Skip to comments.How revisiting Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Gardens program could help feed a suffering nation.
Posted on 12/11/2008 12:51:17 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
The Bush administrations prescription for economic health has been to encourage consumers to shop our way to prosperity. But as weve been learning the hard way, doing so with borrowed money isnt sustainable.
The current recession is already being compared to the Great Depression. And while the effort to win World War II is often credited with helping to end that funk, the two wars were currently fighting have only helped sink the economy even more. While we probably dont need another world war, some lessons learned during the last one may still be relevant.
The nation awaits President-elect Obamas green version of FDRs New Deal which was another catalyst for ending the Great Depression. Obamas new New Deal holds promise, but I hope that he also considers dusting off another program from that era: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelts Victory Gardens.
The Victory Gardens program supplied Americans with the encouragement, tools, instruction and sometimes even the land necessary to create personal vegetable gardens. Twenty million such gardens were planted during World War II, and they produced 40 percent of Americas vegetables.
I was 9 or 10 years old, my dad recalls. I bought seeds, followed the instructions on the seed packet, and grew corn in the backyard. It didnt do very well.
Still, he says, it was the patriotic thing to do. Food was being rationed. Whatever civilians could grow themselves meant there would be more for the armed services.
While the Victory Gardens program has been given partial credit for the successful outcome of World War II, what could have been an ongoing and productive legacy of the war effort was derailed by the weapons industry, which suddenly found itself in need of a purpose.
Ammonium nitrate is the main ingredient in both bombs and chemical fertilizer, and after World War II the government encouraged the conversion of the munitions industry into fertilizer production (while also encouraging a shift in the focus of nerve-gas research toward pesticides).
The U.S. government also began subsidizing commodity crops, paying farmers for all the corn, soybeans, wheat and rice they could produce, while a succession of agriculture secretaries encouraged farmers to get big or get out. The practice of dumping weapons-grade ammonium and toxic pesticides on gargantuan farm fields also known as the Green Revolution created literal mountains of the cheapest food in history.
But, as Michael Pollan points out in his recent memo to the next Farmer in Chief in the New York Times Magazine, The era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close.
Rising oil prices are a big reason for this, but expensive food is hardly the only downside to petroleum-intensive farming. The way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do, writes Pollan. He also points out that before last springs spike in food prices, Americans had been paying less and less for food since 1960 (from 18 percent to 10 percent of household income) while paying more for healthcare (from 5 percent to 16 percent of household income).
As four of the top 10 killers in America today heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer are chronic diseases linked to diet, the correlation between money spent on food and medical care doesnt look like a coincidence. Not only is cheap food health and bad for the environment, but cheap food isnt even cheap anymore.
If Victory Gardens helped win World War II and end the Great Depression, maybe this time around we could just skip the world war, and improve our health, heal the economy and put the brakes on global warming all at the same time with small gardens. Theres much to be gained by trying and nothing to lose.
Several organizations are already advocating a return to Eleanor Roosevelts program. These include Revive the Victory Garden (www.revivevictorygarden.org), and Victory Gardens 2008+, a San Francisco group that supports the conversion of back yards, front yards, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into organic food production areas.
Victory Gardens 2008+ defines victory as growing food at home to increase local food security and reduce the distance food is transported. The groups crown jewel is a 10,000-square-foot public garden planted in front of San Francisco City Hall last summer, as a joint project with Slow Food Nation. The produce went to local food banks, and the garden, in its high-profile location, became a showpiece for the importance of local food.
Perhaps the next step, as Pollan suggests in his memo, and with all due respect to lawn-lovers, could be converting a portion of the White House lawn into a vegetable garden. A campaign called Eat the View (www.eattheview.org) is already petitioning the president-elect to do just that. A White House First Garden in the same soil where Eleanor Roosevelt planted her Victory Garden would send a strong message to the nation and the world.
Suffering? No one in this country is starving unless they are obstinate or bulemic. The average "poor" family has a car, television, Internet, a roof over their heads, free education, Food Stamps, Section 8, and much more. In Africa, South America and Asia that's called "middle class" or better.
I like this idea. I think since I don’t have the campground next summer I will plant a huge garden.
“I bought seeds, followed the instructions on the seed packet, and grew corn in the backyard. It didnt do very well.”
And that’s the problem Ari, you at 9 years old back then were better educated than many of the idiots that graduate from Harvard these days. Most public high schoolers couldn’t get through the instructions of the back of a seed pack. They will starve - bet on it.
I can see Michelle hoeing. With the way our government operates, they'd have six people doing a 2 man job.
We had a large vegetable garden when I was a kid.
It was the late 1970s, not the 1930’s, but the purpose was similar - money was tight, and anything we could do to save money on food was worth a shot. We grew corn, tomatoes, squash, eggplants, and string beans. We even had a small strawberry patch.
