essentially in the middle of the night, allowing me time during the day to attend class.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 10:36PM
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ginger_nh(z4 NH)

Women are more likely to ask for help, go to classes, read self-help books, ask for directions, etc., than are men. Hence, more women attending gardening lectures doesn't necessarily translate into "more women garden than men. Just means that women are more apt to seek expert advice than are men. My take . . .

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 8:35PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I think your observations may be undermined by additional information. Perhaps that is the schedule and obligations in your group but it certanly isn't where I have been an MG. Most of the applicants may indeed be women. I suspect that may have to do with the sad fact that many men don't like to ask or take directions unless there is a degree or job advancement involved. Women don't mind. Most of the women who are not retired hold down jobs in addition to being full time wives and mothers. Most of the men are already involved in an occupation or hobby that involves horticulture in some form. In order to accomodate this our Hort agent arranges classes on nights and weekends for alternate groups. This gives the opportunity to participate to a wider range of people. When I give talks to groups I have noticed that clubs are mostly organizations for women. When I give talks to the general public the percentage of men goes up substantually. There seems to be a larger percentage of men who are professional nurserymen or belong to groups like the Tree Stewards whose interest is not as general as many of the ladies. However the ladies are catching up in those groups. When the subject is turf management, men are in the majority. I guess what I am saying is your observations don't take into consideration a number of pertinent factors. Sandy

    Bookmark   February 20, 2005 at 8:39PM
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Aren't some broad gender-based assumptions being made here? Sure looks like that to me. Just for debate's sake, MG programs, whether directly or indirectly, are connected to, and supported by, federal funding. And because of that, we could probably assume that gender-based assumptions would not be encouraged.

Put another way; accusations made regarding male tendencies are not, in fact, research-based, and are therefore speculation predicated solely on personal observation of a relatively small sample. My observations were just that, my observations. And as such, they are not subject to the approval or revision of others. Thank you very much...

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 6:30PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Sween: I am sorry if I offended you by my observations. It seems to me that the traits I mentioned have been long recognised. True, there are many jokes about the male driver who won't ask directions but just think about all the jokes about females who don't understand machinery or games. Neither is totaly true about either sex but we have been socialized to accept them. As a result, men have been socialized to be more goal oriented and females to be detail and socialy oriented. As a female who whould have made a good mechanic or architect and is at a loss in traditional social interactions I am vastly relieved that the concept has changed and fear it is going back the other way. I'm an old lady now but I remember all too well the attitude of our school system when the results of aptitude and intellegence reports came in and I ranked in the highest levels of subjects that were felt to be male subjects. My parents were told there was no place for me in the public school system and it would be best if I went to a private school. When I was offered a scholarship in architecture my parents turned it down without even telling me so I know the problems first hand. Instead of being offended, speak out to keep the way open for those who don't fit the common mold whether they are men or women. Encourage your Hort Agent to schedule classes at night and weekends to improve the percentages. In the meantime how about telling me how to handle the proclivity of my DH to use the remote control on fast forward. LOL. Sandy

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 4:28PM
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Artful_Gardener(Z4 CO MTN)

I read with great interest all the prior communications. Such an odd race we are, really. In all the many MG and horticulture classes and symposiums I attend, for whatever reason, the majority of attendees are always women, with a small percentage of male hobbyists and a smattering of gay men thrown in for good measure. However, at conferences for the landscape professional, those demographics are completely reversed. Statistically, this doesn't make sense, but there it is.

Sween, are we not allowed here in this forum to make whatever observations we want, regardless of whether or not a program is federally funded?

I'm wondering if anyone has a source for actual statistics on gardening as a hobby - who does it and why. Would love to see how it breaks down.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 5:22PM
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Hmmmmm... I'm a 46 year old, white female Master Gardener...

Why am I saying this? Because I CAN!!!!!


Meadow Lark

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 5:58PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Confession time? I am a 76 year old Master Gardener,male. I am a member of two Master Gardener counties and a life member in the local Men's Garden Club. All men or almost all women, they are all gardeners and as long as we have that in common we speak the same. Al

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 9:37PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Yeah, Calistoga!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 4:38PM
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Is 32 middle aged...If it is I am really bummed out!!!!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 5:10PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

I think that middle aged is a state of mind rather than a number of years. I'm 55 and feel like, well most of the time, that I'm 25 still. I wouldn't go back to 25 for anything.

