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New Growth Of ‘Victory Gardens’ Shows Public Interest In ‘Doing Their Part’ As Well As Relationship Between Climate Change, Food Safety & Emergency Preparedness

March 13th, 2009 · No Comments

Lately, I’ve seen a couple news reports about the resurgence of ‘Victory Gardens’. A recent Los Angeles Times article was headlined: “Victory gardens sprout up again: People are borrowing an old wartime concept to lessen the need for mass-produced food, reduce pollution and build a sense of community.”

The rebirth of the Victory Garden movement is particularly interesting to me because it highlights a couple important points: first, it addresses the desire of Americans to find ways to ‘do their part’ during difficult times both home and abroad, and second, it underscores the interrelationship I see between climate change, food safety, community development and emergency preparedness. As the LA Times article explains:

Decades ago, the victory gardens planted at the behest of the federal government helped the United States cope with food shortages during World War II. (In World War I, they were liberty gardens.) By 1943, Americans planted more than 20 million victory gardens — at homes and schools and in parks — that were reported to produce 8 million tons of food that one old film called “America’s hidden weapon.”

Now, in community gardens and backyards, and of course on the Internet, a new victory garden movement has captured the attention of people who want to lessen their reliance on mass-produced or imported food, reduce their carbon footprint, foster a sense of community or save on their grocery bills in a fractured economic climate…In the 1940s, Jean-Marie Putnam and Lloyd C. Cosper’s book, “Gardens for Victory,” emphasized the financial savings: “Those dollars can go into the bank account, or you may patriotically transform your beet, onion and cabbage savings directly into Defense Bonds.”

Today there is a confluence of concerns — a victory garden movement with a 21st century agenda, eager to involve people from the White House to your backyard. ”It’s the new call to service,” said Mary Tokita, who has a plot at a community garden in Eagle Rock and is active on the Los Angeles Community Garden Council. More community gardens are opening, and rooftops are being planted downtown, she said. “It’s very, very heartening.”


This trend was also noticed by The Economist in an article, ”Digging Their Way Out Of Recession”:

In 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt encouraged a return to the “Victory Gardens” that had become popular during the first world war, when the country faced food shortages. Mrs Roosevelt planted a garden at the White House; some 20m Americans followed her lead, and by the end of the war grew 40% of the nation’s vegetables.

Now a grassroots movement wants Barack Obama to plant another White House victory garden. The new secretary of agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced recently that his department would create “The People’s Garden” out of a paved area outside their building. And he won’t stop there. Mr Vilsack wants there to be a community garden at each of the department’s offices around the world.

Margaret Lloyd, a researcher on Victory Gardens at the University of California at Davis, finds many reasons for this new national trend. The recession is one; but people are also worried about food safety, want to eat more healthily, and are bothered about climate change. This may be a way to make a difference.

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