Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plant and Soil Science

First Advisor

Mark C. Starrett



This study was designed to characterize the choices, preferences and motivations of fruit and vegetable gardeners in Vermont, and to determine whether socio-demographic characteristics affect some of these choices, preferences and motivations. Using a survey of Vermont Extension Master Gardeners (EMGs), data were gathered over a 3-year period (2011-2013). The findings show most EMGs (>90%) garden in private home gardens, and the most popular vegetables grown were tomatoes, herbs, and salad greens. Beans, cucumbers and peppers sere also popular and among fruits, blueberries, apples, raspberries and strawberries were grown by over 40% of EMGs. Approximately 10% of EMG gardeners who had vegetable/herb gardens did not grow any fruit or berries, and EMGs who did not garden at all (10%) cited lack of gardening space and time as their main constraints.

Vermont EMGs are concentrated around urban centers, however, their distribution is approximately proportional to the general population across the state. By age, over 40% are in their 50s, and in over 60% of households, females are make most of the gardening decisions and do most of the gardening work. Over 70% of the Vermont EMGs are college-educated, and live in households with incomes above $50,000. The most important motivations for gardening were ‘Having a Taste of Homegrown Fresh’ produce (ratings above 4.5/5) and ‘Fun/Relaxation/Hobby.’ Gardeners considered ‘Food Safety’ and ‘Environmental Concerns’ as important, while ‘Saving Money’ was not rated as highly as a motivation. EMGs prefer local plants and products and prefer to buy at local garden centers/supply stores. Over 70% rely on ‘Books,’ the ‘Internet,’ ‘Extension,’ ‘Friends’ and ‘Print Articles’ for gardening information, while videos and television are relied on by less than 10% of EMGs.

In all regression models estimated, demographic characteristics (age, education, gender of the gardening decision-maker, and annual household income) were found to have limited explanatory power (R2 ≤ 0.1) on EMGs’ decision to garden, or the choice/motivation for where to purchase plants and gardening supplies. This finding suggests that Vermont EMGs may be an environmentally significant group whose motivations, preferences and choices might be better explained by their attitudinal and value norms rather than socio-demographic characteristics. This finding suggest that future research and educational programs should be designed and delivered according to these characteristics rather than the commonly used demographic ones.



Number of Pages

108 p.