I am fascinated in how American culture and changes over time effect how America feels about gardening. Thats why I would love to go to this forum and hear from older generations their ideas. Adults and youth in your organization are encouraged to participate. Students can even get community service hours by going and taking notes that can be used for organizations. And free seeds? I know its a bit late in the season, but I’ll never turn down free seeds… So go and enjoy the light refreshments and soak up some knowledge and experiences.
If you’re interested in presenting at the forum you can fill out this form and send it in!
If $3 a lb. for heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market is more than you can afford, why not make it your Earth Day resolution to grow your own veggies? In the latest New York Times Magazine, author of “An Omnivore’s Dilemma” Michael Pollan waxes lyrical about growing your own edible garden:
It’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind.
Feel daunted by the prospect of creating your own edible estate? Then give the girls atHeart Beet Gardening a call. Run by three Marlborough School alumnae — Megan Bomba, Sara Carnochan, and Kathleen Redmond — Heart Beet Gardening is a little local company that’ll help you set up your own private, organic edible landscape.
According to Megan, the organic gardening biz is booming, especially with the popularity of the local food movement. “People are looking at where they’re getting things from,” Megan says. “A lot of people are realizing they want their kids to grow up with a home gardening experience, even if they didn’t.”
I met Megan and Sara (right) at a native-and-edible garden Heart Beet recently set up for Megan’s parents (below). This 1,000-square-foot garden was planted just a few weeks ago with mostly native, drought-resistant plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Right now, the garden looks rather bare, but according to Megan and Sara, each plant will expand out about a foot, prettying up the landscape. Once the plants are set, very little water or grooming will be needed. After all, these are perennial plants that don’t require replanting.
In addition, the garden has an edible component. Three fruit trees — pomegranate, fig, persimmon — are each surrounded by a number of herbs and edible plants, including artichokes, lemongrass, fennel, chives, blackberries and grapes. These edible areas will of course require more water and care, but will also produce local, organic food at a very low cost.
Cost to set this up: A little under $5,000, including the recycled concrete walkway. $5 a square foot doesn’t sound too bad, considering the fact that the yard will save water while providing food for years to come.
Most of Heart Beet’s work, however, isn’t large yards but smaller vegetable gardens and edible landscapes. Want Heart Beet to help set up yours? Call them, and you could have your own garden in just a week. The cost for a 100-square-foot garden with a raised bed runs between $1,500 to $2,500 for set-up, depending on the condition of the soil, the type of irrigation system desired, and other factors particular to your garden.
Once you have the garden set up, Heart Beet can help you maintain it for $75 a month, which includes weekly visits to your garden. Of course, a vegetable garden really needs to be looked at more than once a week, and Heart Beet’s overall goal is to get more people gardening themselves. Says Megan: “It’s not rocket science.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found in a 2007 study that several factors will affect mass food production in the near future:
“Overall, food production is projected to benefit from a warmer climate, but there probably will be strong regional effects, with some areas in North America suffering significant loss of comparative advantage to other regions. The U.S. Great Plains/Canadian Prairies are expected to be particularly vulnerable. Climate change is expected to improve growing conditions for some crops that are limited by length of growing season and temperature. (e.g. fruit production in the Great Lakes region and eastern Canada).”
Climate change also has a widespread effect on plant growth: the behavior and aggressiveness of certain plant diseases and pests, adverse affects on beneficial insects, birds, and animals, the composition of soil, water quantity and quality…the list goes on.
When the cost ofproduce rises, it isn’t necessarily due to a sudden freeze in Florida or a drought in California. The price of gas greatly affects food costs due to transportation expenses. Remember when something as small and light as a bunch of scallions was 3/$1?
If enough people would grow their own food, it would make a dramatic difference in energy demand, traffic congestion, and the emission of greenhouse gases.
(On a related point, produce that hasn’t logged a bunch of “food miles” is better quality. It’s fresher and isn’t bounced around in transit. According to environmental writer Bill McKibben, 75% of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, even though the state produces far more apples than city residents consume. Isn’t that ridiculous?)
