During WW1 and WW2, 20 million Victory Gardens were planted in backyards, parks, and rooftops to help with food production. They grew 41 percent of the produce that was consumed in the nation. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons.
Growing a Victory garden was patriotic. But once the war was over, people thought backyard gardening was no longer necessary. This is when large, monoculture farms became the solution. Because there is no crop rotation or diversity in this large scale singular crop model of farming, the use of herbicides and pesticides increased. This lead to genetically modified food. Now we have chemicals in our food and relatively new GM food (in 1996 the EPA approved the first eight transgenic crops) occupying most of the shelf space in grocery stores. Instinctually, some people are not willing to eat something that is designed to kill another part of the ecosystem. Science has backed up these reservations and proved the dangers of the chemicals and genetically modified food. The most recent testing of GM foods in the UK on rats showed various physical changes including pre-cancerous cells.
Trucking food takes fuel and ends up costing more (out of our pockets and into our air) than gardening. If 4 tomato plants cost about $15, and the average yield for 4 plants is 60 pounds, then you will pay approximately .25 per pound as opposed to at least $1.50 per pound at the grocery store. And they taste so much better too.
Growing a garden is not the only way to offset our carbon footprint. Planting a tree is also hugely beneficial to our air quality. A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs per year and release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support 2 people. If every American family planted just one tree, the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere would be reduced by one billion pounds annually. 300 trees can counterbalance the amount of air pollution one person produces in a lifetime.
Growing something can be as time consuming as you want it to be. Planting a tree, a windowsill herb garden, and vegetables planted in pots or bags can all be pretty quick processes. Raised beds or tilled gardens take more time but that extra “room” can be very rewarding.
Whether inspired by homegrown vegetables, herbs, and fruit, a pea pod or green bean teepee with the little ones, a field of flowers, a sunflower patch, a butterfly garden, or watching something grow and change through the seasons, there are countless inspirations out there.
I propose a new kind of victory garden. A victory garden in support of individual health, community sustainability, and for the health of the ecosystem as a whole.