During WW I and WW II, Americans grew Victory Gardens to help support
the war effort. With the country at war, resources of all kinds were
being diverted to support national war efforts. People were asked to
grow their own produce, so more of the commercially grown produce was
available for the troops overseas. Those unable to grow their own
were forced to use rationing coupons, while those with gardens had
plenty. Victory Gardens came in every shape and size, from window
boxes to large community plots. Governments and corporations promoted
this call for self-reliance. People in rural and urban areas worked
the soil to raise food for their families, friends, and neighbors.
Victory gardening enabled more supplies to be shipped to our troops
around the world. Although canned foods were rationed items, there
were relatively few food shortages in W.W. II-era America. The call
to plant a Victory Garden was answered by nearly 20 million
Americans. These gardens produced up to 40% of all that was
consumed. “Plant a Victory Garden: Help Win the War!” was the
rallying cry as citizens in the United States and Canada converted
backyards, empty lots and rooftops into gardens to grow hundreds of
thousands of tons of fruit and vegetables. As Axis troops suffered
massive shortages, the Allies were kept well supplied and the Victory
Garden program was credited with helping to win the war against the
Well known artists of that time were commissioned to create patriotic
posters making it clear that it was each person’s duty to make an
effort. Major magazines, such as Good Housekeeping and House &
Garden, of that day, featured many articles of instruction and
encouragement about small gardens. Information on acquiring seeds,
helping the soil, where and when to plant, etc. was published and
accessible in everything you read. Every effort was made to educate
and motivate all citizens toward the joy and value of a self
supporting vegetable garden. They taught the basics of gardening.
The audience was assumed as having no knowledge and the material was
presented as such. Topics included soil health, how to plant, when to
plant, how to tend plants, pest identification, and even suggestions
on what to plant. The basic produce types commonly suggested were:
beans, beets, carrots, peas, radishes, lettuce, spinach, chard,
onions, cucumbers, parsley, kohlrabi, summer squash, rutabagas, corn,
parsnips, leeks, turnips, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli,
peppers, cauliflower, tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and endive.
When the fighting of World War II ended, so too did the government’s
call for people to produce their own food. It was a policy that was
dropped, in the opinion of some magazine editors of the time, too
quickly. Since many people did not plant a Victory Garden in the
spring of 1946, and the agriculture industry had not yet come back up
to full production, there were food shortages that summer.
These concepts sound very foreign in this day and age. We have been
bombarded for years by messages of consumerism, reliance on others,
and have experienced years of booming economic times. A whole
generation of young people know it no other way.
History is cyclical, the strong economy of the 1990s has
evolved to the recession of 2007-present, and there are lessons to be
learned from the past. September 11 has compelled many of us to
re-examine our lives in
order to connect or reconnect with people and the world around us.
The new war on terrorism is different from previous wars, and I am
not predicting the American public will need to endure food
rationing, as previously done the first two world wars. But, America
still needs the support of the people, and our economy needs to keep
functioning in order to lessen the effects of the war on the home
front. If we are going to live now in an atmosphere of potential
terrorism within our own country, this translates into the
possibility of the occasional lack of supply of anything vital
including fuel and/or food. We have to consider the possibility
anytime in the near future of being occasionally cut off from the
supply of these essential things we take for granted. This could
obviously include utilities and food supplies. So the alternative
idea that we can do something about it, even in a small way, by
gardening in our own backyard, is a kind of stress management at the
very least. At the very most we can provide ourselves a source of the
highest nutrition, particularly if we use what we grow as ingredients
for fresh meals.
No matter how you think the future will unfold, it
is certain that it will include change. If times stay good, that is
great. That is what we are all praying for. If times get tough, a
little insurance is always nice. A form of insurance is the ability
to provide for yourself and your family — having the knowledge to
produce and preserve your own food is the best investment you can
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