Rose Hayden-Smith • thevictorygrower.com

WWI gardens

Wartime Gardens and the Military

During World War I (WWI), Liberty Gardens weren’t just grown and supported by civilians and communities in the United States. The military did their part too.

As I explain in this UC Food Observer article:
“…gardens were sometimes a feature of military bases (for example, American recruits cultivated potatoes at the sprawling Camp Dix, in New Jersey). Even the rear trenches in some places sported food-producing gardens. Gardens were also used at military hospitals, not only for food, but to provide therapy for wounded soldiers.”
Even the Stars and Stripes – the United States’ storied military newspaper – reported on these WWI gardens.

You can see the actual newspaper piece, which reported there were 5,285,000 war gardens with crops worth over a half billion dollars. By keeping the soldiers aware of news like this from home, the newspaper helped support a common purpose and national unity among our military.

Read the article.

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.”