The funny thing was, even though we did it because times were tight, I always felt rich because of the harvest. There’s nothing in the world like fresh corn on the cob, and *no* supermarket tomato can match the flavor of a homegrown beefsteak. Summer cookouts always seemed like a feast to me.
Not so much; it is entirely idiotic.
First of all, the author gives a history of "victory gardens," but then goes off on a completely unrelated topic...the mass production of wheat, rice, soybeans, and corn.
Victory Gardens were a means of providing a family with a decent supply of fresh vegetables during rationing. At the time, many people had an area where they could grow such a crop...now, most people do not.
Anyone familiar with vegetable gardening, also understands that you need to plant at varying times, to assure a constant source of such vegetables (as your climate will allow)...plus, you need to know how to freeze or preserve the excess...and be willing to do so.
Pollan (who is a constant source of idiocy on the subject of agriculture), cannot seem to understand that most of the farms that he so despises do not produce "food" that goes to the grocery store directly.
Good luck growing a wheat or rice crop in your back yard...get back to me if you need to know how to grind your suburban wheat into bread.
Corn and soybeans are largely used to feed livestock, pressed into oil, used in other food processing, or exported to other countries.
Furthermore, if we decided to have new "victory gardens" we would displace the fruit and vegetables growers in our own "climate zones"...in other words, you would put your local growers out of business. I'm sure that the Mexican and South American growers would just love the extra business.
So, you would destroy American businesses on an experiment that is destined to fail while having absolutely ZERO effect on the commodity crops. Typical greenie pipe dream.
“So, you would destroy American businesses on an experiment that is destined to fail while having absolutely ZERO effect on the commodity crops. Typical greenie pipe dream.”
Exactly. I knew a farmer that planted a ‘victory garden’ on some land and he was in the PIC program. The D of Ag made him plow it under ;-)
That was part of that stupid Supreme Court decision, I forget the name of it - I’ll have to ask Sarah... where you effect the ‘market’ price because you’re not buying the fruits and vegetables at the market, affecting interstate commerce.
I wish they could just say “growing your own food can be fun, cheap, and healthy.”
Too bad the nimrods who write this kind of drivel aren’t forced to toil in the fields. Of course, within Obama’s first term, they will be...
Licensing and inspecting these ‘victory gardens’ to insure their safety and compliance with all local, state, and federal environmental/zoning/agricultural usage regulations would be necessary, and there is no certainty that participants would achieve successful, equitable results.
This matter is best left in the hands of The Department of Food, which Obama will institute just as soon as the healthcare matters are sorted out.
as Michael Pollan points out in his recent memo to the next "Farmer in Chief" in the New York Times Magazine, "The era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close." Rising oil prices are a big reason for this, but expensive food is hardly the only downside to petroleum-intensive farming. "The way we feed ourselves contributes more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than anything else we do," writes Pollan.Another Malthusian delusionist.
As a home gardener, and major "canner" myself, even I have found that only tomatoes, potatoes, asparagus, cucumbers, squash, and (possibly) green beans are worthwhile to grow...IF you have a lot of time to take care of the crop. Lettuce is nice for the few weeks that it lasts.
For a fleeting, very bad moment, I thought about encouraging every new gardener to grow a bunch of peas...LOL!
I like the idea of “Victory Gardens” but not as an adjunct to the adventure in socialism that the author intends it to be.
For those who have the space and the minimal talent to raise some of your own food, I think you’d be a fool not to do so. And it’s precisely because of socialism’s impact that it makes sense. You do not want to be in a situation where you have no access to an alternative supply if there is a natural disaster, or even a political disaster where food becomes a scarce or rationed commodity. Those few notso hotso looking tomatoes you grow will look like a bonanza if you otherwise can’t get them.
I also think it’s a good idea to have a few month supply of food stored regardless. Natural and economic disasters do happen.
Interesting debate on Victory Gardens. I don't like that the left is trying to hijack the concept, but I still think they make sense. Thoughts?
Vegetable gardening does take a lot of time if you want to do it right. It’s not just weeding around a couple of small flower beds and trimming the bushes for few hours on a weekend every now and then.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t try it if they want, but they need to realize that you don’t just throw seeds and/or whatever you call those little pepper/tomato plants into the ground.
We’ve had a vegetable garden before, and we live in the city. But it’s hard work, and pretty expensive per the yield because the soil in our backyard isn’t rich enough for growing (we live in Florida.) We boxed in an area with railroad ties and filled it in w/good soil. We used some seeds and some plants. Tomatoes and peppers were our most successful crops, but I could have bought lots of produce for what it cost to build and maintain that garden (we did it as a homeschool project.)
We won’t starve though, LOL, we can always eat fish. My guys spearfish and our freezer is always full.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a socialist and a communist.
With people like Obama running the economy, we will probably have to grow our own food AND stand in long lines to get a can of soup.
It is the end result of Socialism.
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