Victory gardens are popping up all over. Last seen during World War II, these gardens now represent our fight to regain control of our lives and our health. They are the first battlefields against the increasing corporate tyranny, a battle that may end with us throwing off the philosophy of every man for himself and a realization that we are all together in this thing called life.
World War II united people and allowed them to reach into the depths of themselves and pull up a resourcefulness they didn't know they had. During this time of horror and hope people realized that they were living out a great saga in their lives, and in this saga they all had a part to play. The world was a violent and dramatic place, yet also an awakening happened, a vision of unity and understanding. The victory garden has come to symbolize this unity and vision.
What's a victory garden?
It was emphasized to urban and suburban dwellers that the produce from their gardens would help provide the nutritious food needed by the soldiers to keep them fighting strong. It would also help keep the price of that food low, so the War Department would have more money to spend on other military needs. The victory garden would also help solve the shortages of labor and transportation that made it difficult to harvest and transport produce to market. One poster from the mid 1940's reading, "Our food is fighting" portrayed the high sense of patriotism so characteristic of the time.
The Department of Agriculture along with agribusiness corporations distributed booklets providing information about basic gardening techniques. In 1943, 20 million gardens were producing 8 million tons of food. Victory gardens were planted in backyards, apartment building roofs, vacant lots, backyards, and pretty much every available patch of dirt and container throughout the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, doing whatever had to be done.
Magazines printed stories about victory gardens, and women's magazines provided instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Sales of pressure cookers to use in canning skyrocketed as families were encouraged to can their own vegetables. Home canners used non-toxic glass mason jars. The government as well as businesses urged families to make gardening a group effort. At the peak of the effort, 9-10 million tons of produce was produced, an amount equal to all commercial production. Even children and teenagers willingly took part in the work of the garden.
The victory garden was clearly a victory on many levels.
Why victory gardens are back in style
Today we are again involved in fighting a battle, but this time the battle involves how to stay healthy and live genuine lives in a world where everything is increasing stacked against us.
Today's commercially grown produce comes from soils depleted of the minerals and nutrients so necessary to keep us healthy in our polluted and stressful environment. Plants grown in depleted soils are less healthy and able to resist attack by pests, so the use of pesticides is more prevalent than ever. Much of our big agribusiness produce is now being grown in foreign countries not subject to highly controlled use of pesticide. Today's big food corporations choose the cheapest, most effective pesticides, not the ones that are least toxic to humans and other life forms. Along with pesticide residues, our produce contains residual amounts of soil depleting synthetic chemical fertilizers which are toxic to our livers.
Parabolic gas prices are estimated to increase wholesale food prices by 30 percent in the coming months. We wonder how we will be able to continue buying quality foods to keep us healthy. Fruits and vegetables are on the road for 1500 miles on average, before they reach the supermarkets. Produce is picked without having a chance to ripen so it can withstand the long trip to market. During this process, even more of the nutrients are lost. When it finally reaches the supermarket, produce can sit in cold storage for a week before being put out for sale.
We want to have access to health promoting fruits and vegetables during the winter months without them having to be flown in from other parts of the world. Asparagus from Argentina in January is a luxury few can afford. Yet we are told that our commercially canned produce contains carcinogenic and toxic bisphenol-A.
We're short on money to put gas into the SUV to drive our children around to their programmed activities. At the same time, we are realizing that our children are not really learning what is important in life. We yearn for projects and activities that will bring our families together.
We are stressed out and overworked trying to get the money to buy all the stuff that corporations have decided we must have. Our closets and homes are filled, but our bank accounts are empty. We are so busy that we seldom see our family as a whole or do activities in which the whole family participates. It's time to say 'no' to the big corporate food sellers and big oil. It's time to reach inside ourselves again and rediscover that kernel of resourcefulness. It is still there.
Victory gardens and the new age
A victory garden is a manifestation of new thinking, new vision and an explosion of new understanding. We not only live in this world but we help create it. We can choose to participate in unity and renewal, and to become part of the higher forms of consciousness. We are at the point now where evolution can become conscious of itself.
We can choose to participate in a new age of creative intelligence and love. This new age is like a rising tide which may wash away those who seek to go on working in accordance with that old law of every man for himself. It is a movement just beginning like the emergence of a tiny shoot in spring. You can tear out that shoot or stomp on it, but there is no way that you can hold back the coming of spring.
We have had enough of the old ways of thinking, and we are here to take back control of our lives, our health, our resources, and our futures. We are resisting the control of destructive governmental and corporate forces. We are developing an energy and enthusiasm that characterizes new values, new ways of living, new survival techniques, and new experiences.
A garden that symbolizes our part in this evolution is a challenge and a source of immense hope. If a family or group is able to achieve this, others will follow and the movement will grow. In a time of famine for many and threatened famine for many others, the victory garden is an indication of a new way the earth can be made more fruitful. We must have a vision.
We realize with horror what the human race in its greed and arrogance is doing to the earth, and the life forms on it. Our ignorance of the realities of nature has led us to follow all sorts of practices which hurt and alienate. We are at the juncture where we may either come to be parasites upon the planet, or we may come to a new enlightenment. The choice is ours.
A victory garden can be our symbol of the victory of the decision to be part of the new enlightenment. It can provide us with a way to re-establish a positive relationship with nature as we are called on to love life-giving plants, to cherish and nurture them, to talk to them, and thank them for all their work for us. When we have reached out to do this, we are breaking down barriers within our minds, and our resistance to this new age will dissolve. We are readying ourselves to go forth openly toward nature with a loving attitude.
Remember, this is not somebody's thought out plan. It is a phenomenon and an expression of the living energies for renewal that are sweeping through our society. This is a creative energy to renew in many facets, the garden being just one of them. The garden is an expression of a community filled with energy, enthusiasm and love for all life.
A garden teaches us the secrets of creation in various ways. Once we make the decision to pull back from the getting and spending lifestyle, we learn the power within us to create our world by the choices we make. We realize that we no longer have to be controlled by the power of events, but that by our power of thought, we control events. We can bring about what is in our thoughts.
When this is our direction we will have the confidence to succeed in the garden. Gardening is about the relationship we have with the plants. When we love and cherish them, they will return the favor. Plants are like our children. A child who is loved thrives no matter what the conditions are, but a child who has no love dies. Gardening is never about technique or the color of your thumb. It is about what is in your heart and spirit.
About the author
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.