Rose Hayden-Smith •


The parable of the sower

I am fortunate to have professional work that aligns with my personal interests and spiritual beliefs. My livelihood involves sustainability and the food system. My professional work at the University of California began in garden-based education for youth and adults. That is still where my passion lies. Recently, that passion, knowledge and my core beliefs about the value of local food production has been expressed through work at my faith community, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ventura. There I have been blessed to be part of a group organizing and working a congregational garden. Our little garden is part of a larger initiative, Seeds of Hope, which is sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Today’s Gospel lesson was Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. “Hear then the parable of the sower.” Reverend Susan wove a wonderful sermon around this piece, which was extraordinarily rich and resonant. I could barely keep myself in the pew, so eager was I to go forth to be “good soil” in the world (but only after a brief stop in the St. Paul’s garden to put my hands in the very tangible good soil we are cultivating there).

Those of us who live in Ventura County often take “good soil” as a given; we are blessed to live in one of the most agriculturally productive places in the world. I often find myself reminding others that this place is unique: it has an extraordinary climate, great soil and innovative farmers. Soil is not dirt. Soil is that impossibly thin layer of the earth’s crust from which we derive our food. It is vital to life.

Soil supplies air, water, nutrients and mechanical support for the roots of growing plants. The productivity of any […]

By |July 14th, 2014|Categories: Other||0 Comments

WW1 gardens, democracy and immigration

WWI gardens, democracy and immigration are strongly linked. A major home front goal of the U.S. government during WWI was to secure and mobilize the support of the nation’s sizeable immigrant population. The iconic posters calling the nation to service were printed in many languages, an acknowledgement of a basic fact in American life: we have inherently been a pluralistic society, even if that fact is not always reflected in our political leadership. Gardening proved to be an important and successful way to unify America’s diverse population during WWI; gardening provides a way for us to transcend our differences today.

Whoever we are, wherever we hail from, however we choose to classify ourselves, our relationship to the land links us. Even when we don’t have direct contact with it, land sustains us. Those who worked on national gardening efforts during World War I understood the connection between rural and urban. They envisioned a “nation of garden cities” … and all that the term promised. Beautiful, vibrant, healthy cities. Abundant and prosperous rural landscapes. Sustainable areas between, foreshadowing the emergence of the great American “middlescape”…the suburb. 

After the Armistice was signed in 1919, one national leader expressed his feeling that the war gardening effort was “a forge that is daily strengthening the links in our chain of democracy…Link by link the chain of our democracy has grown stronger.”

Can the act of gardening really strengthen democracy? I think the answer is “yes.” Read more in “Sowing the Seeds of Victory” here.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

Food Sleuth Radio Interview

Food Sleuth Radio recently interviewed me about my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory.” It’s a wide-ranging interview about gardens and the food system, from the history to contemporary public policy. Worth a listen.

The link is here.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

The Fruits of Victory: Food Preservation

“The Fruits of Victory” was a World War I poster that encouraged Americans to adopt food preservation practices. The national message that focused on school, home and community gardens as well as food preservation and food conservation resulted in increased exports to America’s allies during wartime, and also in improved nutrition. Liberty Gardens – later Victory Gardens – became a national imperative.

The practices encouraged by the federal government during World War I were simple but effective: increase local food production, preserve some of what we grew, and also to try to reduce food consumption (consider Meatless Mondays). These measures worked.  And they make sense today.

Undoubtedly, some of you reading this post will be spending part of the long weekend putting up fruit and vegetables. It’s a good thing to do. To encourage you in your efforts, enjoy this WWI image. And pick up a copy of my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory”, to learn more about what was done then – and what we could do now, as individuals and a nation – to improve our food system.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

WWI Poster: Uncle Sam and a Farmerette

Uncle Sam invited all Americans to garden in World War I; nearly 20,000 American women answered a call to service and picked up a hoe. Many of these “farmerettes”, as they were called, used their work on America’s farms to press for full citizenship, including suffrage.

