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GARDENING: the road to self-actualization

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 09-30-10 at 3:07 p.m.

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Socio-cultural observations reflecting the zeitgeist

Growing up as the son of honest, hardworking Italian immigrants, the vegetable garden was a ubiquitous presence in my life. A symbol of their rural past, a source of fresh ingredients, a smart way to save a few bucks, the fulfillment of basic level Maslowian instincts (you know: food, shelter…) - they’re all logical and valid motives driving this seemingly innocent activity.
Let’s fast-forward a few years.  Next, let’s change setting - say, some of the hippest neighbourhoods in Montreal (Mile End, Le Plateau). In this context, gardening has been imbued with far more weight and meaning than the humble yet noble immigrant pursuit, prompted by economic necessities or Old World values.

Today, gardening has taken on a spiritual and political gravitas. It has become the symbol of the urbanite’s quest for authenticity, the impulse to reconnect with nature, a desire for deceleration. On a grander scale, the act of gardening has become a noble gesture, a nod to Mother Earth, an expression of ecological sensitivity.

As such, the very image of a garden is loaded with new socio-cultural meanings and values. It can still be linked to notions of sustenance and subsistence, but interestingly, it has also come to symbolize higher order and aspirational values such as autonomy, new social responsibility, ecological awareness, spiritual questing and the like.
The rise of locavores, open air food markets, farmer’s markets, community gardens and the 20 mile diet all point to a fundamental shift in mores.

In this age of go go go, you would think that our time-strapped consumers would balk at the idea of going out of their way to purchase fresh, local produce, much less grow it themselves. Something deeper is at play here, possibly indicating a malaise with the accelerated pace of progress and consumption, possibly a quest for meaning, a need for roots.

Certainly, the trends we track point to those phenomena fuelling the behavior.
To learn more about consumer values and their implications for your marketing opportunities, don’t hesitate to contact us.