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Gardening Trends Survey Reveals Need for Education About Organics

The average consumer is hungry for education about the costs and benefits of organic gardening practices, a recent study of gardening trends revealed. The research, a 2008 Winter Survey of Consumer Attitudes on Organics, was conducted for the Garden Writers Association Foundation by TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, in October, 2008.

Nearly 1000 people were interviewed in a random survey of households within the continental United States, and the number of interviews completed in each region of the country was proportional to the area’s representation in the U.S. The margin of error was +/- 3.2%.

The good news is that consumers generally equate the term “organic” with having real value or meaning. Most (80% of those surveyed) said they would use more organic products if they knew they could get an effective result for no additional cost. Sixty percent said they would use organic products if convinced they are as effective as non-organic or synthetic products.

Generally speaking, while 70% of those surveyed felt organic products were costly, they also thought organic products were:

  • environmentally or socially responsible (61%);
  • safer to eat (51%); and
  • more nutritious (49%).

Consumers are inclined to buy more products labeled organic if:

The price for the product was lower or competitive with synthetics (57%); and
They had more education about the options and benefits of organic products (47%).
Gardener’s in the survey indicated a willingness to use organic products and practice organic plant care, but also appear to need convincing about cost and efficacy. While 34% of gardeners said they sometimes or always use organic lawn and garden products, 49% of gardeners indicated they never or rarely do.

Approximately one-third of gardeners listed as high or very high the importance of growing non-edible organic flowers or shrubs, practicing organic lawn care, growing their own organic products, or buying organic products in stores. Perhaps surprisingly, nearly two-thirds indicated a low level of interest.

While at first glance, some of the results of the survey may discourage proponents of organics, the survey presents an opportunity for education, and to probe assumptions about the costs and benefits of organic versus inorganic plants and products.

For example, is it really more expensive to buy or grow organic food if consuming such contributes to short or long-term illness requiring medical attention? And how is efficacy defined? Are consumers and gardeners interested in instant gratification, or in permanent, sustainable results?

What is clear is that consumers in the survey overwhelmingly understood that using organic products at home and in the garden is healthful; it is up to proponents of organic practices now to convince them it is essential.

For more information about the GWA Foundation survey, contact the Garden Writers Association at 703.257.1032, or via e-mail at [email protected].