Grow Your Own - Modern Victory Gardens By Dr. Joseph S. Maresca
DURING THE WAR PERIOD, gardening further demonstrated its value to our people in many ways. The splendid response to the appeal for more home-produced food was an important factor in making it possible during the war for the people of this country to be better fed than before the war while supplying the best-fed fighting forces in the world and providing essential food supplies to our allies. The threat of starvation in many parts of the world and the urgent need for food from this country emphasize the importance of continued effort to add to our total food supply this year.
A continuing program of gardening will be of great benefit to our people. In addition to the contribution gardens make to better nutrition, their value in providing outdoor physical exercise, recreation and relaxation from the strain of modern life is widely recognized. The Department of Agriculture through a long-time garden program can do much to encourage more attractive home surroundings and improved community development, and can provide a large body of citizens with much needed assistance in home gardening.
Statement by President Truman on 2- 21- 1946 Urging the Continuation of the Victory Garden Program 1)
President Harry S. Truman saw the need for a rigorous home garden effort after the ravages of World War II. The effort was successful in bringing this country from a food deficit to a surplus while supplying food overseas simultaneously.
Today, the move to promote home grown fruits and vegetables is greater due to the growing population in the USA and the high levels of unemployment and underemployment of an increasing portion of the population. Every rooftop, backyard, park area and tree-lined highway is a candidate for garden patches . From citizens ravaged by Hurricane Katrina to communities in the Louisiana vicinity, there is a need to empower people to grow their own food to combat commodity scarcities either present now or soon to be experienced.
Overseas, there is a chronic need for home gardening throughout many of the 57 nations of the Arab League, the West Bank and Gaza Strip . Such a program will help deflect unrest in many countries. On a recent morning Mr. Abbas, 58, sat in an office that was surrounded by sicus palms, ficus trees, gardenias, fruit trees and other plants. As security has improved, he said, people have been buying plants again, coming to the nursery in the Jadriya neighborhood not only from other parts of Baghdad but also from around the country. Business has multiplied eightfold since 2005, including brisk sales in small sicus palms, which cost about $350.
“A lot of people are getting money from the government,” he said, “so it’s not just embassies 'buying. Now regular people buy as well.” 2)
The agricultural technology is readily available. Soon, water will be more available through desalination plants run by solar energy and other alternative energy technologies like the "Artificial Sun". Advanced composting technologies also exist. In addition, programs; such as, the Peace Corps and Americorps are in place already to deliver vital humanitarian services.
"Every town, city and suburban family with a plot of sunny, open space of suitable soil, or access to a community or allotment garden, can make an important contribution to our national food program and our war effort by growing a victory garden."
The declaration was made by Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard in 1943. Resultingly , the Victory Garden concept emerged as one of the more popular aspects of World War II era life and culture.
In the same statement, Wickard went on to say:
"This year we need more food than ever before in history. We need it for our men at the battlefronts, and those in training. We need it to keep the folks at home healthy and strong.
"Farmers broke all records in food production last year for the third time in succession. They are ready to do their level best to produce even more this year. All they can possibly produce of most foods will be needed. In many cases, more than can be produced on our farms will be needed. We simply can't get too much of some kinds of food. Every farm family, of course, will be expected to have a garden for home use and, if possible, to provide extra supplies of vegetables for nearby markets.
"The entire national food situation will be tremendously helped, and our total food needs more easily supplied, if those who have suitable ground will grow all the vegetables required for the family. Special attention should be given to green and leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables and tomatoes, because these kinds bring valuable vitamins and minerals right to the family table."
Shortly after the Secretary made his pronouncement, Time Magazine noted:
"This year Victory gardens have the Agriculture Department's blessing: Secretary Claude Wickard wants 12,000,000 in cities, 6,000,000 more on farms. The Department has arranged for production of a special Victory Garden Fertilizer and is ready with all kinds of free advice and pamphlets. Seed companies have keyed their advertising to Agriculture's campaign. From almost any catalogue, neophyte gardeners can choose a victory garden combination ($1 and up) with full instructions how, when and where to plant it. With a little luck and work, they will have fresh vegetables on their tables all summer. With a normal dose of inexperience, they will also waste a lot of seed and fertilizer.
