Children prepare and plant a victory garden. Some, like this one in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1942, were in unused corners of school grounds. (AP)

Children prepare and plant a victory garden. Some, like this one in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1942, were in unused corners of school grounds. (AP)

American neighbors work together in a community victory garden on March 24, 1943. (AP)

American neighbors work together in a community victory garden on March 24, 1943. (AP)

Shoppers today are more likely to buy produce than grow it, but the pandemic made stores’ supplies unreliable sometimes. (AP)

Shoppers today are more likely to buy produce than grow it, but the pandemic made stores’ supplies unreliable sometimes. (AP)

According to an employee at Whitney’s Farm Market in Massachusetts, about 30% of its customers are buying vegetable plants for the first time. (AP)

According to an employee at Whitney’s Farm Market in Massachusetts, about 30% of its customers are buying vegetable plants for the first time. (AP)

Poster from World War II, like this one from the War Food Administration, encouraged people to grow their own food. (AP)

Poster from World War II, like this one from the War Food Administration, encouraged people to grow their own food. (AP)

Gardeners to the Rescue

Posted: July 1, 2020

During World Wars I and II, Americans sent food away to feed European allies and American troops. This created a need for food at home. So instead of just consuming (using stuff), Americans started producing (making stuff). They got busy planting gardens.

Government workers passed out pamphlets. These showed how to plant, repel bad bugs, and fight plant disease. Gardeners saw their efforts as part of the fight for victory in the war. They tended “victory gardens” on private and public lands. They planted wherever they could—in backyards, on rooftops, in flower boxes, and in empty lots.

Everyone was in on the project, including kids. (Grownups encouraged them to be “soldiers of the soil.”) Many new immigrants in America planted too, so gardening posters were printed in dozens of languages. Gardeners made notes about what went wrong and right in their plots so they could make them more fruitful each season. By 1944, victory gardens supplied nearly half the nation’s produce!

During World War I, people were also dealing with an influenza pandemic. Isn’t it comforting to know people in the past have come through hard times victoriously?

Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you. — Deuteronomy 32:7

Two Kinds of Victory

Once, parents and grandparents passed gardening skills on to kids. Families grew lots of veggie types at home. People canned the extra for winter. But time passed. Many moved away from the countryside, and people changed the ways they grew food.

Now most people buy veggies from grocery stores. Stores get goods from huge farms. Each one grows only a few types of food in enormous amounts. Food in your house may have been trucked to you from hundreds of miles away.

Right now, people want to feel close to their land and food again. But our “victory gardens” today aren’t quite the same as the old ones. Ours give us exercise, fresh air, joy, and something constructive to do. Sometimes they also give us a little extra to share. But back then, they did all that . . . and helped fight real hunger and war.