Maker Movement + Horticulture = Innovation Explosion

Dave FrancisQuestion:  What happens when the Maker Movement intermixes with the realm of horticulture?

Answer:  An explosion in ideas and innovation plus a new way for land-grant universities to reach audiences with research-based information.

Dave Francis, Utah State University Extension associate professor, discovered in his Fellowship with eXtension that the latest DIY (do-it-yourself) movement is really a make-it-yourself movement. Through maker faires/festivals and other collaborative settings, youngsters, millennials, baby boomers, and seniors are using low- and high-tech methods to make things, grow things and share their learning.

In Utah, 4-H’ers are making salad boxes for apartment dwellers and other locations without a place to grow food — kits with everything needed to grow a mini-garden, including a 12 X 18 –inch box, soil, and seed.  At the state’s first-ever “Hack the Garden” event, college students connected water and light sensors to computer code and text messaging to alert gardeners when their plants needed moisture and more or less sunshine.

In Myanmar, farmers are 3D printing their own tools. They no longer need to wait for precision, manually-machined parts to assist in prototyping solutions. What’s new in all this for extension educators is that they are increasingly becoming learning collaborators rather than knowledge keepers.  In horticulture, educators are becoming conveners of hands-on experiences for those who want to be involved in active learning, but don’t necessarily want the mess and hassle of sourcing supplies.  “Extension must hit the ‘easy button,’” Francis says.

4H members in UtahAnother audience of potential gardeners includes those who want fresh produce and enjoy the tech aspects of gardening but want to spend less time in the garden. They would prefer running a solar-powered, Roomba-type vacuum to weed a backyard plot to getting down on hands and knees.  The end product continues to be what it has been for extension audiences for more than 100 years – a better quality of life employing the best their universities can offer.

For more information, contact Francis at (435) 760-4109 or

Learn More About the Maker Movement and Extension