During World War II, commercial food production was greatly affected by the war effort in the US. More food needed to go to the front lines to support the troops, so the US government encouraged citizens to start Victory Gardens (also called War Gardens)–small gardens planted in backyards, empty lots, apartment rooftops and even public parks. These gardens were primarily needed to ease the burden on commercial food production, but they were also seen as a way to boost morale amongst the public. Citizens felt that they could help win the war from their own back yard. They took pride in supporting the war effort, but also experienced the satisfaction of successfully producing preserving their own food. The beauty of the Victory Garden movement was that so many people bought in to the idea. While each individual garden was small, there were so many of them that it made a huge difference. An estimated 20 million gardens were planted. That’s a lot of food! Unfortunately many people stopped planting their gardens once the war was over.
While things have changed quite a bit since the 1940’s, we can still benefit greatly from growing our own food. As people have become more aware of the benefits of eating fresh, healthy foods, home gardening is making a comeback. Even First Lady Michelle Obama planted a garden on the white house grounds as a way to promote healthy eating. I urge everyone to consider gardening. Even if your space is limited you have options. Consider growing a small herb garden in a window sill or on a balcony. Container gardens can be grown in an area as small as 1 square foot. If you can;t grow your own food for whatever reason, then try to purchase food from a local source, such as a farmer’s market or co-op.
Here are some things to consider:
• Most of the food in your supermarket travels thousands of miles in trucks or planes to get from the farm to the shelves. Think about how much fuel us used to transport those items. What kind of impact does that have on the environment? When you purchase food at the store, you’re also paying for the cost of shipping and storing that food. What kind of impact does that have on your wallet?
• While organic foods have grown in popularity, many commercially available foods are still sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and preservative formulas to prevent disease and spoilage. Not only can these chemicals pose health risks to you, they also impact the environment through air and water pollution. When you grow your own food, you’ll know exactly what it contains, so you don’t have to be concerned about the chemicals you may be exposed to.
• By growing and preserving your own food, you’ll save money. Food grown from seed costs a lot less than store-bought. By preserving your harvest you can reduce the amount of food you throw away due to spoilage. In addition, you can save the seeds from the fruits of your plants and replant them next year. By following these practices you could feed yourself indefinitely.
• Food that you grow yourself just tastes better. Fresh food is more nutritious and has better flavor than the stuff that comes from the store.
• Gardening has many other benefits, such as exercise, spending time outdoors, reduction in stress, etc.