Let’s All Grow a Victory Garden!
Have you eaten any home grown vegetables lately? I must admit that I haven’t. After trying to
grow my own tomatoes two summers in a row, I conceded to the huge green larvae in our back
yard. During World War II, home grown vegetables were a major part of the American diet. With
war rationing, those on the homefront were strongly encouraged to grow their own “victory
gardens.” An estimated 20.5 million victory gardens produced at least one third of all the
vegetables consumed in the United States in 1943. Men and women on the homefront liked
feeling they were part of the war effort and were often creative in their selection of victory
garden locations. Gardens could be found on rooftops, in parking lots, and even at gas stations!
Listen to Sheril Jankovsky Cunning tell about her family’s victory garden in the book The
“We had the most miserable, hard-as-cement, three-by-five-foot plot of ground, and grew
radishes and carrots as our contribution to the war. But radishes weren’t anybody’s mainstay, and
our carrots never got bigger than an inch. Yet we all wanted to do our part for the war. You got
caught up in the mesmerizing spirit of patriotism. There was a huge neighborhood lot on our
block where many people grew things. You could hardly walk in that plot. There were a dozen
different kinds of squash, corn everywhere, beans growing on poles taller than my head. As a
child it seemed like the Garden of Eden. Community spirit always ran high. Everybody grew
something different and traded around.”
Like Sheril’s family, even soldiers on the homefront participated in the victory garden
movement. My great grandfather, Willis C. Barry, farmed for the soldiers at Fort McClellan for
fifty cents an hour. He grew corn, tomatoes, beans, onions, and more for the soldiers. What have
you grown lately? Ready to grow your own victory garden?
“So, you’re the one who’s going to attend to our little victory garden here,” the
soldier said and extended his hand. Carson met it with his own.
“I suppose so.”
The older man was about his height, wore thick glasses, and was slim. He
looked more like a banker than a soldier and didn’t match any of Carson’s
preconceived notions about what men in the Army should look like.
Songbird, Chapter 19