old landscape illustration


By Sonya Carpenter

During world War II, in the face of rationing and increased pressure on the public food supply nearly 20 million Americans picked up their spades and planted a victory garden. Food produced by these gardens accounted for up to 40% of all the vegetables consumed nationally. Eleanor Roosevelt had a victory garden planted on the White House grounds. Gardens sprang up on apartment rooftops, in the vacant lots of New York City and in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. “Plant more in 44” was a slogan that rang true in the dark days of war. In these times of economic instability and unpredictable energy supplies, it is high time we revisit the victory garden.

Today the food on our table travels an average of 1500 miles from its point of origin. The organically grown salad greens so ubiquitous in our grocery stores are convenient, but they all seem to come from California. Are they really good for us in the long run? What about all the fossil fuel used to bring them to our table? With a bit of good soil, a packet of seeds and some forethought you could pick your own fresh salad every day in your own back yard. As Steven Hopp succinctly states in the book Animal Vegetable, Miracle, “If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we could reduce our nation’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.”

Do not be deterred if you have never gardened before. You will be amazed by how much you can grow in a small 4 foot by 10 foot row. Just get out there and till up the ground and start with a few rows of lettuce seeds, potatoes or carrots. A few tomato plants in containers will supply you with an abundance of fresh delicious tomatoes. Not everyone has the space to plant a large vegetable garden in their yard. Fortunately, with a bit of creative thinking you can still produce or obtain local vegetables. Growing tomatoes, lettuce, or herbs in containers on your porch or balcony is easy to do. Look around your neighborhood for a community garden or a neighbor with the land but not the inclination to plant a garden. An exchange of fresh produce for the use of their land can be very enticing. Supporting your local farmer’s market or purchasing a share in a CSA is another great way to keep the miles off your food and strengthen ties in your community. Climate change is a reality we all must fight. Living in a Fast Food culture it can feel like a battle to feed our families healthy and sustainable food. Perhaps we too need a slogan to rally around. “Let your garden shine in 09”.