If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book

According to the National Gardening Association’s 2009 Impact of Home and Community Gardening In America report, 7 million more households are participating in home vegetable gardening, as well as fruit, herbs and berry cultivation this year, compared to last.

This means that 37% of all US households are doing some of their own food production. The number of amateur home gardeners has increased 19%, compared to just 10% from 2007-2008. “More Americans are recognizing the benefits of growing their own produce, including improved quality, taste and cost savings,” the NGA report concludes.

So just who are all these new gardeners? “The demographics of today’s food gardening households include a broad cross-section of the U.S. population.

There are few other outdoor activities where virtually every demographic group is so well represented, no matter what their age, education, income, marital status, household size, gender, or regional location,” concludes the NGA report.

The food successful gardening experience is enjoyed primarily by women (54%), those ages 45+ (68%), college students (43%) and married couples with no children at home (67%). The gardeners are pretty evenly spread across the South, Midwest, West and Northeast.

Those making $35,000 – $49,999 in household income are the most common gardening group (24%), although many who make over $75,000 (22%), under $35,000 (21%) and between $50,000 and $74,999 (16%) are also represented.

Most households spent about $70 on seeds, soil, garden supplies and garden tools this year, but their produce savings totaled over $500! Home gardeners in 36 million households grew vegetables (23%), herbs (12%), fruit trees (10%) and berries (6%). Vegetable growers spent about $53 to get started, while fruit tree owners spent $61, herb growers spent $30 and berry growers spent $29.

All in all, $1.4 billion went toward vegetable gardening spending, $538 million toward fruit trees, $138 million toward berry growing and $391 million toward herb growing. Truly, these industries are growing in America.

When asked why amateur home gardeners are participating in the gardening experience, the overwhelming majority (58%) said they want “better-tasting food.” Over half of the participants (54%) say they want to save money on food bills; 51% say they want “better quality food” and 48% say they want “to grow food they know is safe.”

About 34% of gardeners say the economic downturn has motivated them to grow food this year. Perhaps it’s the growing concerns over what is organic and what is sprayed with potentially harmful pesticides, which makes the average American consumer more skeptical of grocery store produce.

Perhaps it’s the recent scares we’ve had with tomatoes, peppers and peanuts this year. The National Gardening Association study revealed the underlying suspicions of the average consumer, but also this wave of frugality and earth stewardship that seems to be brewing as well.