Chris Petry, a 33-year-old gardener-turned-farmer in Leavenworth, Washington, is an enthusiastic participant. He chatted with us about farming his seven-acre vegetable and grain plot Oh Yeah! in the nude and why other people should consider it, too.
Modern Farmer: First thing’s first: Are you naked right now?
Chris Petry: My family’s all here so I’ve got clothes on. I was naked like thirty minutes ago, though.
MF: You said via email that you celebrate World Naked Gardening Day (WNGD) every year. What got you started?
CP: Well technically I didn’t know about it until last year, so really last year was my first year. I’ll celebrate again this year. I’m not even sure how I found out about it – social media? Ya know, I’m kind of a one-man show. I don’t have a lot of people working with me, especially early in the season. I figured there was no one here, so why not? Plus, when I posted a photo, it got a pretty good response from friends. So I’ll do it again.
MF: Even though your whole family is visiting, are you still going to garden naked?
CP: I’m still gonna naked garden, yes.
MF: What was your experience like last year?
CP: It was kind of funny. Leavenworth is kind of a destination town, and my neighbors are an old retired couple who are only here on the weekends. And it must have been a weekend day, because…it’s on a Saturday, right?
MF: Yes, it’s the first Saturday of every May.
CP: So it was the first Saturday of last May. I was in naked my greenhouse and they were mowing the lawn. It was kind of tricky to avoid them seeing me. The photo you have – I figured I’d try to capture what I authentically do every morning, which is water my transplants and drink coffee in my straw hat.
Generally, naked gardening makes sense but naked farming sometimes is a little harder. You’re pretty exposed. I have enough of cuts and nicks… who knows where else those cuts and nicks would be? So it is nice to have some sort of barrier between a tractor and rocks and heavy machinery.
Generally, naked gardening makes sense but naked farming sometimes is a little harder. You’re pretty exposed.
If I lived in a more private area, though, I would definitely spend more time without my clothes on walking around my property. Or even just sitting on my porch without clothes on admiring my farm. In my dream world, I’d love to live on a property in the forest with space outside and flat land and places I can go outside to pee if I want. But I do have neighbors. So I’m a little bit of a caged bird here.
MF: How in-view are you?
CP: I could hit my neighbors’ house with a rock. They’re far enough away that we can’t hear each other talking on the phone on the porch, but we can see each other! If they saw me naked gardening, they probably wouldn’t appreciate it.
MF: I don’t know about out west, but we had a pretty mild winter, which from what I understand makes this a pretty bad tick year. Do you find that, or any other environmental condition, a deterrent?
CP: I’m not worried about ticks, but it’s really hot here. We’re more worried about sunburn in places you don’t see the sun very much. There’s no real environmental issues I can think of other than the intensity of the sun. You either want to make sure you wear sun lotion or make sure you’re not exposed too long. After a full day of naked gardening, you might have to take the next day off with the amount of sun that’s here.
MF: Where do you put sunscreen?
CP: I like to build up a base. I very rarely wear sunscreen. For a full day of naked farming, I’ll spend some more time in my barn, working in my garden shed, and working on projects that aren’t directly in the sun. I’m working minimum 12- to 14-hour days, but any more than an hour fully exposed in the sun and I’d probably be burned to a crisp.
MF: I checked your weather tomorrow: 86 degrees and sunny in Leavenworth. Damn.
CP: Tomorrow my dad and I are moving a greenhouse from the farm property over to my house property. We’re gonna set the foundation and posts today, then we’re gonna pour the concrete and get it up tomorrow. So I guess my dad will have to be seeing what he saw 33 years ago as we build the greenhouse.
I guess my dad will have to be seeing what he saw 33 years ago as we build the greenhouse.
MF: Are you going to encourage your dad to naked garden as well?
CP: I’ll do the best I can. It can be a father-son bonding experience. I’ll say it was part of this interview that I said you would join me. Maybe he will then.
MF: Are you aware of the local public nudity laws?
CP: It’s pretty conservative in town here. Where I am, half a mile outside of town, not a lot of the same rules apply. I could do a lot of different things than most other people can’t do. I think I’ll just have to not worry about it. I don’t really care to know what they are.
MF: Do you have any worry of being arrested for gardening naked?
CP: No, I don’t think so. I’m not worried about it. And if I am, it’ll increase awareness of the holiday more so I’m willing to sacrifice my criminal record to bring this holiday in the limelight and share it with others. [laughs]
MF: I wonder: If you get arrested naked, do you have to go to jail naked?
CP: Well I’ll make sure to lock all the clothes away in my house so they’ll be no opportunity to have any clothing on in the cop car ride. They’ll probably put something on when I get there, but I’ll remain celebrating the holiday until they force me to do something different.
MF: Do you have any other thoughts to share about World Naked Gardening Day?
CP: Ya know, it’s actually pretty cool – if you think about our ancestors not wearing clothes both hunter-gathering and farming, it’s the closest thing we can probably get to our roots with how complicated and busy our lives get. It’s a cool way to reflect. Being naked isn’t going to make my plants grow any better but at least we’re more on the same level: My tomatoes aren’t wearing a dress, so neither should I. It’s a nice way to share the space with your plants… others should give it a shot. See how much fun you can have with your family, friends, and loved ones, being silly in the garden and taking naked photos of each other.
See Chris’s full WNGD/NSFW photo here. For earthy inspiration, search the hashtag #worldnakedgardeningday on Instagram. Also, obviously NSFW.