Guest Column: The return of the Victory Garden

By JULIE DRAKE
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | We spent New Year’s Day doing a novel task, one we had never done before on New Year’s. We went to the neighbor’s and got a pick up load of “garden gold”: cow manure, goat manure and straw mix. We promptly put it on our “victory garden.” Now we wait for a blanket of snow to mellow it and then till it and plant this spring.

Julie Drake

Victory gardens have a long and interesting history. In 1917 the National War Garden Commission was started to encourage Americans to contribute to the WWI effort by planting, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables so that more food could be exported to our allies. Idle land was evaluated and planted when it was in an area that could support a garden.
An interesting piece published on the History Channel’s website states, “Amateur gardeners were provided with instruction pamphlets on how, when and where to sow, and were offered suggestions as to the best crops to plant, along with tips on preventing disease and insect infestations. The endeavor was so well received that the government turned its attention to distributing canning and drying manuals to help people preserve their surplus crops. In addition to the appeal to men and women, the federal Bureau of Education initiated a U.S. School Garden Army (USSGA) to mobilize children to enlist as ‘soldiers of the soil.’ As a result of these combined efforts, 3 million new garden plots were planted in 1917 and more than 5.2 million were cultivated in 1918, which generated an estimated 1.45 million quarts of canned fruits and vegetables.”
During WWII victory gardens began to reemerge. Commercial crops were sent to the military overseas and transportation focused on moving troops and their supplies instead of food. Food rationing began in 1942 and thus it was even more important to grow fruits and vegetables anywhere a seed would grow. The Victory Garden campaign, as it came to be known, safeguarded against food shortages on the home front, and eased the burden on the commercial farmers whose focus was to feed troops and civilians overseas. By 1944, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced roughly 8 million tons of food—more than 40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States.
Victory garden is a term many haven’t heard, but there is a growing interest in self-sufficiency and eating seasonally to improve health through local, organic farming and sustainable agriculture. The war now is on obesity, and chronic disease. I can’t wait until my kids can be “soldiers of the soil” and eat more healthy options. I hope you will consider growing a garden, even one in a flower box. Colorado State University extension office has some great resources as well as CSU Online offers a certified gardening program that I have signed up for (www.online.colostate.edu/badges/certified-gardener). Victory can mean so many things, let’s win one this year at the dinner table!

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