It has been interesting to read two recent articles in the regional (Mercury News in Bay Area of California) and national press (Staunton News Leader) that have stated that now might be the time to plant yourself a Coronavirus “Victory” garden as a way to get outside, boost morale, involve the kids, and take one’s mind off the virus.
The History of Victory Gardens during both World Wars One and Two are well known. During World War One, for example, a National War Garden Commission was created to encourage Americans to contribute to the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables. Individuals and communities were urged to use all idle land to include school yards, parks, backyards and vacant lots. The then Federal Bureau of Education even initiated “a U.S. School Garden Army to mobilize children to enlist as soldiers of the soil.” It is stated that due to this emphasis and focus, more than 5.2 million new garden plots were cultivated in 1918. These were called Victory Gardens. They emerged again during World War Two. With the introduction of food rationing during this war, citizens had an even greater incentive to grow their own fruits and vegetables. They planted gardens in whatever locations they could find: flower boxes, rooftops, backyards, and deserted lots of any size. It is said that even amid protests from the Department of Agriculture, Eleanor Roosevelt planted a victory garden on the White House lawn (some of us remember and encouraged the planting of a garden on the Vermont statehouse lawn a few years back). By the end of World War Two, there were over 20 million victory gardens producing more than 40 percent of all the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed in the United States.
Today it is not the production of food for the War effort that is needed, but ways for individuals to deal with stress and isolation, while contributing to their own healthy food supply. There is a great history of the community and local garden movement in Vermont. For example, after the 1927 Flood, one of the worst tragedies in Vermont’s history, the report, "Rural Vermont, A Program for the Future", recommended that more attention be given to the vegetable garden for the family. Likewise, the Garden for All movement started by Lyman Wood resulted in 100 Community Gardens being created in the state during the period 1975-1976. Today there is a Vermont Community Garden Network, Growing Together, with a website that has a list of many on-line resources for those that want to grow their own food. According to data from Food Tech Connect: The Platform for Good Food Innovation: Growing the Home Food Gardening Movement, 35% of U.S. homes grew their own food in 2012.
As Joan Morris stated in her Bay Area News Group article of March 20, 2020 ("Plant a Victory Garden to Combat Coronavirus"), “forced with shelter in place, most of us are coming down with a bad case of cabin fever. Instead of worrying about the future and what a scratchy throat you woke up with this morning is something serious, plant a Victory Garden.”