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The Victory Garden.
Don’t just Consume, Produce. Our parents did it, and so can we.
“If people let government decide which food they eat and medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny”
A backyard garden can quite literally feed a whole family. People don’t have to be dependent on international agribusinesses, nutritionally valueless food, grain from Russia or Ukraine, food imports from China and other countries, or even be dependent on high priced organics to feed ourselves and their families. Each of us has the power to create our food from scratch. So, let’s walk through the history of the war gardens in the UK and US, which later evolved into what we know as the victory garden.
During World War I, food production fell dramatically in Europe because farm workers left for military service, and many farms were destroyed by the war. Furthermore, transport of goods became difficult due to the dangerous conditions required for shipping by boat. A wealthy US philanthropist and conservationist (Charles Lathrop Pack) conceived of the idea that food supply could be greatly increased by citizens planting small vegetable gardens which would supply local communities with food. That this could be done without the use of the land and manpower already engaged in larger scale agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities which were otherwise needed for the war effort.
The US National War Garden Commission was organized in 1917 by Mr. Pack, and within that same year the War Garden Campaign was launched. This campaign promoted the use of surplus private and public lands for small vegetable gardens. This program resulted in over five million gardens, and the value of the produce from these gardens exceeded $1.2 billion by the end of the war. Even children were mobilized in the effort, and school victory gardens were also planted at educational institutions throughout the USA. The United State Garden Army was established by the United States Bureaus of Education and the Department of the Interior, and President Wilson took a special interest in the cause. By the end of WWI, more food was being produced by these home gardens than farmers had produced in years prior to the war!
The idea of the war garden was continued and expanded during World War II, as labor and transportation shortages once again made it hard to harvest crops and to move fruits and vegetables to market. As the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods due to the war, shortages of foods became the norm. Therefore, the United States government encouraged citizens to plant "Victory Gardens," also known as “war gardens” or “food gardens for defense.” Nearly twenty million gardens were planted in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. New York City had the parks and public lawns devoted to victory gardens, as were portions of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. In Hyde Park, London sections of lawn were publicly plowed for plots to publicize the movement. Neighbors and communities, all with the goal of winning the war, formed cooperatives to meet the local needs of fresh produce. Farm families, of course, had been planting gardens and preserving produce for generations. Now, urban gardens became the norm. The government and businesses encouraged people to can and preserve their own produce to save the commercial produce for the troops. People responded in mass. The produce harvested from these gardens was estimated to be 9-10 million tons. When the war effort ended, so did the victory gardens. But the idea has lived on.
With the advent of fertilizer, grain, petroleum and energy shortages worldwide, it seems that the stage is set for the next wave of victory gardens.
A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.
Fast forward to my own farm. When I work in my garden, whether it be in our fruit orchard or merely routine weeding, I feel like I am doing something worthwhile. That I am creating. Growing a garden is a victory over the globalist agenda - a victory over those who wish to control every aspect of consumerism as well as every aspect of our lives. So, let’s once again embrace the name of the Victory Garden, because in the very act of growing a garden, we are choosing to be a part of the production of life. To be producers, instead of consumers. That is a victory.
It is a victory to grow an abundance of food. To share that with others through cooking, giving, bartering and even selling. Community forms from the small, everyday acts of life.
One of the most rewarding ways to both eat healthy and keep the passion high for healthy living is by growing your own food. By that I mean anything from having a parsley plant in a pot by the door of your apartment or on a window sill, to a tomato plant in a bit of soil in the backyard, to having a community garden plot or to having your own vegetable patch. Gardening is a spectrum of choices. It can even be as simple as sprouting alfalfa seeds.
When I cook with produce that I have harvested, I use resources as they become available. Cooking with what I grow is an immensely creative activity. It motivates me to eat healthy and be healthy.
Gardening is a “grand” endeavor that must be planned in advance. Many a winter or early spring, I have spent happy hours looking through seed catalogs or strategizing on where and how my vegetable garden will be cultivated. Spring brings preparing the soil and finally planting. Summer is hard work and yet, the most rewarding time for my garden. Fall is a closing up of the summer garden plot and readying for the winter, climate depending. Vegetable gardening is a seasonal activity. It puts the body and mind on track and in sync with the world around us.
A vegetable garden is also a political statement. To commit to breaking out of the supply chain network, to living without store-bought food, is an act of resistance. If you don’t want your produce coming from China, if you want to know what really went into that green veg on your plate, a garden is a must. It can also be a commitment to creating an intentional community. Whether sharing with friends and neighbors or eating a meal harvested from the earth, these are time honored ways to create bonds.
But vegetable gardening is also more than a healthy, stress relieving activity; it is a commitment to the future. I like to think of my vegetable garden as a small act of giving to the future. Growing food is a simple way to create surplus in times of shortages, a simple way to help relieve the stress of inflation. Beyond that, as Americans, if we truly value freedom, we need to again become committed to self-sufficiency both as a nation and as individuals. In my opinion, it is time to stop looking to other countries to fill the pantries of Americans. Just as in the days of the war garden, we can be productive and free ourselves from dependency on imported food. Our lives don’t have to be filled with non-productive endeavors. Nothing is better for the soul than using our time on this earth for productive good.
I have spent many a fine day touring public gardens and learning about gardening techniques. But the gardens that give me the most inspiration for the future come from the war gardens, first conceived by Charles Lathrop Pack during World War I. Because producing life affirming food in the time of war shortages allowed so many to envision the better future which did eventually arrive, and we are the product of that effort by our parents and grandparents. So stand up straight and be proud of what our forefathers and mothers did for us. We are standing on the shoulders of giants.
Be well friends. Build community. Be kind to each other. We will survive this.
Jill and Robert