One-hundred-three years ago this month, the Victory Garden campaign was launched to feed Americans during World War I. People planted fruits and vegetables on empty land not already growing food. Posters reminded Americans that it was their patriotic duty to “sow the seeds of victory.”
That fruit-and-veggie campaign found its protein companion in the expectation that families would raise their own laying hens. Here’s a pic of one of my favorite posters ever.
Victory Gardens continued through the Great Depression and World War II, reaching a peak in 1944 when an estimated 20 million gardens were planted, producing 8 million tons of food! That was the equivalent to more than 40 percent of all the fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the US that year.
It’s past time to revive the Victory Garden movement. As we hunker down in our homes to minimize the spread of COVID19, perhaps we can call this new wave of urban food production “Victory-Over-the-Virus (VOTV) Gardens.” (A shout-out to Jon Krieg for coining the name.)
Let’s get going on this now! COVID19 is more than a passing crisis. It’s a wake-up call. Mother Earth is signally to her human children that our very survival depends on changing how we live on this planet.
Yet much of urban America is unfit for serious food production. One does not transform a mostly lifeless, hard-packed vacant lot into productive soil overnight. It takes time, knowledge, effort, and leadership. I doubt we’ll see leadership from Washington, DC anytime soon, so we need to challenge our local officials to support and help launch the effort.
I’ll start with my own elected city leaders in Des Moines — Frank Cownie, Carl Voss, Connie Boesen, Bill Gray, Linda Westergaard, Josh Mandelbaum, and Joe Gatto. It’s spring, the perfect time to begin to work on this. Who’s on board?
(An aside: Last year, in the face of escalating climate impacts, the Des Moines City Council showed wisdom by supporting the energy benchmarking ordinance proposed by the Des Moines Citizen’s Taskforce on Sustainability. Check out my recent conversation with Taskforce member Sheila Knoploh-Odole.)
Beyond encouraging and assisting Des Moines residents to raise some of their own food, we need to cover our cities with fruit trees, berries, and edible nuts.
We need pollinator habitat on vacant tracts of land.
We need to support urban and nearby farms that produce meat, dairy, grain, fiber, and fuel — essential products that average city dwellers can’t raise on their own.
I’ve been growing food in the city for over thirty years. My partner Kathy maintained a large garden in the country for over twenty years before moving to Des Moines. With that background, Kathy and I are eager to teach people how to turn their yards into dinner. Check out Birds & Bees Urban Farm for detail about the course we offer. (The accompanying photos are from our website.)
Thanks for reading. Stay well. Think deeply. Plan for the future by planting today. Tis the season for Victory-Over-the-Virus Gardens! — Ed Fallon