The Rise of Victory Gardens (and the Modern World)

As American as apple pie, the victory garden has been a patriotic gesture since the first World War, but what’s the meaning behind this vintage tradition and how has it evolved in recent times? Let’s find out.

The Beginning

Right before the United States entered World War I, Charles Lathrop Pack had launched the war garden campaign to encourage Americans to grow their own food and assist with the war effort. Food production fell dramatically during this time. Victory gardens were vegetable plots that were planted to increase food production during a war. Gardens were planted everywhere from backyards to playgrounds to vacant lots. When President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to the head of the U.S. Food Administration, he created a program that encouraged Americans to consume less and produce more, according to the Virginia Historical Society. This act was dubbed “Hooverizing” and thanks to his efforts, Hoover avoided wartime rationing.

Victory gardens became heavily promoted from 1943 through 1945 during the second World War, according to the Virginia Historical Society. Eleanor Roosevelt was the original first lady who instituted a victory garden on the White House property despite protests from the Department of Agriculture. By 1944, 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the United States came from victory gardens.

Modern Times and Michelle Obama

Since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden, first lady Michelle Obama has created her own organic vegetable garden in March 2009 with the help of students from Washington D.C.’s Bancroft Elementary School. The vegetable garden was cultivated in partnership with the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative to raise a healthier generation of kids.

As of October 2016, Michelle Obama has revealed plans to make the vegetable garden a permanent fixture on the White House grounds with cement, stone and steel.

The Future

While the United States government hasn’t issued a call for victory gardens for some time, there are many smaller groups who are spreading the word about growing vegetables. The Victory Garden Initiative is one group who expresses the need for communities to support each other through gardening. According to their website, the group believes that “every person, in every household, can connect to their food source through the act of growing it.”

Similarly, The Classroom Victory Garden Project was created to teach elementary students about the role of the community in World War II through an interdisciplinary curriculum designed to connect the past with present. Teachers and students are able to register their gardens and have access to instructions to create their own classroom garden.

With Michelle Obama’s plan to make the vegetable garden a permanent fixture and with the 2016 election season in full swing, there have not been any comments from candidates Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump regarding what they would do with the garden. Nonetheless, the next commander-in-chief will reap the next harvest of the White House victory garden.