Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 81/365 Victory Gardens, Or, Some Things Never Change

Some people are delighted with The First Lady's plans to put an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn, and some are manuring the idea. I myself am proud of her for channeling her inner Eleanor Roosevelt, and taking charge of a great idea, although I think the garden should be much, much bigger.

Lots of people aren't old enough (myself included, but I'm a history freak) to remember the Victory Gardens of World War II, and how Eleanor Roosevelt championed the cause. Eleanor was so beloved as First Lady that everyone accepted it as their patriotic duty to grow as much food as they could, the idea being that not only would it be easier to feed one's own family, but together we could feed the troops as well. The usually quoted statistics say that up to 40% of the nation's food supply was produced by private Victory Gardens. Not a Del Monte corporation in sight. The folks in the top photo converted their entire shared backyard space into food production. What do you want to bet they had a son overseas?

Then Vice-President Henry Wallace was even photo'd working in his own Victory Garden.

And even the Boston Commons was plowed up to plant a Victory Garden.

Various government publications were printed to help people figure out how to garden, especially in the cities. Every spare inch of open yard or vacant lot was fair game. It was and is a simple idea: You Can Use the land you have to grow the food you need.

In other words: We are Americans. We know how to be self-sufficient. We solve problems. We can produce what we need.

Even employers got into the spirit by opening up vacant fields or land surrounding office buildings and providing them to employees.

Imagine if 40% of our nation's food supply could be produced by *ourselves*. We'd know where it came from, what it was sprayed with, what was in the water we used, whether or not it was contaminated, and we'd save a ton of money doing it.

You go Michelle! Make the garden bigger, hire some local teens who can't find jobs to help with the heavy work, use the produce not only for the White House but for the local food banks, set up a cannery and put away the extra to feed those hungry folks this winter. Maybe some of the State governors will copy your example at their mansions. Then maybe the rest of us will too.

The only way things change is by someone taking the initiative and actually changing it.


  1. I am REALLY too young to remember victory gardens but I adore the concept and keep telling people any victory will do, not just a war. In season I have tomato plants outside my front door, and I love to see my husband and any visitors walk in with a handfull of cherry tomatoes. I am going to share your post with everyone I can!

  2. Another fantastic post Carole!! What a change in perspective from then to now, and hopefully, with the Obamas now on board, a swing back!