Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Using Urban Gardening To Practice Mindfulness
On a Sunday in early April, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced via Twitter that she'd be adopting a rooftop community garden plot in Washington, DC.
"Any green-thumbs out with sage words of advice?" the New York progressive asked her 4 million-person following. Among the thousands of responses were puns from an Israeli rabbi — "it's about thyme!" — and counsel from British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn — "get your hands dirty - in the soil!"
The 29-year-old freshman lawmaker framed her new gardening hobby as a way to practice "self-care" and "mindfulness," an escape from her demanding life as a member of Congress.
"I feel like plants are a great accountability partner because they literally die if you don't take time to tend to yourself and to them," she said in an April Instagram story.
Ocasio-Cortez has a habit of using her social media celebrity to mix politics with daily life in a way that targets a millennial and Gen Z audience. She's brought her legions of fans into her kitchen for live "Cook + Q&A" sessions and into her living room to drink wine and assemble IKEA furniture, all the while answering questions and opining on the issues of the day.
Perhaps playing off Instagram's gardening influencer community,Ocasio-Cortez is now mixing politics, food, and environmental activism.
"Food that comes out of dirt — it's magic," she says of her collard greens and spinach.
The project was also designed to focus attention on Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal resolution — a sweeping, ambitious plan to combat climate change, stimulate the economy, and expand the social safety net.
Ocasio-Cortez received widespread criticism for a set of FAQ's her office put out — and quickly retracted — suggesting the resolution called for eventually eliminating cows and airplane travel, and providing a living wage to those "unwilling to work." The congresswoman said she's faced strong pushback from advocates for agriculture.
"When we were deploying the Green New Deal, one of the first attacks was, 'Well, what does she know about farming?'" Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram story describing why she took on the rooftop gardening project.
Viraj Puri, the CEO of Gotham Greens, a New York-based urban farming startup, said that urban gardening is a good way to educate communities about the ties between environmental issues and agriculture.
"Community gardening is — no pun intended — a low-hanging fruit. It's an easy entry point to build up awareness around agricultural issues and around health and wellness," Viraj Puri told INSIDER. "[It] really straddles so many different themes, from climate change, to health and obesity, to urban greening, to quality of life."