Jennifer Atkinson speaks with NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday about pandemic gardens


IAS faculty member Jennifer Atkinson was interviewed on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday for a story about pandemic gardens. The piece took up the question of why the COVID-19 pandemic has set off such an unprecedented boom in home gardening. The simple answer, of course, is fear of food insecurity and economic hardship. Yet Atkinson points out that feeding one's family from a backyard vegetable plot is unrealistic. As she explained to NPR reporter Petra Mayer:

"People have always gardened in hard times, but food is only one part of that story. They're also motivated by the desire for beauty or contact with nature. Maybe they're looking for a creative outlet or a sense of community. And there's immense gratification that comes from work that gives you tangible results."

"What people are starved for right now isn't food, but contact with something real," she says. "We spend all day on screens. We can't be around each other at restaurants or ballparks. We can't even give hugs or shake hands. So all of a sudden, the appeal of sinking your hands in the dirt and using your body in ways that matter, that becomes irresistible."

The interview also touched on Atkinson's book Gardenland: Nature, Fantasy and Everyday Practice, which explores why we garden in hard times. As Atkinson explains, 

"I titled it Gardenland because I wanted to evoke "Fantasyland" or "Neverland." The premise is that gardening is a way to indulge desires and activities that are suspended in daily life. It's a way of seeking out what's missing. And the COVID gardening craze just proves that point."

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