Here’s a scary stat: The FDA inspects only about 1% of the imported foods it regulates, down from 8% in 1992 when imports were far less common. (The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry, is much stricter.) The FDA also doesn’t require that exporting countries have safety systems equivalent to those in the USA.
Here’s more from a story that ran in USA Today in March, 2007:
“The decline in FDA inspection resources has been pronounced in the past five years. While food imports have soared about 50%, the number of FDA food-import inspectors has dropped about 20%, the agency says.
“Meanwhile, more food imports come from developing countries, where pesticide use is often higher than in the USA, water quality is often worse and workers may be less likely to be trained in food safety, says Michael Doyle, head of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.
“A 2003 FDA study found pesticide violations in 6.1% of imported foods sampled vs. 2.4% of domestic foods. It has not been updated. Several years earlier, the FDA found salmonella and shigella, which can cause dysentery, in 4% of imported fruits and vegetables vs. 1.1% of domestic products.”
A packet of tomato seeds will set you back, on average, about $3. Let’s say 50% of the 100 seeds in the packet germinate and become fruit-bearing plants, and that each plant bears a minimum of 10 lbs. of fruit. That’s 500 lbs. of fruit for $3.
Conversely, a bag of cherry tomatoes on the vine (about a dozen, if you’re lucky) also costs $3.
Of course, when growing your own, you could calculate the cost of soil additives, tomato cages, canning supplies, water, mulch, etc., and the value of your time and effort spent tending to the plants, but I think the benefits are pretty clear.
My message is, of course: grow your own stuff. Climate can be controlled more effectively, unless you opt to have a large farm; the management of your food crops shouldn’t be all that daunting. Cloth can protect from freezes as well as hot temperatures. Soil quality can be manually altered to your crops’ needs. Everything — including watering levels, pest and disease problems, etc. — can be more closely monitored under your own watchful eye.
Best of all, you will know what – if any — pesticides and fertilizers are being applied to your food crops, instead of being forced to buy mysteriously-produced food that wasn’t safely grown or properly inspected.
Even a family of five doesn’t need much yard space to host a highly productive garden. If you’re pressed for yard space, use containers. “Vertical gardening” – training vines to grow up instead of spreading out – is also effective and efficient. If you have a yard, consider ripping out some of the grass and making it into a veggie garden. That lovely green lawn is a huge and unnecessary water waster anyway.
If you’re a rookie to vegetable gardening, do plenty of research before jumping in. Learn what grows well in your area. Work to continually improve the soil. Read about crop rotation to ensure efficient production year after year. Can and preserve the wonderful food you’ve worked hard to grow so you can enjoy it all year round.
Lastly, if you absolutely don’t have the time, space or energy to grow your own fruits and vegetables, please do your best to support local organic food markets. Check out the website localharvest.org to find the one closest to you.
IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Parry, Martin L., Canziani, Osvaldo F., Palutikof, Jean P., van der Linden, Paul J., and Hanson, Clair E. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, 1000 pp.
I’ve only met Ed Bruske a handful of times, but I was impressed by the garden outside of his Columbia Heights home and his dedication to local food and DC Urban Gardeners. He helped found DC Urban Gardeners last year after finding that there was a lack of outreach for urban gardeners in DC. His blog, The Slow Cook, is updated constantly with great recipes, informative news, and goings on both around his home and in the DC foody community.
He recently wrote an excellent article on the global food crisis that I though was very interesting, especially for people who live in DC. I would check out his article and the links (especially the Washington Post ones). While you’re there, take a look at his blog- he’s got great links, great recipes, and great advise.
For anyone living in the DC area, Ed Bruske and the DC Urban Gardeners are a goldmine of information, take advantage of it! They know pretty much everything growing going on in DC and their website has tons of links to local organizations, stores, and garden info. They’re involved in lots of projects so if you’re looking to volunteer, they’ve got some awesome opportunities. They also have a mailing list and a yahoo group you can get involved with. They’re super open to talking so just drop them an email!
At the beginning of World War II, victory gardens began to emerge again. Some of these gardens had started as depression relief gardens, others were gardens from the first world war. There were also many were new gardens, carved out of vacant lots, back yards, and city parks. The War Food Administration created a National Victory Garden Program, which set five maine goals.
