Victory Gardens (or War Gardens) were created and encouraged during WWI and WWII to reduce the demand on food supplies. Civilians were encouraged to plants their own vegetable gardens, in what little land they had, so that produce and rations could be sent to the troops overseas.
Across the United States and Europe, young men who had been farming before the wars were recruited into battle and left commercial farms struggling to keep up with demand.
To be able to supply food and provisions to our troops, as well as the people in Europe whose own farms had been destroyed in the wars, all commercial crops were canned and sent overseas, which obviously meant there were less for Americans.
The Victory Garden Movement
The US department of agriculture, state colleges, and local communities all joined together to encourage regular Americans to grow all their own crops instead.
Growing Victory Gardens was encouraged as a patriotic war effort. Men and women who couldn’t fight were encouraged to “fight the war at home” and grow victory gardens, as well as can and preserve their produce.
In WWII, 20 million Americans planted Victory Gardens, and produced 40% of all the vegetable produce being consumed nationally.
Using Victory Gardens in Modern Times
According to one Victory Garden leaflet written by the USDA,
“A family of two a garden 25’x50′ will amply supply them with all essential vegetables. Aside from sweet corn and potatoes. For a family of two adults and two children or three adults a garden 50’x100′ will be plenty.”
The image below, taken from a Victory Garden pamphlet, shows an example of a 20’x30′ vegetable garden and what could be planted.
And as for what plants to plant:
“The following list of vegetables to raise, are the best for the small garden. They require the least effort and have great nutritional value:
beets, beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, lettuce, onions, peppers, swiss chard, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash, peas.”
As for planning your crops to grow enough to preserve for the year:
“In canning you should plan on putting up from eighty-five to one-hundred and fifteen quarts for each member of the family for a season.”
While we’re not in a war anymore that threatens to empty our grocery store produce shelves, I think the message is still important:
Grow and preserve your own food, so that others who cannot can rely on the store. Unpredictable things can threaten a food supply: weather, strikes, disease, money, politics.
Where we are, it’s not uncommon to be snowed in for days or weeks at a time. What if you lose your job or a source of income and suddenly don’t have the money for groceries? Even something as simple as your car being in the shop, or you hurting yourself and not being able to drive.
Self-sufficiency is my safety blanket and makes it so that I never havte to worry about whether I can make it to the store or if I have the money for food.
So while we’re not in a war (at the moment), I consider my own family’s well-being and security Victory enough.
Awhile ago I found several adorable pamphlets from, I believe, the USDA. Please click below for your free download.