Gardening boom: One in 3 U.S. households is now growing food

WILLISTON, Vt. — During the past five years there’s been a significant shift toward more Americans growing their own food in home and community gardens, increasing from 36 million households in 2008 to 42 million in 2013.

That’s a 17 percent increase and represents the highest level of food gardening in more than a decade, according to a special National Gardening Association report, Garden to Table: A 5-Year Look at Food Gardening in America.

Millennials get in the act

The report shows that more young people, particularly millennials (ages 18-34), are the fastest growing population segment of food gardeners. In 2008 there were 8 million millennial food gardeners. That figure rose to 13 million in 2013, an increase of 63 percent.

Millennials also nearly doubled their spending on food gardening, from $632 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2013. The report found that more households with children participated in food gardening.

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Additionally, there was a 29 percent increase in food gardening by people living in urban areas, up from 7 million in 2008 to 9 million in 2013.

Two million more households also reported participating in community gardening in 2013 than 2008, a 200 percent increase in five years.

Food revolution

“This report clearly shows that there truly is a food revolution taking place in America,” said Mike Metallo, president and CEO of the National Gardening Association. We are seeing more people, particularly young people, actively engaged in growing their own food. The growth in just five years is pretty spectacular.”

As the nation’s leading nonprofit in gardening education, the National Gardening Association has published annual statistics on food gardening in America since 1978.

This special report examines data collected from 2008-13, providing an in-depth look at trends, statistics and analytical data about food gardening during that period. The data collected shows nearly all categories of food gardening with major increases during the past five years.

Highlights

Additional highlights from the 5-year report include:

  • One in 3 households are now growing food — the highest overall participation and spending levels seen in a decade.
  • Americans spent $3.5 billion on food gardening in 2013 — up from $2.5 billion in 2008 — a 40 percent increase in five years.
  • From 2008 to 2013, the number of home gardens increased by 4 million to 37 million households, while community gardens tripled from 1 million to 3 million, a 200 percent increase.
  • Households with incomes under $35,000 participating in food gardening grew to 11 million — up 38 percent from 2008.

The National Gardening Association associates the rise in food gardening to several reasons: an improving economy; strong national leadership, including the launch of the Let’s Move initiative and White House Kitchen Garden by First Lady Michelle Obama during the time period; action by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to increase awareness and educational efforts toward food gardening and more engagement and public-private partnerships through organizations like the National Gardening Association, to promote and build food gardens in communities across the country.

“It’s very exciting to see more young people and families involved in growing and eating their own food through food gardening,” said Metallo. “National leadership, particularly from the First Lady, has certainly been an important factor in the rise in these numbers. That consistent message over time makes a tremendous difference and helps fuel more community involvement in gardening.”

14 Comments

  1. Lenette says:

    I do not agree with the reasons stated for the increased gardening trend in the millennial age group. Most of it comes from common sense: the cost of food is ridiculous. Not to mention that most of my age category believe that sustainable living is kind of essential at this point in the game. We are seeing how processed our food is becoming, all the allergies, food scares and sickness running rampant. By controlling even a small portion in the creation of what we eat, we eat better. Also, at this point in our lives we are having children. We are trying to look out for them and teach them that our world isn’t all instant gratification or a disposiable unit.

    I didn’t mean to rant. I just wanted you to understand that it isn’t all government “leadership”. It is people waking up and realizing it’s cheaper, healthier, and more environmentally friendly to grow your own.

    • Amanda Bowoade says:

      Those were my thoughts exactly. I started a home garden last year, and it had absolutely nothing to do with Michelle Obama or any actions taken by the American Government. I’m afraid of what my children are eating and even more afraid that, with the way the cost of food is rising, very soon I’m going to walk into the grocery store and not be able to afford food at all. “It is people waking up and realizing it’s cheaper, healthier, and more environmentally friendly to grow your own.” Yes. Yes, it is.

  2. Travis says:

    The only thing the “government leadership” has to do with my choice of gardening is how they let so many chemicals be sprayed onto our food. If you actually do a little bit of research on what you’re eating, or just watch “Food Inc.” you’ll want to garden too. Also who doesn’t like to spend a little time and effort outside for more or less free food.

  3. Julie says:

    Everyone I know is gardening because we are afraid of the food sold in stores and can only trust what we grow ourselves. Also we don’t want to support unsustainable farming methods. The government has only gotten in the way of food safety, providing subsidies to big farms who use harmful pesticides and unsustainable practices, and provide organic labels for a fee, making it difficult to trust food grown by a farm or company we don’t know.

  4. docsock says:

    Hooray for first lady and the federal government for enlightening us simpletons and inspiring the masses to plant gardens and grow our own food!! What would we do without them?? Who writes this crap anyway? The increase in gardening has little to nothing to do with ANY federal initiatives, but more to do with a generation of people who are interested reconnecting with their food sources. The coming decades will see a major pushback from consumers who are literally sick and tired of eating over-processed, pre-packaged garbage and/or tired of over-paying for “certified organic”, a program which has become a joke due to the corporatization of the label. .

  5. I give Michelle Obama credit for being an excellent role model, and I’m sure she has at least got people thinking about the nutritional aspects of growing your own food.

    Outside of that, there are many greater reasons why I garden: 1) I enjoy it. 2) Garden tomatoes taste way, way better than store-bought. 3) I can grow varieties not sold in stores. 4) I can save lots of money, especially on herbs or unusual vegetables. 5) My veggies are chemical-free except for fungicide. 6) It means less yard to mow as my garden area expands. 7) It’s a great conversation striker. 8) I enjoy it.

  6. Kim R says:

    Really? Michelle Obama as the reason we’re all gardening more? Try Monsanto!

  7. BRMSTIK says:

    I agree that the increase in gardening does not have anything to do with government leadership to grow our own food. I expanded our garden this year due to declining income and wanting to control some of my food sources. Playing in dirt is also cheaper than therapy.

  8. Jennifer Fisk says:

    I grow a substantial garden and freeze quite a bit of my produce. I also grow my own poultry, egg and meat birds, and meat rabbits. I source any beef or pork I eat from ME grass fed farms and buy raw milk from the farm down the road. Why do I do this? Because it is much better for me than the mass produced GM, CAFO raised, pesticide, herbicide, and antibiotic laden produce and meat available in stores. The other reason is I feel the manner in which CAFO meat and dairy animals in this country are raised is morally wrong and very bad for the environment. My decision to live this way was made long before it became a popular White House topic. Of course, we have the First Lady touting the benefits of growing your own food while the President is supporting Agribusiness.

  9. JD says:

    The trend is good. The reasons specified in the article are almost funny.

  10. Mike Conway says:

    I wonder how much time Michelle puts into her garden each week???

  11. Alyssa says:

    Wow on that last paragraph !

    Way to spin statistics — A-GAIN

    what a crock of natural fertilizer !

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