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Your Victory Garden Has Always Been Mainstream

During World War II many countries had a difficult time getting food to their citizens. The War had disrupted shipping, trade, and agriculture. Because of this, most people had a hard time getting fresh fruits and vegetables. This led several countries to launch campaigns encouraging their citizens to plant their own Victory Gardens.

Victory Gardens, which were also called “War Gardens”, allowed everyday citizens to help in their own way with the war effort. Those who grew their own fruits and vegetables in their gardens were able to supplement the food rations that the government provided. This collective effort helped relieve a stressed food supply chain and contributed to the overall morale of the country.

The concept of a Victory Garden is something that was revived from World War I.  During the First World War, both the United States and Europe encouraged their citizens to plant gardens. Those gardens supplied their families and the soldiers. It wasn’t until the Second World War that the term “Victory Garden” gained traction and widespread participation.

In the United States, shortly after we entered World War II in 1941, the Department of Agriculture quickly launched the Victory Garden campaign. The government provided pamphlets and put up posters to advertise the effort. People were encouraged to plant their own gardens. The effort wasn’t about survival gardens; it was painted with the end goal of winning the war. The Department of Agriculture provided “how-to’s” to teach people what they needed to know to grow and preserve their own crops.

By 1944 an estimated 20 million Victory Gardens had been planted across the United States. That means nearly half of the country was engaged in the effort. The typical neighborhood had backyard gardens; empty lots were used; and you could find rooftop gardens in the cities. This was an “all hands” effort that included people from all walks of life. From school children to celebrities, everyone was somehow involved with a garden.

There were other benefits to Victory Gardens beside the fresh fruits and vegetables they provided to the neighborhoods and towns across the country. These gardens also helped everyone feel connected to each other and the war effort. They were a big boost to the national morale because they gave everyone a sense of purpose and pride. Keep in mind too that there weren’t many leisure activities during the war so the gardens provided needed exercise and an excuse to get out in the sun. And lastly, there was a sense of accomplishment when the crops came in.

On a national scale, Victory Gardens also helped reduce the strain on the Nation’s food supply chain. Those who grew their own food helped reduce the pressure on commercially grown fruits and vegetables. This allowed the large commercial farms to supply much-needed food to the troops fighting overseas.

The Victory Garden campaign wasn’t a uniquely American phenomenon. Other countries like Australia, Canada, and Great Britain had similar campaigns. In Great Britain, their marketing campaign was called “Dig for Victory”. The UK encouraged its citizens to plant gardens in public parks and other open spaces.

Even though Victory Gardens started as a wartime effort, many people continued planting gardens for many years after the war ended. The program had a lasting impact on the way everyone thought about food. While the neighborhood gardens planted in empty lots disappeared, the effort inspired many people to continue with their backyard gardens.

Victory Gardens gave people a practical way to contribute to the war effort. When people grew their own food they were able to supplement government rations, boost community morale, and ease pressure on the supply chain.