There’s a new book on the topic of Victory Gardens written by my good friend, scholar Rose Hayden-Smith (aka @victorygrower). Her first book, Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Garden Programs of World War I, was released this summer. [If you're interested in purchasing it, you may find Sowing the Seeds via my Amazon Affiliate link here.*] I’ve read it via a review copy and found it to be just as comprehensive and engaging as I thought it would be, given Rose’s encyclopedic knowledge on the topic. If you’re curious about cultural history or gardening (or both), you’ll want to buy it. Now, I’ll turn this post over to Rose.
Like a lot of you, I collect gardening catalogs. To me, they represent life and productivity and the promise of family, good food and good health.
Yet I also study and write about Victory Gardens. Because Victory Gardens, like gardening catalogs, also provide a link to a simpler, agrarian past that I find comforting and restorative in these unsettling times. In a world where food prices are skyrocketing, violence seems unchecked, compassion towards the less fortunate seems to have evaporated and economic misery abounds, I find gardens of all sorts a refuge of optimism. We need fewer bad things in this world and more good gardens.
In hard times, Americans have always turned to gardening. The Victory Gardens of World War I and World War II – and the garden efforts of the Great Depression – helped Americans weather hard times. These school, home and community gardens helped the family budget; improved dietary practices; reduced the food mile and saved fuel. They also enabled America to export more food to our allies; beautified communities; empowered every citizen to contribute to a national effort; and bridged social, ethnic, class and cultural differences during times when cooperation was vital. Gardens were an expression of solidarity, patriotism, and shared sacrifice. They were everywhere…schools, homes, workplaces, and throughout public spaces all over the nation. No effort was too small. Americans did their bit. And it mattered.
We were a nation of Victory Growers, and it had far-ranging implications in many aspects of American social, cultural and political life. And all of these things could be true again today. In many places, Victory Growers are at work, making these things come true. Continue reading