Did you know that at one point during WWII, home gardens produced approximately 40% of the fruits and vegetables consumed at the time? As a measure to prevent food shortages at home and abroad as well as give citizens a way to contribute to winning the war, the federal government engaged in a campaign to get as many people gardening as possible. In fact, 20 million households out of a population of 135 million people did so (Bittman. “Lawns into Gardens.” NYT 29 January 2013.). Actually, this “Victory Garden” effort was used during both world wars; and the government produced books and pamphlets to guide eventual gardeners through the process of transforming their lawns into bountiful plots of sustenance.
In the same opinion’s piece, Bittman quotes Roger Dorion of Kitchen Gardeners International, to shed some hope on what could be accomplished these days. “Dorion estimates that converting 10 percent of our nation’s lawns to vegetable gardens ’could meet about a third of our fresh vegetable needs at current consumption rates.’”
I’d voice some urgency to using these stats to encourage action. Each night I watch the nightly news and see several blocks lined with cars of recently-unemployed people waiting for a box full of food to help them stay fed for the coming weeks. While growing your own food takes some time, I wonder how this situation might not be quite as dire if these people had already been involved in some sort of gardening and food preservation to begin with.
Now, I know that many people — especially those with lower incomes — don’t have the privilege of having a yard to convert to garden space. That’s why I would also advocate for more community gardens as well as use of public lands (like local parks and — gasp! — golf courses) to provide renters with a place to garden as well.
True, there is some debate over whether or not our current food supply chain is strained or could be in the near future. Although, what about when many grocery store workers get sick with the virus? Or those working in factories to process and package the foods? What about truck drivers? Worse yet, what about the same for farmers and farm workers?
In writing this post, it’s obvious that I am an advocate for a revival of Victory Gardens. What do you think? (Feel free to provide your answers below in the comments section.)
Garden on, friends!