1.lessen demand on commercial vegetable supplies and thus make more available to the Armed Forces and lend-lease programs.
2.reduce demand on strategic materials used in food processing and canning
3.ease the burden on railroads transporting war munitions by releasing produce carriers
4.maintain the vitality and morale of Americans on the home front through the production of nutritious vegetables outdoors
5.preserve fruit and vegetables for future use when shortages might become worse (Bassett 1981)
Some victory gardeners proudly distplaying their vegetables. 1942 or 1943.
Library of Congress Digital Photography Collection.
Gardens began, once again, to change in the eyes of Americans, just as they had in the first world war. They were no longer just for the poor, or for those who could not feed themselves, but for everyone. Gardening became popular not only for food security, but for it mental and physical health benefits and its benefits to the community. Gardens gave a feel of productivity that citizens on the home-front needed. A garden plot feels much more useful, productive, and important than a vacant lot or lawn. With loved one off at war, it greatly improved morale to have an outlet for the patriotism, fear, and anxiety that many Americans felt about the war. In 1942, about 5.5 million gardeners participated in the war garden effort, making seed package sales rise 300%. The USDA estimated over 20 million garden plots were planted with an estimated 9-10 million pounds of fruit and vegetables grown a year, 44 percent of the fresh vegetables in the United States. (Bassett 1981) In 1943, American families bought 315,000 pressure cookers for canning vegetables up from 66,000 in 1942 (Wessels).
Jeffersontown, Kentucky. The Jefferson County ommunity cannery, started by the WPA (Work Projects Administration). Canning beans and greens raised in a victory garden. It costs three cents each for cans and two cents per can for use of the pressure cooker. June 1943.
During the war years, Americans discovered and benefited from gardening’s many advantages. It was stylish to garden. This didn’t last long, however. Once the war ended, there was an overall decline in interest in gardening as life returned to normal in the US and the baby boomer era began. Many victory gardens were grown on loaned property, which needed to be returned in peacetime.
But urban gardens were not gone…..
Poster circulated by the New York City Work Projects Administration, between 1941 and 1943. Artist: Herbert Bayer
J. H. Burdet, National Garden Bureau. 1939-1945.
This is a garden built out of a bomb crater in London, 1943
Victory gardening on the Charles Schwab estate. New York, New York. June 1944.
May 1943, New York, New York. Children of the New York City Children’s Aid Society work on their victory gardens at the West Side Center.
Victory gardening at Forest Hills, Queens. New York, New York. June 1944.
Washington, D.C. A resident of the Southwest section and her Victory garden. June 1943.
Washington, D.C. Vice President Henry A. Wallace in his victory garden. Aug. 1942.
So, wait… food… I can grow it in my yard? That’s like a lot of work right? But you know what? It helps the war effort.
“To save gasoline, they use a horse and plow and humble farm implements. It is anything but organic. We see every kind of pest, worm and disease that can affect the garden. Rick sprays various noxious looking chemicals on the vegetables without wearing a face mask or gloves.
“A victory garden is like a share in an airplane factory, the film opening tells us. It is also a vitamin factory that will keep Americans strong. The film ends on a patriotic note, ‘No Work, No Victory!’ Bear that in mind all you Victory Gardeners and Work! For Victory! A no-nonsense, non-idealized look at what it is like to have to really grow your own food.”
Stock Footage: MOT 1943\: COMMUNITY VICTORY GARDEN\: WS People preparing soil for planting in empty lot of rural neighborhood turning soil w/ hoes. Young adult women tilling soil. WWII 49309081_043
Stock Footage: MOT 1943\: DRAMATIZATION\: PERSONAL VICTORY GARDEN\: * EXT Seed store. Man walking into store CU War Gardens poster man buying seeds hoe saying only way to get what you want to eat grow it yourself. CU Seed packets on counter. Food shortage WWII 49309081_042
1942 Barney Bear’s Victory Garden
Similar Garden Projects
PASADENA, CA – As localization becomes increasingly popular due to the continued rise in gas prices and with the cost of living skyrocketing in the southland, Reginald Miller shows us one mans way of saving money by bringing back an alternate method of putting food on the table the old fashioned way.
