Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Victory Garden Revival and You

The recent renewed interest in growing and eating nutritional, organic food has led to a modern-day resurgence in Victory Gardens. New Victory Gardens are appearing in public spaces across the country once again, but for new and different reasons than in the past.

The original Victory Garden campaigns during World War I urged civilians to grow their own food to free up resources for the war effort. The mission was to see a million new backyard and vacant lot gardens planted. The justification for these original Victory Gardens was to save on fuel and to free transportation and middleman jobs.

During World War II the U.S. War Department renewed the original Victory Garden campaigns to help lower the price of vegetables needed to feed the troops. The effort was very successful and expanded to 20 million gardens producing 40% of all vegetable produced in America at its peak in 1943.Even after World War II, food shortages around the world continued and Victory Gardens still flourished.

Two World War II era Victory Gardens still survive today and have been cultivated continuously for over sixty years. Fenway (Back Bay Fens) in Boston, Massachusetts now grows flowers instead of vegetables. The other is the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This garden was started there by Ros and Elof Pearson in 1943. Today the garden grows vegetables in 175 plots and there is a waiting list of gardeners.

In recent years, the interest in organically grown and locally produced food, sustainable agriculture and food safety has spurred the New Victory Garden movement. Whether they are called victory or freedom gardens, edible landscapes, liberty or peace gardens--all represent eating locally grown, healthy and nutritious food in a bio diverse and sustainably grown situation. Establish a neighborhood-gathering place to build a greater sense of community.

Today our food travels on an average 1500 miles from farm to table. The process of planting, fertilizing, processing, packaging and transporting our food uses a great deal of energy. This is often referred to in the measurement of food miles. Estimates vary but transport may account for 20% or more of the total energy use associated with provision of a given food item.

This much is known 17% of the nation's petroleum consumption is dedicated to 0n-the-farm food production. Add in processing, packaging, refrigeration and transport of edibles and food takes a bug bit out of affordable oil supplies and contributes significantly to pollution. We could grow lettuce in our front yards most of the year, in greenhouses in the winter and save the 3,000 miles from field to table and breathe cleaner air as a result..

Another reason we need to consider growing our own vegetables is that California where over one fourth of the country's produce is grown is in the worst drought in over 20 years. consumers will have to pay more for their lettuce and other produce. To make matters worse, Federal officials recently announced that the water supply they pump through the nation's largest farm state would drop even further. This year officials in Fresco county predict farmers will only grown roughly half the area devoted to growing greens compared to what they used in in 2005.

Still another reason to grow your own Victory Garden is food safety. You are better able to protect your family from the dangerous forms of salmonella and e-coli. Food that comes fresh from the garden, washed and eaten within a short time of harvesting rather than days after harvest are less likely to have serious issues with these and other diseases.

An additional advantage to planting a Victory Garden is that extra produce can be donated to feed the hungry. One of the longest running national campaigns to supply food for those in need is the Plant a Row for the Hungry program run by the Garden Writers Association Foundation. The program uses a people-helping people approach and simply asks gardeners to plant at least one row of extra vegetables and to donate the excess to a local food bank or soup kitchen. Collectively the Plant a Row program had 600-volunteer committees across the country last year and 27,00 volunteers coordinating collection activities and promoting the program. In total, 1.4 million pounds were collected in 2008.

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