THE ROOTS OF THE VICTORY GARDEN
It all started during WWI when Europe was struggling under a very serious food shortage. The war had taken many of the agricultural workers away from their posts and many of the farms had become actual battlefields. As this food crisis grew, it put great pressure on the United States to step in and help solve the crisis. Out of this problem, and just before the U.S. entered the war in 1917, the National War Garden Commission was born. This organization existed to get American citizens to “do their part” to join the war efforts by growing fruits and vegetables by making use of any available space where gardens could be planted. This “War Garden Movement” laid the foundation for what later were referred to as “Victory Gardens.”
This War Garden Movement spread like wildfire as the government poured money and effort into positive propaganda, urging every citizen to look for unused land areas that could be reclaimed as garden areas – around schools, government buildings, businesses, vacant lots, backyards, parks, and more. This movement also spread widely by word of mouth through various civic and women’s clubs, neighborhoods, etcetera. The Commission published and distributed how-to manuals to walk amateur gardeners through the process of planting, caring for, and harvesting food crops. The effort was so successful that the Commission turned its attention toward distributing pamphlets on canning and other food saving methods for all of the extra food produced.
Because those in the U.S. Government had the care and foresight to provide a quick and effective solution to a very serious humanitarian problem, well over five million extra gardens were cultivated in a two-year period. To me, this is staggering. There was such a surplus of food that it is estimated that there were about one and a half million quarts of fruits and vegetables harvested and stored from the effort. This, of course, is above and beyond the food that was eaten and distributed fresh. By the end of WWI, these gardens were known as “Victory Gardens.”
Although many “Victory Gardens” had been abandoned as the global climate improved after WWI, there were those who kept their gardens going. But as WWII ramped up, the need began to arise once again for increased food production. Food was being sent overseas for the war effort, and agricultural workers were being expected to work elsewhere for the war. When food rationing began in the U.S. in 1942, it was significant incentive to once again adopt this idea of planting and tending “Victory Gardens.”
WHY THIS MATTERS NOW
So, what do these Vintage “Victory Gardens” have to do with us now? Well, let’s look at the circumstances that called for these gardens.
- Supply chain stress
- Limitations on agricultural land and production
- Food insecurity or shortages
- Economic stress
Do any of these sound familiar?
Inflation, anyone? If for nothing other than watching my grocery bill just skyrocket, I can see great reason to have a re-emergence of Victory Gardens in the U.S. and around the world! Being able to go “grocery shopping” in my own yard or even in my own home (as I talk about here) sounds PERFECT to me!
Truthfully, I have had growing concern over the news stories of large companies and very wealthy people buying up huge areas of agricultural land and buying out small and medium-sized farms. My preference is always to support small and local farms. In my opinion, decentralizing food production is key, particularly in times of uncertainty. We should truly put effort into building relationships and systems trade within our localized areas. I am a HUGE supporter of Farmers Markets and neighborhood growing! The Victory Garden movement brought about a beautiful growth in neighborhood morale and sourcing local food. It’s healthier, more relational, and saves so much in the way of freight and delivery systems.
Thinking back to the store shelves in 2020 is enough to give me pause when relying merely on huge supply chains and grocery stores. There were many times when I went to the grocery and could not find meat, or eggs, or bread, and produce was spotty at best. It was very disconcerting. At that point, I already had the desire to grow a food garden, but that year changed how I thought about it. Now if only toilet paper could be grown… oh, wait…
The bottom line to me is that I see this idea of Victory Gardens as a super cool solution for current issues today. Now, I will not hold my breath for the government to head-up another Garden Commission movement. So much has changed, it seems, since the first half of the Twentieth Century. I would be happy to get back to many things that existed back then, but I digress.
A NEW VICTORY GARDEN MOVEMENT?
But just for a moment, let’s say that Victory Gardening caught on again. Going off of the rate of success during the First World War and figuring for the population growth (100+ million in 1920 to 320+ million today) we would see well over 15 million new gardens, rather than the 5 million before. We would also see a surplus of nearly 5 MILLION quarts of stored EXCESS food, on top of what is used and eaten fresh. Do you think this could be a good thing? How about as prices continue to rise, as they seem to be doing?
It seems it is up to us to make use of the word-of-mouth success of the Garden Movement. How great would it be if we could bring back garden growing in many useless areas and grow food rather than weeds or lawns? Maybe your Victory Garden would be unconventional. What’s wrong with that? I love unconventional. (Have you read about my favorite way to grow unconventionally?) You can grow a Victory Garden in any space, indoors or outdoors, depending on your space, desire, and goal. What if we encouraged one another to bring back the all-new-and-improved Victory Garden?
MY ENCOURAGEMENT TO YOU
As I love to say, YOU CAN DO THIS. Really. If you like the idea of taking the next step in your gardening journey, DO IT. If you aren’t quite sure where to start, consider one of three things:
- Just literally go outside, claim a small space, and plant some seeds or seedlings.
- Keep things tidy and enclosed with these great, lasting galvanized beds. They come in several sizes and colors. Order one, or a couple, get some soil, and get to planting!
- Consider the option of indoor OR outdoor aeroponic growing without even using soil!
What is your thought on Victory Gardens? Would you grow one? Would you like to be part of the New Victory Garden movement? Please share and comment below!