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A Victory Garden Grows Again

By Emma Piper-Burket

Recently, mainstream media has experienced a growth spurt in its awareness of how food choices impact the health of our planet and our bodies. An illustration of this is the public (and publicized) return of the Victory Garden.

The modern Victory Garden takes many forms: rooftop gardens in inner city schools; public arts projects like WORK Architecture Company’s functioning farm- smartly title PF1- installed on the grounds of PS1 (the farm supplied eggs and produce to the museum café during the summer of 2008); and Slow Food Nation and San Francisco Victory Garden’s temporary garden in front of the City Hall that donated 1,000 pounds of produce to area food banks.

This time around the Victory Garden is grown in the name of environmentalism, education, health, and increased quality of life. Michael Pollan writes of, “a new Victory Garden movement, this one seeking ‘victory’ over three critical challenges we face today: high food prices, poor diets, and a sedentary population.” Though patriotism might not be a word to toss around at liberal dinner parties these days, Victory Gardens might still be a relevant way of helping our country.

For many Americans erratic gas prices or the occasional news headline are the only noticeable indications that our nation is at war. With a seeming abundance of wealth and resources, the vast majority of Americans have not had to alter their daily routine in any way during the past 7 years of war.

Contrast this with World War II when all around the country citizens were encouraged to save scraps of metal to be converted into bullets, to “Eat less bread” in order to save grains for the troops, and of course to grow a Victory Garden.

Providing up to 40% of the country’s food needs during World War II, towns, schools and families across the United States took part in the production of their food by way of these Victory Gardens. The Department of Defense produced pamphlets and films teaching children and adults how to grow the necessary varieties and quantities of vegetables to sustain them throughout the year. People were encouraged to can and preserve vegetables for the barren winter months and no one was to take more than they needed. Growing one’s own food was seen as a way of helping the country and everyone took part.

Today, while we may not need to grow our own food to support the troops, growing victory gardens could help us avoid future wars. Industrial farming techniques and transporting food to markets consumes vast quantities of petroleum. The war in Iraq and much of America's strategic interests abroad are linked to oil. Michael Pollan has said the removal of petroleum from our food system could help improve our national security, but perhaps more importantly, it would contribute to the survival of our planet.

Growing a garden in your backyard or neighborhood and taking an active role in the food production process is the best way to do your part.

Sources & Resources for Victory Gardens:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12policy-t.html
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/24/HOFK13LPVD.DTL
http://www.thewhofarm.org
http://www.eattheview.org/
http://www.futurefarmers.com/
http://www.gardenfortheenvironment.org/
http://www.sfvictorygardens.org/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/victorygarden/
http://sidewalksprouts.wordpress.com/history/vg/

Episode featured in: 
Thomas Jefferson: Healthy Leadership
November 11, 2008

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