Does your sustainability include people?
Wonderful post, Sui - loved feeling the fire in your words as I was reading!
The TL;DR of my long opinionated response is that Radicle should be an inspiration and catalyst for gardeners to make themselves visible - on the internet, not just social media - and speak frankly about how deep their knowledge and creativity is. There are more people on the internet than there are on Instagram, and social media can be a (safe and comfortable) echo chamber.
This could be the influence of my primary work, but there’s a lot of overlap with the creator economy; particularly regarding the way businesses are set up. There, yarn companies’ and publications’ reliance on novelty (a constant feed of new designers and/or designs) reminds me of gardening’s reliance on people who already have a substantial financial cushion. Both business models are weak because nobody has attempted to be creative: “We’ve found one way that works, so let’s assume that’ll always be the case.” Creative problem solving is a weak spot for this type of business, which is why they exploit it in individuals.
The trouble is - and I apologise for being vague, because I’m referring to confidential info - that these systems are weakening rapidly in creative industries. Instead of the above mentioned businesses adapting and changing to survive, there’s bartering at best, and at worst trying to reanimate a corpse. And at the same time, designers are taking greater ownership and control over their ideas, skills, and experience. This also means doing your own marketing and having a direct connection to people who support your work.
I’m not a professional gardener, and I know that the physical assets of land and property add complexity, but I wonder if this is part of the solution to the problem. (I also apologise if this ignorance about land/property makes some of my points irritating and redundant). It’s the beginning of a new road or untrodden path, but speaking from my own experience of making people aware of what it’s like to be a knitwear designer, talking openly and having an online presence as an individual has begun to make a difference. Speaking for myself, my blog posts get consistent traffic, even those posted nearly 3 years ago when I first started speaking up. There’s been massive support from peers, gratitude from hobby knitters who were shocked to learn about the working conditions, and very minor pushback from 4 people who thought they could tell me how to use my platform…or hated my “sermons”. Most importantly the blog posts have been shared widely.
I’m convinced this is because more of the public/non-industry folk simply had no idea, and now they have a reliable source of information that can be disseminated openly. If I’d kept this in my newsletter or on Instagram, things wouldn’t have begun to shift. Mine is a small and feminine niche, but there are similar patterns based on what you’ve written. Unlike money and other tangible assets, you can definitely take intellectual property and creative power with you when you go. The more that creative people (gardeners included) realise how much the infrastructure depends on their individual gifts, the more confident I hope they’ll feel about speaking up collectively and individually. They are the heart, soul and lifeblood. There’d be no gardens without gardeners; land, yes, but no gardens to enjoy.
I’ll stop here. You’re doing an amazing job leading the way, Sui. More gardeners need to take courage and come along with you. Thank you 🙏🏾💕🌿
Thanks for writing this Sui! Idk how much of a problem this will be, but I've been wondering about how this is all going to intersect with the huge expansion of green spaces that cities will need for climate adaptation. Who's going to take care of it all if the industry can't retain people because they're underpaid, overworked and undervalued? Feels like there's such a massive divide between rhetoric on the value of green spaces for health, climate, social benefits, and the lack of value ascribed to the labour required to care for them well. I hope we're headed for some kind of reckoning - you can only exploit people's passion for so long.