Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

Media

Uncle Sam Says “Garden”

Uncle Sam says “Garden”.
We need to listen to Uncle Sam.
An entire chapter of my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory” is dedicated to WWI poster art and propaganda. Chapter Four 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 a broader audience 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 […]

Victory Garden Talk: UCSB Area

A Victory Garden Talk. Interested in WWI? How the wartime garden movement of yesterday has helped shape and impact today’s food systems movement? Please plan on attending a free lecture sponsored by the Goleta Valley Historical Society at the amazing and historic Stow House in Goleta, near UCSB. Wednesday, October 15th, 5 p.m. Free, but reservations suggested. I’ll be discussing my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.”

Signed books available for sale.

One of the things you’ll probably like the most about this talk is that I share oodles of images: mostly World War I posters. You can learn more about poster art and the use of propaganda in Chapter Four of my book.

Or just come to my talk.

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

Red, White and Grew: Guest Blog

I’m delighted to be included as a guest blogger on the Red, White & Grew site, which is hosted by the amazing Pamela Price.

Pam is a journalist, author, and homeschool mom (and oh, so much more!). She is a self-termed “Victory Garden fangirl, vintage junkie, homeschooler, educator, caregiver, cook, Native Texan and current San Antonio resident, micro-memoirist, history geek, parent to a peanut-allergic child, gifted program reject, PBS supporter, Sherlock fan and Graves’ disease patient.” You’ll want to head over to her site right now and sign up to receive regular notifications.

Pam and I happened upon one another in 2008. Both of us were focused on gardening as a means to increase food security, and we used emerging social technologies to join the online movement advocating for a White House Garden. Meeting Pam has been one of the most professionally fortuitous and personally satisfying events in my adult life. We keep reconnecting in new and exciting ways, and she engages a large and deep network of amazing individuals. Pam’s work keeps evolving and unfolding into new areas of inquiry and expertise.  She is, quite simply, a polymath.

Thank you, Pam, for including my work on your site.

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

 

PopUpMag: Starline Event

@victorygrower: Past/present/local/global, all connected through a narrative of food and gifted artists/ans. A menu for the body, mind, soul. Thx @PopUpMag

(Longer than most of my blogs. It was a significant experience. Clear your plate and read the entire thing).

Recently, I walked up a flight of old, uneven wooden stairs to the Starline Social Club in Oakland. Built in 1893, the Starline has served as an Oddfellows Hall, a gathering place for the Deaf community, and a janitorial supply business. This gem of a building is finding new life for what some term “the creative economy” in Oakland, and the Pop-Up Magazine event I participated in there was indeed creative, generative, and an exercise in experiencing community around a particular topic.

I have never attended a Pop-Up Magazine event before. The concept is – well – brilliant. It is a live magazine. Contributors are varied, and include artists, filmmakers, writers, musicians and other kinds of creative folks. The “issue” of the “magazine” never appears in print, nor is it recorded. The model is resonating with audiences; the events are selling out in sometimes as few as five minutes. I get it: I could engage with those who created the “content”. It is storytelling at its best: as a way to spark conversation. It was dynamic, it was creative, it generated authentic discussion and I was hooked from the start.

The Starline event was Pop-Up Magazine’s first foray into a dinner setting – the focus of this “issue” of the “magazine” was food. My first thought was “salon” (in the French sense). Being both an historian and a food advocate, I could smell wisps of memories in the historic venue…as well as an incredibly creative, mouth-watering and perfectly […]

The Fruits of Victory: Some Stats

This week, I found the Fruits of Victory in the form of tomatoes in a plot at the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church congregational garden in Ventura, California.

I receive a lot of pushback against my gardening message. In the face of overwhelming world challenges, gardening as a response seems mundane. Some people argue they can’t garden because of their geography. (I refer them to literature that teaches how you can extend the growing season, no matter where you live). There are lots of reasons to say “no” to school, home and community gardening efforts, but so many other reasons to say “yes”.

A new national Victory Garden campaign could be successful. I base this argument on the success of previous models in World War I and World War II.

At the outset of World War II, it was estimated that approximately 14.5 million Americans gardened.There is no consensus on the percentage of Americans who engaged in Victory Garden activity during World War II (as in World War I, government efforts to conflate participation figures make it difficult to assess real gardening activity).

