Sunday, July 20, 2008

Victory Gardens and their meaning in the 21st century

I have been aware of a new eco-meme lately that's actually a play on themes Americans embraced during WWII. The Victory Garden was one of many ways that citizens contributed to the war effort, mostly by not taking resources away from the armed forces fighting overseas. Every so often my father-in-law will reflect on that time, talking about the rationing stamps and the newspaper drives. He was also an airplane spotter as a kid -- someone who can tell the type of plane from looking at the bottom (ostensibly as it flies overhead). So anytime he was running around and a plane zoomed by he would be able to tell if it was an allied or axis plane. 'rents-in-law don't talk about victory gardens because they both grew up on farms! "Victory" in this sense signified victory in war, so what does this second, more contemporary meaning refer to?

Does anyone remember when the "Victory Garden" television program first started airing on PBS? The show started over 30 years ago, roughly 20-30 years after the end of the WWII, so at the point the meaning of "victory" was perhaps more complex. "Victory Garden" in the nostalgic sense of keeping a small food garden, or maybe "victory" in the sense that you can be victorious in learning the secrets of small-garden farming.

On my street front yard gardens have started springing up and anyone who has thought about doing this has probably looked at the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. Now a website, Squre Foot Gardening has a wonderful "how to" page on the basic concepts of square foot gardening.

I believe that our 21st century victory gardens are going to be a return to some of the philosophy of sacrifice that we embraced during WWII. Home gardens will be impractical for many, but for some it could help supplement the family food budget as foods from other parts of the country become prohibitively more expensive to transport.
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