an array of picked vegetables

During the severe food crises of World War I and II, the U.S. government along with several other countries, encouraged citizens to plant victory gardens in their own backyards, balconies and rooftops to supplement their rations and to boost morale.

The citizens responded! By May 1943, there were 18 million victory gardens in the United States. Estimates at the time concluded that roughly 40 percent of the nation’s vegetables came from gardens grown at home or schools. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 8,200,000–9,100,000 tons in 1944, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables.

Now, the victory gardens planted by our parents and grandparents have returned as the next generation of Americans has found themselves dealing with food uncertainty and an interest in becoming more self-sustainable.

But for many us confined to our homes during the coronavirus outbreak, our gardens also offer sanctuary and therapeutic value in trying times. The act of gardening or being in a garden surrounded by plants is good for one’s soul and overall wellbeing. We’re slowing down, resting, relishing small pleasures, eliminating what is not essential and focusing on what is real: the earth in our hands and the slow, dependable process of nature turning seed into food.

Watch this video of second generation Al’s owner, Jack Bigej, as he remembers a time when everyone he knew had a Victory Garden and how a return to the garden may be just what we need.

When this crisis passes, as we know it will, we will have the choice to go back to how things used to be, neglecting the garden in favor of stocking up at the grocery stores without stress or worry, but as Jack says, there’s only one problem once you’ve tried homegrown - you’ll never want to go back.