Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

posters

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 […]

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.”