Monday, March 4, 2013

Victory Gardens: Then & Now



Let me start out by saying this is about HISTORY, not politics. And about gardening of course!

Victory Gardens, as they were called beginning with World War I, were a means to supplement government rations during war time. The government encouraged everyone to plant their own food in the name of patriotism to ensure there was enough food to send the boys fighting. Some were planted at people’s homes and others as community gardens created in public parks. No matter where they were planted they had the same effect; food was being grown by the people, for the people.
During the Second World War, Victory Gardens were just as popular. In fact, the USDA reports that 15 million families planted Victory Gardens in 1942 alone, with numbers rising to 20 million gardens in 1943. Victory Gardens were producing 40 percent of the vegetable growth in the United States! There was plenty of propaganda encouraging Victory Gardens including government posters, how-to pamphlets and advertising in home magazines. The Victory Garden Foundation has samples of several 1940s pamphlets used by Victory Gardeners that can still be used for gardening today.

World War II Victory Garden in Anaheim grown by the Boege Family on Lemon St. 1945
Photo courtesy of the Anaheim Library
Here in Southern California, many Disney artists were sent to fight in the war as well. Those left behind joined the war effort by contributing with propaganda comics and cartoons. Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie were Victory Gardeners in a 10 page comic book written by Carl Barks in 1943. Donald Duck was also featured on a garden sign shooing pests from his Victory Garden which was sold at neighborhood shops throughout the country. Mickey Mouse appeared on the Green Thumb Contest entry forms in 1944 for the Victory Garden National Institute.
BBC Land Girls
Not only was gardening a way to supplement a community’s food source but was seen as a way for women to help with the war effort. The Women’s Land Army operated from 1917 to 1921 during World War I and sent educated city girls to farms, helping with agricultural needs. The gals working the farms were known as Farmerettes. Slogans like “Farm Work is War Work”, “Harvest War Crops” and “For a Healthy, Happy Job” encouraged city girls to the country to help the war effort. Between 1943 and 1947 ladies took up pitchforks and shovels once again during WWII. The BBC came out with a TV series in 2009 called Land Girls depicting the Land Army in the United Kingdom during WWII. Smithsonian Magazine described Farmerette’s California experiences during WWII that same year.

The Victory Garden of Tomorrow posters by artist Joe Wirtheim
It is no surprise with the rise in prices of goods that Victory Gardens are cropping up across the country to supplement meals. These days growing your own food has less to do with being a patriot and more with practicality and cost. Growing at home is becoming known as urban farming, vacant lots are being turned over for community gardens and co-ops and serious gardeners take part in food exchanges to trade excess harvest.

Just like in the 1940s, the movement is growing nationwide with some parallels. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Kitchen Garden at the White House is the first extensive vegetable garden to be planted since Eleanor Roosevelt’s WWII Victory Garden. The First Lady even has a book out last year called “American Grown” which tells the story of the garden and need for healthy food across the nation.
For those who may want to visit original war era Victory Gardens, you are in luck. The Fenway Victory Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts and Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota are the two remaining Victory Gardens from the war era in the US that are still growing. The Smithsonian is even getting in on the action by recreating a Victory Garden by following pamphlets from the 1940s. They are using heirloom varieties that date back to the 1940s and their exhibit will change with the seasons.
US Department of Agriculture 1942

US Department of Agriculture Library
Let’s not forget about the canning and preservation of food. During WWII canning was encouraged so that commercially preserved food could be sent to soldiers on the fronts. These days preserving our own food allows for the luxury of eating out of season foods when we want it, and avoiding artificial preservatives. When food is canned at home not only does it lack those pesky chemicals, it has all the goodness you choose to put in it.
Victory gardens have been grown before and are being grown again. For some, growing their own food might be a protest against food recalls and the lack of GMO labeling. For others they might just like getting their hands in the dirt and enjoying the fruits of their labor. No matter the reason, no matter the size, an edible garden can be very fruitful in the end.

We will be posting tips & resources for growing your own Victory Garden, so be sure to check back throughout the month.

Pest Control in the Garden
 


18 comments:

  1. where did you find that cool video??? I love gardening.
    Debbi
    -yankeeburrowcreations

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    1. Found it on the 'net while searching for US Ag Dept information from the 1940s. There's some great propaganda videos out there!

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  2. What a blast from the past but with a timeless message. We have a good sized deck and decided to make a raised bed garden with herbs and vegetables. It is right outside the kitchen, which makes a convenient place to grow this stuff.

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    1. I love it - you can just step right outside to pick and cook! It sounds like a great garden.

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  3. Didn't realize that it was so propagandized! Oh well, love gardening, anyway!

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  4. Thank you for sharing with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop this week; I hope you’ll join us again!


    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino

    The Chicken Chick

    http://www.The-Chicken-Chick.com

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  5. I have gardened since I was a small child along with 6 brothers & sisters and am now 69 years of age. The PBS series on the Victory Gardens is a joke. In no way does it teach gardening. I want to thank you for this and have saved it!

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    1. You are welcome and I hope you come back for the gardening tips we are going to share this month.

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  6. I think I've become fascinated with Victory Garden theme. I enjoy growing my own garden each year for various reasons, including getting my hands in the soil and enjoying the product of my own hard work. I've written about my dual-purpose edible landscaping - an area I see lots of activity in as well. Some of these veggies are beautiful, why not spotlight them? Thanks so much for this great post. (visiting from Homestead Barn Hop)

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas
    www.taylormaderanch.com/blog

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    1. We are very big fans of edible landscapes! Great to hear of others who are too.

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  7. you have an amazing blog! i'm so impressed! thank you so much for hosting my button! xoxo

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  8. This post brought back lots of cherished memories.

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    1. Glad to hear it Rita. Thanks for stopping by.

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  9. What a great post, thank you for pointing me in this direction! I had no idea that victory gardening was becoming so popular again, its wonderful! I just love the 40's video, what an amazing plot of land they had, though the pest control back then looks utterly terrifying!! I look forward to reading more! xx

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    1. Thanks Wendy! Isn't the video just great?

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Thanks for stopping by and chatting!