The Rebirth of Victory Gardens: Why Food=Patriotism, Now More Than Ever

Sow seeds of victory
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Independence Day got us reminiscing about one of the greatest stories ever of American can-do spirit.

About 70 years ago, during World War II, nearly 20 million Americans planted food gardens (a.k.a. “Victory Gardens”) in their yards, in vacant lots, and on city rooftops. Neighbors pulled together, forming cooperatives in which each household planted different varieties of produce, and they all shared the harvest. Even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt planted a veggie garden on the White House front lawn. This simple act of growing food was, back then, the very definition of patriotism.

During the war, it was hard for farmers to get their fresh produce to market because the nation was short on gasoline and labor. The government had to ration food for citizens to ensure that there’d be enough to feed the troops.

By 1945, when the war ended, citizen gardeners were producing 40 percent — 40 percent! — of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States. This DIY farming phenomenon had more than just a practical impact on food supplies it provided a huge morale boost, offering citizens a way to empower the troops while nourishing themselves.

When Michelle Obama planted her White House veggie garden in the very same soil where Eleanor Roosevelt had grown hers, it signaled the birth of a new kind of victory garden. Even if homegrown food today isn’t fighting military wars, it’s helping fight formidable battles against obesity and climate change. It’s also connecting our kids to nature and helping them perform better in school.

As we move forward into the modern era of DIY farming, here’s some inspiration from the past:

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