Our small MG association has about 85 members, the majority of them are in the 50 to 70 year old range, white female, and semi-retired or retired.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 6:58PM
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All this brought to mind a cute story. We had a student in the MG class a couple of years ago that frankly admitted (after the class started!) that he was there to find a wife! He knew almost nothing about gardening and wasn't interested in learning. I guess he realized the demographics and figured it was a relatively inexpensive dating service! Anyway, it turns out he did find a wife, but thankfully she wasn't from the MGs. It takes all kinds!

    Bookmark   February 25, 2005 at 12:35PM
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I've been trying to come up with a way to capsulize my thoughts and figure an old saying might do it best - What's Good For The Goose Is Good For The Gander.

After seeing some male-stereotyping taking place here, my first thought was, "How would the women on this forum react if men were making similar observations about them?" And while I don't pretend to know the answer with certainty, past experience has taught me that there's a better than fair chance there would've been howls of protest.

As to improving percentages of male/female in our county, the fact is I simply don't much care. Not to be flip, but the MG program is what it is, and it's not the focus of my life. I'm proud to have the designation of being a CMG, really, but it's not like I walk around saying, "Hi, nice to meet you, I'm a Master Gardener." Furthermore, I honestly don't recall ever meeting anyone who was particularly impressed that I was. Cheers. Good discussion here...

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 12:00PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Ah, Sween, I've been stereotyped my whole life so I try to make sure the shoe fits. My complaint has always been 'why can't I do what I can do?' MG's need people like you who are willing to put the stereotypes aside and let everyone do what they can do and learn how to do the things they thought they can't. Hope you get more interested in teaching those classes. They can be a real high. Last fall I was working on the Garden Shed roof and some ladies were helping me. I asked them to cut a piece of plywood with the power saw. Neither of thenm had ever touched one. With only a little direction they cut the piece perfectly. They were giddy with it the rest of the afternoon. That's nice. Sandy

    Bookmark   February 26, 2005 at 5:04PM
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green31(z6 mid tn)

Had to jump in here a second. I work full time during the day and am hoping to take an MG class at night. I fit into the previous demographic (mid-white-fem). I grew up on a farm and have done mechanical work on tractors. I use power tools and build my own fences and planters. I have two teenagers and two dogs. My husband takes naps alot. Maybe there are more women in these classes because learning and multi-tasking seem to fall more into our realm. Not bashing men here. I work with men doing a "man's job" and I'm just making an observation.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 6:53PM
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***My husband takes naps alot.***

That pretty much fits the definition of man bashing, don't you think?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 9:17AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Sween, I'm getting the impression someone has been annoying you more than us. While I hear a little aggrivation in that comment it was hardly a general condemnation of the male sex. Actually I have never heard that put forth as a male bashing comment. Have I been missing something? My DH often takes a nap when he gets home and I wish he would instead take a brisk walk after being behind a desk all day but that is a concern for his health since he is overweight and sedentary. Would I be male bashing if I tried to encourage him to change his habit? My comment about the remote would be more bashing than the nap thing and even there it would be more an observation than a complaint. I get far more annoyed when people use the stereotype thing to get away with inappropriate or rude behavior than when someone points out annoying habits. Exactly what is your definition of male bashing and isn't there such a thing as female bashing? Sandy

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 4:17PM
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Let's see, there are three topics to avoid: sex, politics and religion. I suppose my observation of demographics at the symposia I attend does loosely fit under the first catagory and therefore has a potential to incite strong feelings. Time out.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 8:15PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Agreed, Sandy

    Bookmark   March 1, 2005 at 11:21PM
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tharrisinboerne(8b Texas)

Y'all are talking like it makes a difference! I'm surprised. I've been an MG for 10 years and have talked to groups of all sized from 5 to 500. I rarely find that the sex of the participants makes a difference...and if I actually DO get a comment along that line, it's usually from a male. Interesting.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2005 at 10:16AM
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My answer to the OP's original question would be something along the lines of "what does it matter what a person's gender is?"

Someone holds a class, people attend. How are demographics important?

I'm a 43 year old white woman who recently became interested in gardening. I came to this forum to learn about it. This forum in particular to learn about learning about it.

In other aspects of my life, I cannot imagine walking around wondering about whether it's only men that take classes regarding power tools...If the answer is yes or no, what impact does it make on my life if I'm interested in power tools?

This is my long way of asking "what is the point to the original question? The implication of the original conclusion?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 1:00PM
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Riparian(eastern wa.)

Marketing a product or service indeed has very much to do with gender. Television probably the most watched and largest marketing tool targets and sells to whom? Most everything has to do with sex and gender, including gardening.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2005 at 11:35PM
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