The Great Depression struck the the United States at the end of 1929 and lasted until 1939. This economic disaster affected the economy of the entire world and put hundreds of thousands out of work and in serious financial trouble. City government, realizing the seriousness of the situation, put relief gardening programs in place to combat hunger, poverty, and emotional stress (Williamson). These relief gardens, also called welfare garden plots, vacant lot gardens, and subsistence gardens, served the same purpose as the potato patches of the 1890’s: they improved the health and spirit of participants by creating feelings of usefulness, productivity, and importance while also providing opportunities for food and work. (Tucker 1993)
There were three phases of gardening programs during the Great Depression. In the beginning the relief garden movement faced many problems. Organizers argued about the size and and make-up of gardens: Should the gardens have individual plots or larger undivided plots? Who should be involved? Where will the plots be? Many wondered if the depression would even last long enough for the relief gardens to be necessary. Those asking for assistance were no long the disable, sick, and elderly, but the unemployed and desperate, many with families. No longer was it the ‘weakness’ of the individual that caused the need for assistance, this time it was the failure of the ‘system’ (Warman 1999). During these early years ordinary citizens were incredibly helpful in supporting gardening programs. For example, in Detroit “city employees donated monthly contributions from their salaries to raise the ten thousand dollars necessary for financing a free garden program” (Tucker 1993: 132).
Hard at work in Youngstown Depression Gardens, 1932
These disagreements and organizational challenges hindered the program in its beginning years, but were resolved by 1933. By this time, non-governmental organizations such as the Family Welfare Society and the Employment Relief Commission formed garden committees to help combat hunger. Those with land of their own were encouraged to cultivate it instead of taking up valuable gardening space in the overflowing relief gardens. Seeds and supplies were provided for those working the gardens. Many farmers disliked the welfare garden program, thinking that it maintained the economic depression by adding to the overproduction already taking place (Warman 1999).
Relief Gardens helped the Beuscher family survive in Iowa during the Depression
In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the president of the United States bringing with him his “New Deal.” Over the next three years, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) gave over three billion dollars of aid in their work garden program. Gardeners received a wage for cultivating and distributing produce to those in need. These gardeners, however, had to meet strict eligibility requirements to participate. The work garden program shifted relief gardens from being for anyone in need to being jobs for some. This program lasted until 1935. An addition to the federal gardening program individual gardening programs continued cities around the country. In New York City, a gardening campaign led by the welfare department and helped by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), resulted in the formulation of over 5,000 gardens in vacant lots (Warner 1987). These 5,000 gardens produced $5 worth of vegetables for every dollar invested resulting in a total of $2.8 million worth of food by 1934 (Tucker 1993).
Clarke Bennert tilling an urban greenhouse
Image from Columbia Historical Society, Inc
In 1935 the government cut funding for relief gardening programs because they were no longer viewed as as opportunities for success and improvement of life. After this remarkably successful period of relief gardening, these urban kitchen gardens returned to their initial view as a method of coping with poverty for those who were lazy, disabled or elderly. Their named shifted from relief gardens to welfare gardens, giving them a much more pitiful connotation. However, the country’s experience with the success of relief gardens in the early 1930’s made them much more open to the idea of victory gardens in World War II (Bassett 1981).
During World War I and II gardening became a patriotic and fulfilling activity for all Americans, both from the United States and Canada. The First World War, also known as the Great War, was the largest war the world had ever known. It was the first time in history that more countries were at war with each other than were at peace. Canada joined the war with the Allied forces when it began in the summer of 1914, following the assassination of the heir the Austro-Hungarian throne (Wikipedia, WWI). The US stayed neutral for three years, only joining the fray when a German submarine attacked and sank the luxury ocean liner, the Lusitania in Spring of 1917(Wikipedia US History).
Throughout the war, Europe had serious problems getting producing enough food. All the farmers in Europe had gone off to war during the summer of 1914, leaving their crops ripening in the fields, some never to be harvested. Since that time, much of the land in Europe had fallen into the war zone, making it impossible to farm and the possibility of shipping in food to Europe was threatened by the German’s aggressive use of submarines to sink any ship. The burden fell to North America to provide food for the 120.000.000 people in the countries of the Allied Forces.
