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As we gear up to grow our gardens, I thought it’d be a perfect time for a little history lesson. A walk down memory lane from a 1900s issues of Stars and Stripes provides a vast amount of facts.
While our soldiers were fighting in World War II, the people of this country were called to do everything they could to help support them. One of those things were war gardens, better known as victory gardens.
Victory gardens were brought about because the government had to ration foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods in order to feed the troops. Coupon books and colored tokens were taken to the store to allow people to buy those staples. The National War Garden Commission put out an advertising blitz calling on citizens to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Patriotism took the form of gardening and nearly 20 million people took to growing on their land and bare city lots.
Crowds in front of seed displays rivaled those we see today on Black Friday, right after Thanksgiving. Magazines and newspapers focused on stories about gardening and preserving. Some even offered cash prizes for the biggest harvests.
Individuals worked together to pool their resources and grow different kinds of foods. Harvests were canned at home in order to save the commercially canned foods for the soldiers. This meant preservation of the harvest became a national pastime and sales of pressure cookers skyrocketed.
Gardening was ingrained as a family and community patriotic effort through the advertising of the War Commission and as a result, over 20 million victory gardens were planted.
Those gardens produced nine million tons of food. As a result, everyone felt like they were contributing to the support of our soldiers while they were giving their lives to keep us safe.
We now have plenty of grocery stores across the country and company contracts to supply soldiers’ food.
We still have to transport foods across the country and the world. Look at the cans of food on your shelves. Note how many come from other countries around the world. So is our fuel that’s used to transport it.
We are exporting our money at a time when we desperately need to keep more money at home. I think that’s a great reason to bring back the victory garden.
I’m pretty sure you won’t have to get up at 4 a.m. to fight crowds at the seed packet displays. You will have to get outdoors and exercise. With it, comes the enlightening experience of doing something good for our country. Patriotism will again take the form of gardens dotting the landscape, in addition to the flag.
Even if you are not physically able to grow a garden, you can still do your part. You can buy local and American manufactured foods. You can make fewer trips to the store. You can even grow things in containers instead of a plot of land or offer to water for those who do. In this day and age it’s even easier to grow your own and help our country.
So, let’s get ready to plant a little red, white and blue. OK, the blue one is tough, but broccoli and some eggplants can look a little blue and there’s always blue lake beans.
This is the time to begin growing those seeds for your own victory garden.
Let’s make patriotism overwhelmingly popular again.
Now, go find some dirt and warm it up.
Fill those seed trays and find your lights.
Plan out that garden and get those seeds started indoors. Though the temperatures outside may not feel like it, spring is only 38 days away.
Besides, just thinking about doing your patriotic part may just provide a little warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart.
Think of it as wearing another pair of long underwear.
Cheryl Steenerson is a gardening columnist for The Anderson News.