"If Claude Wickard gets his 18,000,000 Victory gardens, food rationing will have much less sting this summer. The Agriculture Department estimates that every city garden will produce at least $10 worth of vegetables, every farm garden at least $50. At these figures, Victory gardens should yield a $420,000,000 crop."
Americans rose to the challenge . 20 million Victory Gardens were planted and cultivated in 1943. They grew out of backyards, farm plots, neighborhood lots and building rooftops. Those gardens produced close to 40% of the country's food supply in 1943 . The initiative was so successful that public figures worried that a restored food supply would cause complacency .
"Canned goods have recently been so plentiful that a few people, watching the points go down, have, like the grasshopper in the fable, questioned whether they should work a garden this summer or not.
"The answer to these slightly disillusioned persons is that they mustn't be fooled by any temporary signs of a food surplus, for this is more apparent than real. Food officials in Washington and authorities everywhere are really concerned about the needs for food that lie just ahead. after the invasion starts.
"The prudent householder will, therefore, garden this year as ardently as in 1943 and on as extensive a scale as his facilities, time and energy permit." 3)
Claude Raymond Wickard served as the Agriculture Secretary to President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1940 to 1945. Wickard was born on February 28, 1893, in Indiana and graduated from Purdue University with a BS Degree in Agriculture (1915). He began his career on the family farm, where his success led him to be named a "Master Farmer of Indiana" by Prairie Farmer Magazine (1927).
Wickard was elected to the Indiana State Senate in 1932 and served a single term before being named as assistant chief of the corn and hog section in the new Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA). He remained in that post until 1936.
He also served as director of the North Central Division of the new A.A.A. and as Undersecretary of Agriculture in 1940 until replacing Secretary Wallace . In December 1942, Wickard was named U.S. Food Administrator but served four months. President Truman asked for his resignation in 1945, leaving Wickard to become Administrator of the Rural Electrification Administration (1945-1953). He died on April 29, 1967, in Delphi, Indiana. 4)
"Edible Estates" is a current project for getting homeowners to grow food where there once were lawns . Clarence Ridgley is one of five homeowners in the U.S. to participate in the project known as "Edible Estates," in which homeowners create artistic arrangements of organic produce.
The waiting list for the USDA's Master Gardener Program is getting longer every year, says Bill Hoffman, National Program Leader for Agriculture Homeland Security. There are about 90,000 volunteers in all 50 states. These volunteers educate and assist the public with horticulture projects.
Even urban dwellers are returning to the land; in Austin, Texas. There, the wait for community gardens is three years. Unlike the concept of government-sponsored, "top-down" Victory Gardens, Edible Estates is a grassroots effort. Ridgley, for one, says his garden is as much about community and beauty as it is about food. "This is an art exhibit that just happens to be in my front yard," he says.
Haeg, meanwhile, hopes his project will prompt more Americans to rethink gardening in favor of organic produce cultivation. He hopes to plant two more Edible Estates next year. "This is a wonderful opportunity to reconsider how we're living, which I don't think is so great anyway." And with 80% of Americans living in homes with access to a yard, the potential for growth is enormous. As Haeg says, "the front lawns are there waiting." 5)
There are over 3000 composting patents on the United States Patent Registry. Popular citations include:
US-PTO 3778233 for liquid composting US-PTO 3847803 a process for separating and converting waste into useable products US-PTO 4798802 accelerated composting of organic matter and a composting reactor US-PTO 4198211 a microbiological process to produce fuel gas 6)
Food First by Lappe' outlines what must be done to feed the hungry. He states the following:
First, we cannot solve the problem of world hunger. They must do that for themselves. We can, however, work to remove the obstacles that make it increasingly difficult for people everywhere to take control of food production and feed themselves.
Second, We should focus on removing those obstacles that are being reinforced today by forces originating in our country, often in our name...
Third, We must support people everywhere already resisting forced food dependency and now building new self-reliant societies...
Fourth, local self reliance will make it more difficult for elites, both in the industrial countries and the underdeveloped countries. to manipulate prices, wages and people for their own profit. 7)