According to the National Gardening Association’s 2009 Impact of Home and Community Gardening In America report, 7 million more households are participating in home vegetable gardening, as well as fruit, herbs and berry cultivation this year, compared to last. This means that 37% of all US households are doing some of their own food production. The number of home gardeners has increased 19%, compared to just 10% from 2007-2008. “More Americans are recognizing the benefits of growing their own produce, including improved quality, taste and cost savings,” the NGA report concludes.
So just who are all these new gardeners? “The demographics of today’s food gardening households include a broad cross-section of the U.S. population. There are few other outdoor activities where virtually every demographic group is so well represented, no matter what their age, education, income, marital status, household size, gender, or regional location,” concludes the NGA report.
The food gardening experience is enjoyed primarily by women (54%), those ages 45+ (68%), college students (43%) and married couples with no children at home (67%). The gardeners are pretty evenly spread across the South, Midwest, West and Northeast. Those making $ 35,000 – $ 49,999 in household income are the most common gardening group (24%), although many who make over $ 75,000 (22%), under $ 35,000 (21%) and between $ 50,000 and $ 74,999 (16%) are also represented.
To get started, most households spent about $ 70 on seeds, garden supplies and gardening tools. The study of home gardeners found that the average, well-maintained 600-square-foot garden yielded 300 pounds of produce worth $ 600 in market value, which saved households $ 530 a year. The ten most popular vegetables grown included the following: tomatoes (86%), cucumbers (47%), sweet peppers (46%), beans (39%), carrots (34%), summer squash (32%), onions (32%), hot peppers (31%), lettuce (28%), and peas (24%). A number of people also grew corn, radishes, potatoes, salad greens, pumpkins, watermelons, spinach, broccoli, melons, cabbage, beets, winter squash, asparagus, collards, cauliflower, celery, Brussels sprouts, leeks, kale, parsnips, Chinese cabbage and rutabagas.
Today’s home gardeners have been growing food for 12 years on average, and they spend about five hours per week on their gardens. Twenty percent of those surveyed say this is their first year growing plants, while 39% said they’ve been gardening for 1-5 years. Some gardeners spend over 20 hours in their gardens each week, but the norm seems to be closer to 3-5 hours. Surprisingly, 43% of respondents said they spend less than two hours in their gardens. An estimated 5 million households are “extremely” or “very” interested in having a garden plot in a community garden located near their homes. Is communal gardening the way of the future? The National Gardening Association seems to think so. Many people believe that locally grown food can deliver safer, fresher and better quality produce.