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Liberty and Victory Gardens During World Wars I and II and Benefits of Gardening Today

Posted distributed by the National War Garden Commission

Posted distributed by the National War Garden Commission

Liberty Gardens During World War I

In 1917, the world was in the midst of the largest war ever, with more countries at war than at peace. People were starving in the countries of the Allied Forces in Europe, with over 120 million people in need of food. The problem started in the summer of 1914 when the farmers had gone to war, leaving their crops to die.

Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission under the auspices of the US Congress. The Commission called for all Americans to "put their idle land to work" and plant Liberty Gardens. Programs were set up to teach citizens how to grow and preserve food through canning and drying. The theory was that produce from the gardens would secure our national food supply and be shipped to our hungry allies.

Seed companies distributed pamphlets to teach gardening basics. They provided a list of about 25 vegetables to include in gardens, such as beans, corn, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, and other not-so-common vegetables like kohlrabi and rutabagas.

In response, gardens grew across the United States and Canada in rural and urban areas such as parks, school yards, window boxes, and even front yards of fashionable homes. The campaign mounted by the Commission used posters like the ones pictured here with catchy slogans such as "Every War Garden is a Peace Plant," "Sow the Seeds of Victory," and "Put the Slacker Land to Work."

People realized it was their national duty to participate, and by 1918 there were over 5 million Liberty Gardens planted thanks to the successful campaign of the National War Garden Commission.

This poster was distributed by the National War Garden Commission to publicize their free bulletin on how to grow a garden.

This poster was distributed by the National War Garden Commission to publicize their free bulletin on how to grow a garden.

Victory Gardens During World War II

During the World War II years, it is estimated that 20 million Victory Gardens (like the Liberty Gardens of World War I) were planted, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's at the White House. With loved ones away from home fighting the war, the gardens gave the soldiers' families a sense of pride and an outlet for their fear. Gardening was a morale booster for the folks on the home front who heeded the call to patriotism. The fruits and vegetables grown in the gardens helped with the food budgets of American families during tough economic times.

Planting Gardens Since the War Years

After the war years, gardening was mostly a hobby for Americans, especially during the 1950's and 1960's. America experienced a "back to the land" movement of the hippie days that didn't last during the prosperity of the 1980's and 1990's. Today, because of the poor economy and concerns about healthy living, gardening has experienced a resurgence. Seed companies have reported record sales and there is a growing interest in organic gardening. Planting a garden is an excellent way to save on grocery bills and is a family activity that will entice children to get outside and be more active.

A grassroots effort began a few years ago to encourage community gardens to help feed the needy on local levels. Gardens are being planted in public spaces as projects for social and community organizations with the produce being donated to local food banks and homeless shelters.

With 1/3 of America's children overweight, there are programs to teach the value of eating properly. First Lady Michelle Obama, during her husband's administration, planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy food. She also wrote a book about the White House kitchen garden to create enthusiasm for gardening.

"Some kids have never seen what a real tomato looks like off the vine. They don't know where a cucumber comes from. And that really affects the way they view food. So a garden helps them really get their hands dirty, literally, and understand the whole process of where their food comes from."

— First Lady MIchelle Obama

Benefits of Gardening Today

A garden in your yard is beneficial to your family for many reasons:

  • Without a doubt, it stretches your food budget.
  • Your home-grown vegetables will have more nutritional value than those that have been picked, shipped and stored in your local grocery store. Every day a vegetable is off the vine, it loses some of its healthy benefits.
  • You will know that no harmful chemicals were sprayed on your vegetables.
  • Gardening is good outdoor exercise!
  • Planting a garden is a wonderful family project. It is never too early to teach your children the benefits of a backyard garden and it is a way to enjoy quality family time.
  • Donating your extra garden goodies teaches your kids the meaning of "help thy neighbor".
  • Tending a garden with your child is educational and an excellent opportunity to spend time making memories.

When it comes to the benefits of gardening, there are lessons to be learned from the past.

© 2012 Thelma Raker Coffone

Please Share Your Comments About "Liberty and Victory Gardens During World Wars I and II and Benefits of Gardening Today"

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 24, 2012:

Oh okay Thelma--beautiful area up there. Going on a little trip soon through N. Ga. and on to Murphy.

Thelma Raker Coffone (author) from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on July 24, 2012:

Alastar thanks for taking the time to comment. It seems that I live in your neck of the woods now. I'm in north Georgia mountains about 10 miles from North Carolina. I had commented on your Jean Ribault story that I was from Jacksonville but have been gone from there for 40 years. Love the Georgia/North Carolina area.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 24, 2012:

Those were awesome years for posters like the two you have here Thelma. I'm glad you wrote on the victory gardens. How about that slogan 'But the Slacker Land to Work.' lol. Good points about planting gardens since the wars too. So true about healthier kids, lord knows.

Thelma Raker Coffone (author) from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on March 27, 2012:

Thanks Deborah. I enjoyed researching this and learning about the Victory and Liberty gardens. I'm thinking many people today aren't familiar with those programs from the War days.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on March 27, 2012:

I love seeing the resurgence of gardening today. I think it's a great way to get people to eat better and exercise and teach kids where their food comes from. Nice hub!

Thelma Raker Coffone (author) from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA on March 25, 2012:

Thanks for your comments Vicki. Where I live in the mountains of north Georgia, we don't plant outside until after May 1st. Even though it has been unusually warm here, you never know if we will still get cold weather or snow here. Good luck with your garden!


Sojourner McConnell from Winchester Kentucky on March 25, 2012:

Perfect timing on this hub. I have my starter seeds growing in the sun room out back waiting to be planted in the ground in a few weeks. Great hub!