Rose Hayden-Smith •


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.”

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

Lincoln: The ability to produce food = freedom

When he was stumping for the office of president in 1859, Abraham Lincoln equated the ability of Americans to produce food with freedom.

Lincoln said this:

“And thorough work, again, renders sufficient, the smallest quantity of ground to each man. And this again, conforms to what must occur in a world less inclined to wars, and more devoted to the arts of peace, than heretofore. Population must increase rapidly — more rapidly than in former times — and ere long the most valuable of all arts, will be the art of deriving a comfortable subsistence from the smallest area of soil. No community whose every member possesses this art, can ever be the victim of oppression of any of its forms. Such community will be alike independent of crowned-kings, money-kings, and land-kings.”

This is pretty heady stuff, radical even, a strongly pluralistic message about land. While Lincoln’s feeling that the nation might be more devoted to peace hasn’t exactly panned out, I think the rest still resonates. I read it to mean that as long as every American knows how to cultivate land, we will be free from oppression. Oppression from all sorts of kings, but perhaps also free from the oppression presented by hunger, obesity, and lack of community engagement. Knowing how to cultivate land is an essential ingredient of independence (on all sorts of levels). It is an art. It is a science. It is essential to survival. When I read these words more than 150 years after they were spoken, the clarity and strength and truth of them compels me to state again:

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

And if you haven’t snagged a copy, please do go to the McFarland website, order […]

Celebrate! Smith-Lever/Cooperative Extension is 100!

Thursday, May 8th 2014 is the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act, which you can read more about by clicking here. The legislation created the Cooperative Extension (CE) Service; it was signed by Woodrow Wilson on the same day he signed the legislation creating Mother’s Day. You may know Cooperative Extension today and not even be aware of it: 4-H, Master Gardener and Master Food Preserver programs, university researchers working with farmers on agricultural issues, natural resource management…that’s CE.

You can read all about this and more – including what’s up with Cooperative Extension today, 100 years after its creation – in my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War 1.”

1914 was a momentous year. The Panama Canal opened. Ford Motor Company established an 8-hour workday and increased wages. The National Guard fired upon striking miners in Colorado. Racial tensions ran high, as did tensions between rural and urban populations. U.S. naval forces landed and occupied Veracruz, Mexico, bringing the two countries to the brink of war. By August, World War I had started, and U.S. agricultural products were sorely needed to feed and support our allies. Efficient agriculture backed by scientific solutions became a national priority.

To celebrate Smith-Lever’s Centennial, join the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources on May 8th and “Be a Scientist.” Join thousands of others entering observations about pollinators, where food is grown in their communities, and water conservation efforts. Be a part of history!

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

By |May 7th, 2014|Categories: History||0 Comments