The Victory Garden

Story and Photos by E.C. McRoy, Managing Editor

The term Victory Garden was first coined by George Washington Carver, a means of encouraging those at home to feel as though they were contributing to the war effort, said Andrews.

Not unlike the current pandemic, people during the world wars who couldn’t participate as soldiers were left at home with a sense of “what can we do?” said Andrews.

Andrews said Victory Gardens allowed those at home affected by the war—or in this case, the pandemic—to have a sense of agency and the ability to contribute to the war effort.

Victory Gardens served a practical purpose, said Andrews, to encourage homefront participation as well as providing needed food sources that wouldn’t be diverted from the war, however, the gardens also served to illustrate the civil issues in the U.S.

“During segregation, there would be different prizes for the African-Americans,” said Andrews on growing and gardening competitions.

This is particularly acute given today’s political climate with Black Lives Matter protests going on across the country.

Agencies were created and paid for by the government to create interest in gardening, encouraged by everything from posters to radio announcements about the “gardening, v for victory movement”, said Andrews.

There isn’t propaganda for Victory Gardens anymore, said Andrews, but in a time when people are encouraged to stay home, home-gardening isn’t a bad option.

There is a natural inclination to participate in cooperative plans and gardening encourages these human tendencies, such as in communal gardening.

“In some ways, it’s inspiring to think about Victory Gardens in both world wars in other ways it’s kind of disheartening that the industrial revolution and this shift in humanity from being … an agricultural race to … the urban working class and the communal aspects of humanity were shed in favor of a tremendously competitive one so in both world wars this local communalism … literally has to be encouraged and inspired and directed by government,” said Andrews.

“I’ve always considered the VG movement to be both inspiring but also disheartening because it shows the real impact of unchecked, unrestrained capitalism on human nature,” said Andrews.

Andrews suggested that the organic food movement may have revitalized the interest in local produce production, community gardens, and things similar to Victory Gardens.

“We walked back out of the mentality of the ‘60s that communalism was something only the radicals and extremists did,” said Andrews.

Organic produce tends to be more expensive due to the individual work involved with cultivating the produce, said Andrews, which initially caused grumblings about the cost.

Those interested in attempting their own home gardens might look at beets, cabbage, peas, and kale, crops which are easier to grow even in sectioned, smaller areas.

“Beets were common, cabbage was common, potatoes extremely easy to grow and took almost no agricultural or horticultural skill at all,” said Andrews.

Andrews used to be an organic grower in the nineties before becoming a history professor at CNM and although he feels that intellectually, he has made the correct choice to become a professor, he also wonders about what might have happened had he chosen to stay with the organic growers movement.

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