However, there is a remarkably consistent degree of agreement among historians that World War II saw a significant increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables on the American home front, in part because vegetables were not among rationed foods. The internment of American citizens of Japanese descent—many of them vegetable farmers—had a real (and certainly) unintended effect on home front vegetable production early in the war.

Victory Gardens helped make up some of that production gap. Before the end of 1943, it is estimated that there were as many as twenty million gardens in America, possibly producing 40 percent of the nation’s annual consumption of vegetables.This […]

Stars and Stripes: WWI Gardens

The Stars and Stripes, America’s storied armed forces newspaper, made its debut in World War I. It began publication in February 1918, by order of General Pershing, leader of the American Expeditionary Force. It was published by the U.S. Army for its troops in France, printed in France, on borrowed presses, and distributed by trains, automobiles and motorcycles to American troops, also called “doughboys”. The WWI edition of The Stars and Stripes was published through June 13, 1919. As part of the research for my book, I scanned most of the seventy-one-week run of the WWI edition. It wasn’t easy: blurry Xerox copies and microfiche.

Now, though, as we enter the rolling centenary commemorations of this momentous war, this amazing resource is available online, through the Library of Congress. I encourage you to visit the site and learn more about the American experience during “The Great War.”

During WWI, American forces were distributed throughout the Western Front. American units were often combined with the forces of our European allies (including units of soldiers from Britain, France, and Italy). One goal of The Stars and Stripes was to provide a new, quickly mobilized and scattered army with a sense of common purpose and unity. Another goal was to provide information about what was occurring on the home front. A weekly publication, the newspaper’s eight-pages were packed with news from the home front. Nationally known journalists pitched in to help write pieces.  Per the Library of Congress, “At the peak of its production, The Stars and Stripes had a circulation of 526,000 readers.”

526,000 readers. And during the same year, America reportedly had 5,285,000 Liberty/Victory gardens.

The battlefront is the flip side of the home front, and I was not surprised to find […]

The War to End All Wars: Part 2

In a previous blog posting, I talked a little about “The War to End All Wars” – specifically, the centennial day of the beginning of World War I – “The Great War” – which I mark as a somber occasion.

Today, I’m sharing a little more about why the American government placed such a priority on creating a national Liberty/Victory Garden program during World War I. The fears about food security/access were real.

The pace of global change during World War I was stunning. Within a single six-week period, the centuries-old Romanov Empire in Russia collapsed and America entered the war and began mobilizing millions of men to fight on foreign soil. This mass mobilization of Americans for foreign combat was unprecedented. A bias rooted in America’s colonial experience with an occupying British Army had kept America from maintaining a strong, centralized military, and the nation scrambled to respond to its new wartime footing.

In World War I, the industrial and economic might of nations turned toward the prosecution of total war. Technological “advancements” com- pounded the horror and misery. World War I brought the widespread use of machine guns (capable of firing up to six-hundred rounds per minute, with deadly results), the introduction of chemical warfare (chlorine and mustard gas), aerial warfare, flamethrowers, and the tank (which, in fact, proved of limited use in World War I). Unterseebooten (U-boats) prowled the seas. Barbed wire, more commonly used in agricultural settings, was used with deadly effect on the battlefield. The war created an international arms race, with the goal to inflict as many casualties as possible.

An important part of the new wartime footing for America was to address concerns about the nation’s food system. With the ability […]

Photo: NYC WWI Liberty Garden

This hand-colored photograph shows a WWI Liberty Garden in New York City’s Bryant Park (42nd Street and Fifth Avenue).  The Liberty Garden effort – these gardens soon came to be called “Victory Gardens” –  was led by the National War Garden Commission (NWGC) in partnership with the federal government and other organizations.

Demonstration gardens such as the one in Bryant Park were vital to spreading the gardening gospel. These gardens served as a point of inspiration, a place for teaching and community-building, and ultimately, as a tool to help mobilize the nation to home front food production. You can learn more about Liberty Gardens and the work of the NWGC in my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory.”

The garden depicted is in this image shows an oasis surrounded by high-rise buildings. Who says urban agriculture is new? It also features an advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes.  The Victory Grower recommends taking up the gardening habit, but doesn’t encourage smoking cigarettes!

Photographer: Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952); image available from the Library of Congress.

“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.”