Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

Victory Gardens

The past could hold keys to a new national food policy

The past could hold keys to a new national food policy. I would encourage policy makers and influencers to search our nation’s past for historical precedents that could help some of these ideas gain traction. They exist.

And there are some things we could do immediately that would facilitate positive transformation in the food system. Many of these recommendations are based in historical practice. These are teachable moments in our nation’s history, but also actionable moments.

1. Capitalize on the phenomenal interest in gardening. Support a gardening ethos at all levels, incorporating policy, practice and demonstrating personal value.

To paraphrase Gandhi, be the change you want to see in the food system. Grow something for yourself. Grow something for your community. Move your backyard garden and make it a front yard garden. Claim an unused space in your community and grow it. Share your gardening skills with youth in your community, at a school or an after-school program, or through a church youth group. Volunteer to grow container vegetables at a senior facility. Scale up to the community level – and the state and then national level – much like the Victory Garden programs of WWI and WWII.

2. Preserve what is grown. Reduce food waste.

We should also focus on food conservation and preservation…and on reducing food waste. The amount of food waste in our nation is staggering; simply reducing that could help address at least part of the nation’s hunger issue. WWI and WWII models of food conservation and preservation programs provide a clear road map on how to accomplish this task. The Cooperative Extension Service is seeing growing interest in its Master Food Preserver Program, which equips volunteers to train others in communities on food preservation […]

AP History: A poem about immigration. And #victorygardens.

AP History: A poem about immigration. And #victorygardens.

Usually I write about gardens, food systems, and the like. If you read my work, or follow me on social media, you also know that I think gardens and food are patriotic. And political: our forks express our political beliefs. I nearly always write about history, because that is the primary discipline (and passion) that serves as the foundation for the rest of my work. You may have read my book, my blog and various things I post on Twitter. Or on Facebook. I also write poetry. Not well, but with great feeling, ever since I was a little child. Notebooks full. A heartfelt “thank you” to great teachers like Leticia Kelly, Judy Ryder Leer Paleologos and Sue Marshall for encouraging this.

Given the furor about the President’s Executive Order this week, I thought I’d share this with you. It’s a poem I wrote a couple of years ago for a dear colleague who became an American citizen. And the immigration and garden history thing: there’s a link. Because the Liberty/Victory Garden programs of World War I were also about creating common purpose among a highly diverse American population…close to one in five being immigrants at the time.

We can learn from that, can’t we?

 

AP History

a really long poem by Rose Hayden-Smith aka @victorygrower

Each July 4th we celebrate our Declaration of Independence
With fireworks and BBQ and parades.
(We seldom note that the Declaration was read in both English and German).

We forget that grand gesture was only the beginning of a process:
A long and bruising war with an imperial force,
Years of negotiation to create a constitution
That was simultaneously a new and holy thing and also a sinfully flawed thing.

My […]

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.”

 

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 […]

The War to End All Wars: Part 1

Today, July 28th, 2014, is a sad centennial; it marks the day that World War I –  “The War to End All Wars” – began.

Many of know me primarily for my work in sustainable food systems, and as a garden-based educator who is passionate about Liberty and Victory Gardens (past and present). In fact, however, I am a U.S. historian whose work focuses on the American home front during World War I. I am a World War I historian. I expect to be very busy during the next five years, educating people about the worldwide conflict that is essential to understanding so many of the things that have happened in the world since.

I’ve always studied wars.  My first passion as a young historian – beginning at about age 9 – was the American Civil War. I was the only elementary-aged student in my school who had a subscription to “Civil War Times” magazine, whose family took her to visit Civil War battlefields in the South, who read Bruce Catton. In junior high and high school, I shifted my area of study to World War II, and later on to Vietnam (shaped strongly by my childhood experiences watching the war on TV and living on a military base during part of that conflict), and later still, to study around the Revolutionary War.  My greatest interest has been the impact of wars on the home front (cultural and social issues, and comparative analysis of home front experiences).

The topic of Victory Gardens during World War I really piqued my interest, because they represented hope and creation during a time of unprecedented destruction.

Some people object to the term “Victory Gardens” for contemporary use because of its historical association […]

The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women

Nearly a decade prior to America’s entry into World War I, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women opened its doors. Its beginning was inauspicious. However, it led to one of the most interesting chapters of World War I: women’s quest for suffrage and opportunities to serve during the war via the creation of a Woman’s Land Army of America.

Women were vital to the success of wartime food programs – including the Liberty/Victory Garden effort – because they controlled and managed home food purchases and most food preparation (i.e., the household economy). During World War I, women’s magazines were replete with articles about gardening and food preservation. Women had also long been involved in reform efforts that influenced later wartime gardening work, including civic beautification, school gardens, working with immigrant populations, and tackling issues related to poverty (for example, Hull House).

Women used their work in gardening and horticulture to press for suffrage and fuller participation in the nation’s cultural and political life during World War I.  One expression of this was the Woman’s Land Army of America (WLAA) – which “enlisted” nearly 20,000 women (many of them urban and suburban college coeds) – to help on the farm front. The “farmerettes” as they were called, provided vital farm labor “over here” as men were mobilized to fighting “over there”.

The Woman’s Land Army would never have come into existence without a previous effort: an obscure horticultural school for women in Philadelphia that served as a catalyst for the creation of the Woman’s Land Army. Humble in its beginning, the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women proved to be of national importance in subsequent years.

The founders of the Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women held this […]

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

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