Is it time to grow a Victory garden?
By Leslie Allen â€¢ Special to the Reno Gazette-Journal â€¢ February 12, 2009
On Monday, when we celebrate Presidents Day, I will be reflecting on our nation's history and the requests each president has made of us. This year, we have a new president who is asking us to recapture the spirit of the previous wartime generations by working hard, saving money and conserving resources. Seems to me this is a great time to revive the Victory Garden.
Growing a Victory Garden was a common American wartime practice, and it was considered a national duty to grow food for your family and community. Indeed, our government had a War Garden Department that vigorously supported the cultivation of home and community Victory Gardens. By some estimates, Victory Gardens provided 40 percent of the nation's food supply. In 1943, more than 20 million Americans were growing Victory Gardens in their front and back yards, on rooftops and in vacant lots. Even our wartime presidents grew Victory Gardens. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt planted a Victory Garden on the White House lawn during World War II. Woodrow Wilson grazed sheep on the lawn rather than mow it during World War I.
Victory Gardens galvanized the nation and gave everyone a common purpose. These gardens brought people together over the back fence or a plot at the community garden. People shared the abundance, learned self sufficiency, gained independence and had pride in their community.
The benefits of Victory Gardens are equally true in this time. Some agricultural scholars say that our current food system is not sustainable because it requires too much energy.
Did you know it takes an average of 10 fossil-fuel calories to produce one calorie of food energy? About a quarter of America's greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to how we grow, process and transport food. On average, our food travels 1,500 miles before it reaches our plate. These food miles equate to a lot of fossil-fuel energy. Growing a Victory Garden will reduce the miles your food travels; in fact, if you grow your own food, the distance it travels might be just a few seconds.
Growing your own Victory Garden also will insulate you from food cost fluctuations. If money is tight, growing your own food will provide your family with tasty, nutritious food for a fraction of the cost. Also, growing your own Victory Garden can be a healthy family-bonding activity. You and your family can pick produce and cook meals together. If you are particularly thrifty, you can even try preserving your Victory Garden abundance. Home food preservation was another common wartime practice.
Planting a Victory Garden is a true American pastime that is as relevant today as it was in the past. In this modern wartime, we have the additional battles of a weak economy and a planet in peril. Isn't it comforting to know that the simple act of growing a Victory Garden can help solve many of our modern problems?
Leslie Allen is commercial horticulture program coordinator for the western area of University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She also is a 2008 Nevada EcoNet Golden Pine Cone award recipient.
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