On Earth Day, millions of Americans will come together in honor of environmental protection. From community clean-ups to environmental workshops and citywide marches, Earth Day is a time to reflect on our planet’s natural beauty.

Fortunately, more and more Americans are counting their blessings, not just on Earth Day, but every single day — in the form of gardening. My family’s history with agriculture started many generations ago, and I’ve continued that family tradition here in Maine. As the owner of Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester, I have been fortunate enough to participate in our customers’ gardening experience, by offering a place where they can receive the knowledge and assistance needed to become successful gardeners.

Over time, I have seen a rising interest in growing plants among young Americans. Now more than ever, millennials are interested in growing their own food to know exactly where it comes from, in addition to supporting local farms. The sale of seeds, flowers and potted plants has increased significantly since 2016 — and that increase is driven by millennials. According to the 2017 National Garden Survey, five of the six million Americans who took up gardening in 2016 were between the ages of 18 to 34. Millennials are responsible for roughly 30 percent of all houseplant sales.

Many young people buying homes are installing raised garden beds, especially in urban areas that lack natural greenery. For them, gardening is a low-cost way to have a green space at home, while also providing the opportunity to grow their own food. And urban dwellers are not alone: All across Maine, I’ve encountered young people who have dedicated themselves to gardening. My own children, Will, Evan and Ellie, are avid gardeners in their mid-20s to early 30s, and have enjoyed sharing their interest in gardening — and its many benefits — with their peers.

The benefits of gardening are widespread. Numerous studies show that indoor plants are linked to cleaner air and reduced stress levels. Gardening outside is even more beneficial: It has been found to provide people with natural stress relief and elevated happiness, while also exposing them to essential vitamin D and an opportunity to exercise.

Following the first Earth Day in 1970, we saw a gardening boom in America, and millennials are now creating new momentum. It is our responsibility to ensure the benefits of gardening continue to get passed down to Generation Z. In a world filled with technological distractions, gardening is a healthy, productive way for Gen Zers to follow in their elders’ footsteps, clear their minds, and get in touch with Mother Nature.

That’s where older generations like mine can lend a helping hand, showing Gen Zers how to work the land and explaining why it’s important. One way to start is by planting something that attracts bees, such as sunflowers or lavender.

These nectar lovers are integral to American food production and the broader economy. Every year, more than $15 billion in U.S. crops are pollinated by bees, including apples, berries and cucumbers. Attracting bees to your garden will transform your fruit and vegetable harvests for years to come.

Always remember: In Maine, gardening experts are here to help. Whether you’re a Gen Zer or a baby boomer, you can trust us to deliver value, and get you the most out of your gardening experience. As my grandfather, Lester Longfellow, once told me, “When picking strawberries for market, make sure you fill the quart box over the top. That way, customers will trust you are giving them the best possible value.”

Americans of all ages can grow a full box of strawberries, if they embrace the joy of gardening. When America counts her blessings for Mother Nature’s gifts, she can expect a most fruitful future indeed.

 

Scott and Sandy Longfellow are co-owners of Longfellow’s Greenhouses in Manchester.

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