Allied forces provision trucks line a roadway in France, 1915.
(Image courtesy of Library of Congress Digital Photograhy Collection)
In Europe, food production was at an all time low. There was no meat to be found and, in England, dairy products were so restricted that a doctor needed to certify that it was necessary for the recipeints health. In some cities, bread was in such shortage that, many days, it was not available.
Women in France plouging hardcore, 1917.
(Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
The US, though it had not yet joined the war, had to cut consumption greatly as well. Prices increased for foods such as butter, eggs, and coffee. There were meatless and wheatless days to try to cut consumption of highly valued food products. As a response to the cuts in consumption, community gardens began to spring up everywhere. In the early months of 1917, as it became clear that an increase in production was the only answer, Charles Lathrop Pack founded the National War Garden Commission. Through a campaign of posters, cartoons, press releases, and pamphlets the commission strove “to arouse the patriots of America to the importance of putting all idle land to work, to teach them how to do it, and to educate them to conserve by canning and drying all food that they could not use while fresh” (Pack 1919: 10). Their posters boasted phrases such as, “Will you have a part in victory?,” “Every war garden a peace plant,” “Can the Kaiser,” “Sow the Seeds of Victory,” and “Put the slacker land to work.”
A Poster distributed by the National War Garden Commission
And America responded. President Wilson “called for ever American to contribute in the war to establish democracy and human rights.” In a proclamation, President Woodrow Wilson said to Americans, “Everyone who creates or cultivates a garden helps…This is the time for America to correct her unpardonable fault of wastefulness and extravagance.” (Krochmal, Connie) The US Department of Agriculture formed a committee on pubic information to help plant “a million new backyard and vacant lot gardens.” (Tucker 1993: 124) It was thought that victory gardens would not only feed America so that we could send food abroad, but also that we could save on fuel and free transportation and middleman jobs to help with the war effort.
Here’s an idea of the scale of the war gardening effort- In Dallas in 1918 there were 20,000 gardens that produced over 17,500 cans of vegetables in just a few weeks. The Town of Marian, Indiana had just 29,000 people and 14,081 gardens- that means that almost ever other person in Marian had a garden. National-wide there were 3 million garden plots in 1917, according to the National War Garden Commission. In 1918, that number increased to 5,285,000 plots. Due to rising education level of gardeners, these 1918 plots were cultivated more intensely. Over 528.5 million pounds of produce has harvested that year (Pack 1919).It was here that the idea of the “city farmer” was born.
When the war ended in 1919, the war garden effort dropped off, but many people kept their gardens and would use them again in the victory garden movement of the second World War.
Below is an assortment of war garden propaganda from both the National War Garden Commission and the US Department of Agriculture published between 1917 and 1919. They advertise anything in the name of reduced consumption and increased local production of vegetables: free bulletins about gardening, opportunities to garden through schools and various other programs, and promote food saving methods such as canning.
Below are some examples of war gardens in America during World War I. In the background of many you can see the buildings of cities.
A Liberty Garden, approximately one block square, Polk St., Chicago.
Some companies started their own war gardens such as this first year garden started by the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York
The Women of Gates Rubber Company tend to a war garden plot, 1914.
Typical City Garden in Rochester, New York. One of 15,000 in 1918.
Xavia garden on East Sixty-third street in Cleveland, OH.
East Liberty, Ohio.
To find out more about victory gardens in World War I here are some references in links below:
Bassett, Thomas J. “Reaping on the Margins: A Century of Community Gardening in
America.” Landscape, 1981 v25 n2. 1-8.
Goldstein, Libby J. “Philadelphia’s Community Garden History.” City Farmer, 1997.
Online ebook first published in 1919 by the founder of the National War Garden Commission. Really interesting, though certainly opinionated and contains very floral and patriot language. And lots of good pictures
Tucker, David M. Kitchen Gardening in America: A History. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State
University Press, 1993.
Warner, Sam Bass, Jr. To Dwell is to Garden: A History of Boston’s Community
Gardens. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1987.
Williamson, Erin A. A Deeper Ecology: Community Gardens in the Urban Environment. U Delaware.