During World War II hard times fell on the nation. With fresh fruits and vegetables in short supply, food needed to be rationed and the government ultimately turned to the citizens to do their part to keep the nation fed. Families on the home front were encouraged to “put their idle land to work” and to produce gardens to combat the food shortage.
In response, victory gardens — or war gardens — began “cropping up” across the United States and Canada to provide fruits and vegetables for the nation. Victory gardens were considered a civil morale booster. Families could feel as though they were contributing to the war effort and heeded the call to patriotism.
Pamphlets and posters donned slogans such as “Dig for Victory,” “Every War Garden is a Peace Plant,” “Sow the Seeds of Victory,” and “Uncle Sam Says, ‘Garden to Cut Food Costs.’” People quickly realized it was their national duty to participate.
In 1943, nearly forty percent of all fruits and vegetables grown in the US were grown in victory gardens. There were gardens planted in backyards, empty lots, and on the top of city rooftops. Neighbors and communities worked together and formed cooperations. Even schools got involved to provide supplemental food for lunches. An estimated twenty million victory gardens were planted, with about nine to ten million tons of fruits or vegetables harvested. Even Eleanor Roosevelt took part by planting her own victory garden at the White House in 1943.
Tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, beets, and peas were some of the most common vegetables planted. Victory gardens brought Swiss chard and kohlrabi to the American table because they were easy to grow. The United States government even went as far to provide growing plans and tips on how to grow a backyard garden. As well as a recipe book with instructions on how to prepare home grown vegetables and sample nutritious meals to make with them. Families were also encouraged to can their excess veggies to send overseas to troops. Victory gardens made sure that there was enough food for the fighting soldiers.
Victory gardens gave Americans on the home front a sense of purpose and a way to contribute while also providing the food needed to sustain a nation during a time of need. After the war was over in 1945, victory gardens began to disappear. Grocery stores and commercial food began to become more widely available and most Americans didn’t see the need to continue to grow anymore. After the war ended, gardening became a hobby rather than a necessity for most people.
Fast Forward to Today
The food supply and state of health in our country are once again facing new challenges. As a nation, we do not consume enough fruits and vegetables, with only 27 percent of us consuming the recommended daily amount. A large portion of our food makes long journeys before even hitting our tables, losing nutrients along the way. A sizable percentage of our food is genetically modified and coated with harmful poisons. The rising food prices (especially for organic food) only exacerbates the problem. Today, because many have concerns about the quality of our food, home gardening is making a resurgence.
Not only is gardening an excellent way to reduce your grocery bill, but it is also a great way to bring your family (and neighborhood together). A grassroots effort has recently begun to use community gardens to help feed those in need within the community. A resurgence of a modern-day victory garden movement could help to relieve some of the burden on the public food supply. With one third of the nation being overweight, gardens are also a great opportunity to teach wholesome nutritious eating.
Here are some compelling reasons why you should consider starting your own victory garden this spring:
- Growing your own fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to stretch your food budget.
- Homegrown vegetables have more nutritional value than store bought ones (everyday a vegetable is off the vine it loses its health benefits).
- No harmful chemicals sprayed on your veggies.
- Provides fresh air and outdoor exercise for the whole family.
- Forges bonding experiences for family and community members.
- Allows you to control your food supply and be more self sufficient.
- Gardening is a great activity to help relieve stress and improve sleep quality.
- Reduces your carbon footprint.
- Statistically, gardeners live longer!
Don’t let lack of space deter you. No matter how much room you have, you can grow your own organic vegetables — from micro-greens and herbs in your kitchen to a large-scale garden in your backyard (or front yard, in some cases). Even a 10 x 10 ft garden can grow a tremendous amount of food for your loved ones.
For those with smaller yards, raised beds are gaining popularity. Container gardening is also an excellent choice for those with limited space. This year try replacing the flowers in your window boxes with something edible. If you are new to gardening, dream big, but start slow and small, adding more each year – better to reap a small harvest than to get overwhelmed and give up all together.
Only have a small apartment patio or terrace? You can still grow food! Check out these tips.