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Plant For Victory

Posted On June 3, 2020

Historical gardens of the past remind us of a promising future

By KIRK MOORE

For hundreds of years, Americans have always stepped up in times of crisis. Remember Rosie the Riveter and the NYC firemen on 9/11?

At the beginning of WWI, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission, asking Americans to plant fruits and vegetables anywhere and everywhere there was soil to be tended- schoolyards, churches, backyards and vacant lots. These war gardens fed thousands and allowed commercial food production to be sent to the boys at the front. The Department of Agriculture worked with Women’s Clubs across the country to open canning rooms, usually in the local schools or community centers. I remember my mother and my aunts using the “canning plant” near the family farm in South Georgia to put up beans, tomatoes, pickles and preserves. In the south, we still enjoy and cherish handed-down pickle and jelly recipes that were perfected in these much loved and used facilities.

At the close of the war, these “War Gardens” became “Victory Gardens.” Their success was remembered at the time of WWII, and Victory Gardens were even more fruitful. In 1944, eight million tons of fruits and vegetables were produced. That constituted 40% of fruits and vegetables consumed that year. They not only fed millions, but heightened morale, tangibly expressed patriotism, eased the burden on commercial farmers and turned home gardening into a lifestyle choice for millions that continues today.

Food for thought today as we wage war with COVID-19 wouldn’t you say?

As we are staying home more during these challenging times, off with the mask, take deep breaths of mountain air and put your hands in the soil. 

Plant herbs to season suppers, cherry tomatoes for a pop of colorful flavor or perhaps a packet of sunflower seeds would brighten your summer. It doesn’t have to be rows and rows of corn, beans and squash. Take baby steps! Before you know it, you will be wondering how to make jewelry out of zucchinis!

The home gardening craze initiated by Victory Gardens, was perpetuated by J. Rodale In Pennsylvania and his mantra of organic gardening. He created the joyous feeling of sustainability that is such an American inspiration. To garden, respecting the land and the creatures who share it opens the mind to so many facets of life. Take this inspiration inside to be conscious of harmful chemical-based elements lurking at home. When enjoying outdoor activities, think of the dangerous chemicals that seep into our once crystal-clear mountain aquifer. We share a magical common ground. 

Always remember while on your knees, trowel in hand, to occasionally look up. Clouds are still racing across the sky. Listen, birds are singing. Use state and county safety guidelines at the grocery. Love your neighbors. We will look back on this scary blip in time as another victory and smile at the memory. Our forefathers once did.