To learn more about this interesting chapter in America’s history, please read Chapter 6 of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory”. With so much focus on WWI now, this is a book you won’t want to miss.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

Local food: an old idea made new again

Local food is an old idea made new again. Buying #localfood is the new old-fashioned thing to do. Check out this abbreviated version of a World War I poster. Buying local food was a governmental recommendation as early as WWI.  Read more about #WWI posters and their impact on mobilizing the home front in Chapter 4 of my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory”.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

EarthEats: Interview

I was delighted to be interviewed by Annie Corrigan, producer of Earth Eats, which is run out of Indiana Public Media. Earth Eats – which has a website, blogs, podcasts, and a great social media presence – has become one of my new go-to sites for information about “real food and green living.” The topics are cutting-edge, relevant, provocative, often fun, and very well-covered.

Please read the interview, Liberty Gardens of World War 1 Updated for Today, and please be certain to follow Earth Eats for a big helping of food…for thought!


Earth Eats on Twitter

Earth Eats on Facebook

Uncle Sam Says “Garden”

An entire chapter of my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory” is dedicated to WWI poster art and propaganda. This chapter contains numerous poster images and a detailed analysis of each. One of my favorite images is this one – Uncle Sam Says Garden”  – produced by the USDA.

“Uncle Sam Says Garden” was a poster that was directed to wider audiences than some of the other gardening posters, which were directed to children. Produced in 1917, it shows Uncle Sam in the foreground, holding a hoe in one hand, and papers that read “City Gardens” and “Farm Gardens” in the other. These words are clearly meant to synthesize the interests of rural and urban Americans: gardening was a shared activity, a common national goal. A man and woman work in the garden shown, which is in the shape of the American flag. Some of the plants featured in the garden might appear to be stars upon the flag. The woman in the poster wears a long, red skirt and a white shirt; in her arm is something she has harvested from the garden.

A subtitle suggests that Americans might wish to garden in order to “cut food costs.” Those seeing the poster are urged to write to the USDA for a free bulletin on gardening, suggesting, “It’s food for thought.” The poster is framed by brown band, and the bottom right corner features a cluster of richly hued vegetables. Upon careful inspection, the background, featuring trees, actually bears a striking resemblance to leafy green vegetables and also to broccoli stems. The use of Uncle Sam in gardening posters was not as common as Columbia, and in this depiction, he is dressed in clothing covered with […]

By |June 14th, 2014|Categories: History||0 Comments

WWI posters: Penfield recruits gardeners here

Nearly every nation used posters to mobilize the home front during WW1. Posters were widely used on the American home front to recruit school, home, community and workplace gardeners, and to encourage food conservation.

This WW1 poster, created by noted artist Edward Penfield, recruited teen aged girls into service as gardeners on the American home front. In a different take on youth gardeners (generally depicted as younger and more cheerful), a brooding young woman dressed in a uniform pushes a wheeled cultivator. Her hair and dress foreshadow the ways in which women would use the war to challenge stereotypes.

The striking visual imagery and rhetoric of this and other posters played into larger themes stressing the nature of American freedom, citizenship, and patriotism. 

Read more about posters and propaganda in Chapter 4 of “Sowing the Seeds of Victory”. 

Until next time, “A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

By |June 9th, 2014|Categories: school gardens||0 Comments

DDay and Victory Gardens

Victory Gardens mattered in WWI and WWII. The home front and the battlefront represent opposite sides of the same coin; cause and effect come into play. Military needs dictated home front mobilization, and what occurred on the home front affected what could be executed on the battlefront.

As Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on #DDay, those on the home front gardened. 

I like this picture, borrowed from the Library of Congress, and taken by photographer Edward Meyer. I think this picture speaks to me because the boy depicted in it is about the same age my father was, when his family worked a small Victory Garden at their home in Terrell, Texas. Terrell was the location of a quickly constructed military base where British and American pilots were trained. My grandfather worked there as part of the American war effort. My father remembered his family’s Victory Garden, and the small black dog that was his boon companion.

Honoring their service, and the memories of gardens past.

“A Garden for Everyone. Everyone in a Garden.”

By |June 6th, 2014|Categories: Other|Tags: , , , , |0 Comments