From Julie Fetherston
4-H/Youth Development and Human Resources Advisor
UCCE Mendocino County
On Saturday, January 17th, twelve Mendocino County Master Gardeners put together a class called “Creating Your Own Victory Garden.” The class was held in Ukiah and was open to the general public. The response was tremendous with 60 people attending the class. Everyone had a wonderful time. The class was the first in a three part series that will take participants through planning, planting, harvesting and using the bounty from a Victory Garden.
What is a Victory Garden and why do I want to plant one?
Victory Gardens first appeared during World War I. As the conflict on the war front made it difficult for European farmers (those that weren’t off at war) to bring their crop to maturity and market, a food shortage ensued. Canada and United States’ efforts were needed to supplies our European allies with food. The U.S. government, concerned at how the food shortages might affect the home front, began a campaign to encourage citizens at home to grow their own food as part of the war effort. The gardens were called Liberty Gardens and growing food quickly became an act of patriotism. An emblematic poster from that era is a picture of Lady Liberty sewing garden seeds. The program was a success and supplied many communities with adequate food through the difficult times during and directly after World War I.
Victory Gardens regained their popularity during World War II as a patriotic answer to food shortages and rationing. Across the country Americans were encouraged to “grow their own.” It is often cited that 40% of all produce consumed in United States during World War II was grown in Victory Gardens. This was also the beginning of school gardens with the Bureau of Education’s formation of the United States School Garden Army. Our colleague 4-H and Master Gardener Advisor, Rose Hayden Smith has compiled wonderful information on this interesting era. To learn more explore her Victory Grower website.
What is happening with Victory Gardens today?
With United States involved in two wars and Americans feeling economically insecure, a movement has started across the country to revive Victory Gardens, encouraging citizens across the country to grow a portion of their food. This includes the Eat the View campaign led by Roger Doiron, who is trying to build support for replacing a portion of the White House lawn with a vegetable garden. While the thrill of raising a crop of cauliflower in your kitchen garden cannot be denied, the attention surrounding the Victory Garden revival is most likely tied to several very American traits: self-sufficiency, independence, and tenacity. Certainly, this is a difficult time economically and culturally. The global economy is in the worst economic crisis for decades. Rising food and transportation costs, coupled with job loss and the housing crunch, are creating hardship across the country and Americans are looking for a way to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of their communities. Taking matters into their own hands, many people are addressing some of these issues by growing a local solution, literally.
Growing your own vegetables has many benefits. For starters, it can increase the quality and quantity of vegetables in your diet for less than you would pay at the market. In Mendocino County we are blessed with a mild climate that allows for year round vegetable gardening. If you plan right, you can avoid having zillions of zucchini, and enjoy a wide variety of vegetables from artichokes and chard, to spinach and watermelons.
Growing your own vegetables can also reduce your carbon footprint. If the average food item travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate, then reducing your vegetable mile by approximately 1499 miles, 5,100 feet will definitely impact your carbon footprint. If you tear out lawn and replace it with your vegetable garden, you can most likely boost your impact by reducing water consumption, fertilizers etc…
Finally, gardening is healthy! Anyone who has double dug an asparagus bed or pulled weeds from a radish patch knows that gardening is good exercise and generally gives you a better outlook on life. Whether you are new to gardening and need some help getting started, or you are an experienced gardener looking for new ideas and camaraderie, please check our Mendocino County calendar of events at UC Davis Cooperative Extension for our next scheduled class in the “Victory Garden Program.”