I have been reading about WWII Victory/Freedom Gardens lately. I am not sure when the concept began but our history is rich with stories of people who used times of war and economic depression (like The Great Depression) to get proactive and start growing their own food. During WWII you could find posters encouraging you to start your own garden and avoid the restrictions of food rations and to become more self sufficient during those stressful times. Families grew their own food on what land they had. Other people gardened in vacant lots, on rooftops, and in city parks. Public schools even designated areas for gardens and the students maintained them.
The purpose behind the freedom/victory garden was to lessen the demand on commercially grown produce and thus more would be available to the Armed Forces and lend-lease programs. It reduced demand on materials used in food processing and canning. Railroads could focus on transporting munitions and not food. And of course giving the people an important job to do helped maintain the morale of Americans on the home front. By preserving fruit and vegetables for future use they were also preparing for the worst.
So what does this have to do with the present? Well, we are facing hard economic times right now. If ever there was time to bring the freedom gardens back I think now is one of those times. We have needed them for a long time actually.
Although the reasons for starting one might be slightly different. By growing your own food you will become less dependent on greedy corporations to feed your family and become more self sufficient. You will save money by not having to buy food at the higher prices you see now and you will save gas money too. You can grow enough to can and preserve food for later use. You can grow and extra row for the needy in your local community. You can grow heirloom fruits and veggies and help preserve our heritage and the great flavors and colors of these lesser known varieties. You can help send the message that during times of recession the answer is hard work and voluntary simplicity not “shopping” as our current President would have us believe…where the only entity who gets ahead is the corporation.
Also, we may want to garden for food security reasons just like they did in WWII…not because we think we will run out of food but because conventional food growers often use noxious chemicals on our food. Their dirty practices may also expose us to things like salmonella as we have seen just recently with spinach and tomatoes.
To that end I am now calling my modest garden a freedom garden. You can see some pictures of what we have here…I will be adding more as the season progresses. I am growing several varieties of lettuce, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage, spinach, beans, 4 varieties of tomatoes, strawberries, blackberries, squash, and watermelon. We will also be growing our own pumpkins this year. The items we like that we are not growing I will be buying at my local Farmer’s Market. Corn for instance takes up too much space so we can buy it from our farm neighbors. There is also a farm nearby that sells raw nuts and some fruits we won’t be growing. We will be getting apples from a nearby orchard.
It is a wonderful feeling to grow your own food and feed your family with nothing but your sweat and hard work. It is also a great feeling to become less dependent on “the man”. I also like teaching my kids important lessons…aka where food comes from and how to grow it yourself! Preserving food is also another great skill. One book I highly recommend on that topic is Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, it is full of great information on preservation techniques using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, and lactic fermentation.
If you don’t have a yard to garden in you might try some of the following:
1. Plant in containers on your porch, patio, or window.
2. Look for a community garden that will give you a designated spot or plot to garden. You can also join up with friends or family and plant at one of their homes if they have the space.
3. Find a small secret place to garden at a local park. I know one gentleman who gardens in various places in Central Park!
4. Do you have an elderly neighbor who used to garden but can’t anymore? Volunteer to work their garden in exchange for half the produce.
5. Buy from local farms and skip the middleman.
So now it is your turn. Are you gardening to produce your own food this year? What is your motivation?