Why don't people garden? This "Wordle" depicts the results of Manchester University's study. Larger words represent more responses.

National Garden Bureau asks MU marketing class: "Why don't
people garden?"

Why don't people garden?

The National Garden Bureau turned to a marketing class of 25 Manchester University seniors for the answer, which the growing industry is now sharing with the rest of the world.

Using different approaches to marketing research, Joe Messer’s class discovered three key reasons: a lack of time, knowledge or space.

The students presented their findings and possible solutions to the National Garden Bureau on Manchester’s campus last fall. This July, GrowerTalks, the premier magazine for the horticulture industry, featured the MU study in a 10-page article.

The MU students offer lots of ways to grow more gardeners: container and indoor plants, inspiring how-to pamphlets, better-trained garden employees in super stores, virtual gardening aids, marketing to younger people and many more possibilities.

For their research, the MU students used a variety of methodologies – casual experiments, an e-survey, focus group, in-depth interviews, observation, phone surveys and questionnaires.

Sometimes, Messer notes, hands-on experiences trump textbooks.

“In the past, I would teach the students about different methodologies, and then have them answer questions on an exam,” says Messer, who has considerable experience in horticulture. He is a former president of the U.S. division of Daehnfeldt Inc. seed breeding firm and the Dutch seed breeding firm Sluis and Groot.

“This class is all about being hands-on and actually doing the surveys. As a result, the material hits them so much more intensely.” Messer’s project-based learning approach impressed his students, spring graduates who are taking their experience to their new jobs.

“It was as if Professor Messer made it possible for each of his students in that class to have a mini-internship,” says Felicia Fahey ’13 of Wheatfield, Ind. She appreciates the real-world experience of developing, distributing and analyzing a written survey.

The marketing and accounting major used the gardening project and other marketing research experience to launch a consulting business in northern Indiana and a job with Ernst & Young LLP international professional services firm.

Fahey’s experience is typical of the students involved in the project. Within the first few weeks of her new job as marketing coordinator for a civil engineering firm, Katy Konik ’13 of Des Plaines, Ill., drew on her Manchester research experience to create a strategic marketing plan. Laura Lichauer ’13 of Wakarusa, Ind., was so inspired, she started gardening.

“The project with the National Garden Bureau solidified the many lessons I had already learned at MU, both in class and out of class,” says Fahey. “It was very entrepreneurial for me and connected a lot of what I already knew from textbooks and lectures about business and marketing.”

August 2013