Having recently spent time getting my own small vegetable garden prepared for planting I was reminded of the work that went on across the nation as Americans got back to the land and grew Victory Gardens during World War II.
Victory Gardens were a pivotal way to make a personal sacrifice of time and effort on the WWII home front. Not that growing your own food was much of a novelty at that time. Many people still filled their produce needs by growing their own as agrarian America had done for centuries.
According to the Victory Garden Manual published in 1943 and written by James H. Burdett, “War, food rationing, and the Victory Garden campaign have given millions of Americans a new appreciation of vegetables.
“… when our appetites were stimulated and our cooks trained, we were summoned as a patriotic duty to grow our own Victory Gardens so as to release commercial crops and canned goods for war demands [to feed the troops].”
The book goes on to say that, “War gave dramatic emphasis to vegetable gardening, but it is an art which is as important in peace as in war. The need for abundant supplies of garden-fresh vegetables in every home is far from ended by a peace treaty.”
“Those who enjoy the making of Victory Gardens should resolve never to abandon a practice which gives so much of exercise, recreation, and good health to all who follow it.”
About 20 million Victory Gardens were planted in the United States during the war. Folks in the country and those in the city turned their yards into large vegetable patches capable of feeding a whole family for most of the year if stored properly. Victory Gardeners effectively produced 9 million tons of vegetables.
For many young adults during the war the habit of growing a large, “Victory-style” garden never left them. My grandparents, for the rest of their lives, continued to grow a massive vegetable and berry garden that took up nearly half of their large yard. I have great memories of visiting the red raspberry vines and eating my fill. My first experience of harvesting potatoes was with my grandma in the garden as I helped her fish them up from the depths of the soil, like buried treasure.
Historical trends swirl around and pop up in the present every now and then and growing one’s own produce is about as good a trend as I’ve seen in a long time. Many people are growing their own because it cuts down costs and enables a more bountiful table during a crummy economy, others are influenced by the philosophies of environmental causes, and some believe that homegrown is healthier because it is generally treated with fewer chemicals.
Me, I just like reliving history and knowing that if I had to grow my own produce, I could. That said; I still have a long way to go to achieve a true Victory Garden!