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

Updated on August 30, 2016
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Thelma Raker Coffone is an award winning writer who enjoys writing on a variety of topics. She is working on her first fiction novel.

Posters Like This Were Used to Promote Liberty and Victory Gardens

Poster Distributed by the National War Garden Commission.
Poster Distributed by the National War Garden Commission. | Source

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 off to war, leaving their crops in the fields 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 the citizens how to plant and preserve food through canning and drying. The theory was that produce from the gardens would secure our national food supply and would also be shipped to our hungry allies.

Pamphlets were distributed by seed companies, teaching gardening basics and providing a list of about 25 vegetables to include in a liberty garden. Plants such as beans, corn, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and other not so common garden vegetables like kohlrabi and rutabagas.

In response, gardens "sprung up" across the United States and Canada in rural and urban areas such as parks, school yards, and even front yards of fashionable homes and in window boxes. 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". The 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.

Uncle Sam Says, "Plant a Garden to Cut Food Costs"

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. | Source

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 that were 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 planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn to raise awareness of healthy food.

"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

Excellent tool to teach your child about Victory Gardens. Appropriate for Children in Grades 2 - 4

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 to 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.

Gardens are no longer just for the poor, but for everyone.

Will You Plant a Garden This Year?

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© 2012 Thelma Raker Coffone

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

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    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

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

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 4 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      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 profile image

      Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

      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.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 5 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      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.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      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!

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 5 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      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!


    • vicki goodwin profile image

      Sojourner McConnell 5 years ago from Winchester Kentucky

      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!

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