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History: War and Victory Gardens

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War and Victory Gardens were first promoted in World War 1 to make sure that America did not suffer a food shortage during the war. Throughout the U.S., including in Wyoming, residents were encouraged to grow and preserve their own food. Backyards, churchyards, parks, playgrounds and empty lots were put to good using growing food.

Today, the concept of community gardens is spreading again, such as at the Food Forest in Sheridan, where community members can forage for fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

But Victory and War Gardens were a part of life during the war years of WWI, and later in WWII.

This from The Laramie Republican, August 28, 1917 – National Emergency Food Garden Commission Says Food Question Is Paramount One – By Food Garden Commission. Special to the Laramie Republican. Washington, D. C, Aug. 28. — “Peace or war, the world faces biggest food crisis since man has been writing history,” said Charles Lathrop Pack of the National Emergency Food Garden commission today. “It is not a question of today, but one of tomorrow, that we must answer,” continued the man who has conducted a nation-wide food saving campaign in conjunction with the American forestry association, of which he is president. The commission, which is affiliated with the Forestry association, is now offering $6,000 in prizes for the best canned vegetables grown in war gardens. “With close to two million men under arms and a good prospect of having to help feed a big part of Europe, what are we going to do?” continued Mr. Pack. “The Scientific American” in its current issue calls it ‘a war tragedy.’ ln this article by H. C Hardy, I find this paragraph which tells the whole story: Science of Food. – ‘Will the United States government permit a useless criminal sacrifice of food, of labor, of money and courage and patriotism from its people because of lack of appreciation of the need of speed when perishable food must be harvested and stored or allowed to rot and freeze?’ Now turn to the commerce reports just issued and you will find that Harry A. McBride, vice consul at London, writing on the growing use of dried peas and beans says: “The scarcity of food supplies in Europe has resulted in an increased demand for many articles of food of this sort which has not been commonly used prior to the war.’

Prices on the Jump. “Mr. McBride then goes on to show how the prices are jumping because of this demand. What are you going to do about it? The National Emergency Food Garden commission is now sending out its second million of drying and canning manuals. They are free. Write for them and get busy. The department of agriculture has just issued a bulletin on saving seeds for next year. We are co-operating with them by sending out 100,000 of these in our mail. Get one and read it. “The time to act is now. Organize a canning club or join one. The experience will do you good and next year you may have to do it, so learn now.

Gardeners in Sheridan were urged to grow and can their own food as well. Of course, the country was at war, so there was some propaganda worked into the news stories.

The Sheridan Enterprise, April 16, 1918 – County agent gives information on War Gardens, Potatoes and Conserving Water. – County Agriculturist H.J. Thomas, our new county agent, herein gives some valuable information, that will be of use to city people.

Mr. Thomas says, “People all over the U. S. made a remarkable showing by planting summer gardens. The people of Sheridan did their part nobly, but at the end of the season many gardens were worthless because of the lack of water. Some of the people of Sheridan have not had enough water to grow their gardens while others have been known to have allowed the city water to run all night.

This is a time when we must think of the other fellow. We are at war. City water must be used to the best advantage possible. The coming summer a rigid campaign should be inaugurated against the excessive use of water. A schedule should be worked out so that people could water their lawns and gardens to the best advantage.

Anyone using water to excess should be pronounced pro-German because they by their action are preventing someone from obtaining enough water to raise a garden.

Potatoes – The potato is a very essential food for the people of our nation this year. Last year great acreages were planted with the result of over-production. This spring there are a large many farmers with a large supply on hand and no ready market. This over-supply will result in a decreased acreage this coming year. One year ago every one wanted potatoes and were not particular about the marketable condition but now. With the supply as it is potatoes must be marketable in order to sell at all. The general marketable requirement of the potato requires that they be of even size and that they be free from disease. Potatoes weighing 4 to 6 oz., should be placed by themselves, while those from 6 to 9 oz., should be placed together.

Two steps are very important then, for the coming year, and every farmer should strive to accomplish, first – treat your seed for disease; second – grade your potatoes so that they will be able to compete with potatoes as sold on the market. Information relating to the grading and treatment of potatoes for disease may be obtained from County Agent Thomas.

Young people were encouraged to be a part of the war effort as well by planting gardens. Boys and Girls War Garden Clubs were formed, and the members planted their own war gardens.

The Sheridan Enterprise, April 16, 1918 –War Garden Campaign to Start Monday – Professor J. J. Marshall has been appointed by the government as the local leader of the American Food Producers’ Association, better known as the Boys’ and Girls’ War Garden Club. County Agriculturist C. A. Marks is the county leader and will have control of the town work. He will work in co-operation with Mr. Marshall. The campaign will open on Monday and Tuesday in the schools, and it is desired that all boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18 enter this war garden campaign. Last year the vacant lots were used and was found unprofitable for several reasons.

In most cases the lots were many blocks away from the amateur gardener’s home and were sadly neglected. Also, the water supply was inadequate and out of the 100 members at the start of the campaign, only about one third of them finished. This year the war gardens will be confine to back yards, with perhaps one or two exceptions.

This year it is hoped to enroll over two hundred and have practically all of the members finished. The government will give a pin with a clover leaf on it, showing that the member has finished one year of garden work. Those that finished last year and will also work this year will receive a pin with two clover leaves upon it. Mr. Marks stated that the government will furnish sugar beet seed free to the boys and girls and will demonstrate later the process of making sugar syrup, the process being very simple.

At one time Northeast Wyoming grew a great many sugar beets. Many of the farmers in the Clear Creek Valley grew several acres of sugar beets for many years. During WWII, sugar beet farmers hired Germany POWs to work in the beet fields around Clearmont as well as many other areas in Wyoming

The above article continues: The government desires that parents give the children all the support possible, because without it, the war garden will probably be a failure. Every school will be organized into a club and meetings will be held from time to time and instruction given concerning gardens and how to maintain them. The war garden is very essential this year as the farmers have cut down on truck farming and because of the high prices on food that are bound to come. Enough vegetables can be raised in these war gardens to supply the family throughout the summer and by using the cold pack method. Fresh food can be placed on the table in midwinter. Every boy and girl should know this method and use it as it is very simple. A demonstrator will be sent around during the summer to demonstrate the cold pack method of preserving fresh food.

It is possible that senior high school girls will travel out of the county, demonstrating the cold pack method of putting up surplus food, and it is also probable that a market will be established during the summer for disposing of fresh vegetables. Members of the Garden Club will have an opportunity to exhibit their produce at the county fair, and championships will be awarded to five boys and five girls who will go to Laramie free of costs.

War gardens should be made wherever possible, so that we will be able to supply our needs and also to send out any surplus for our soldiers.

Later, after the war, the gardens were still important, but they were renamed ‘Victory Gardens.’

The Sheridan Enterprise, April 21, 1919 – Victory Gardens in Sheridan Are Being Planned – The county farm bureau director, Professor J. J. Early of Sheridan, announces that members of last year’s garden clubs who had war gardens are already making ambitious plans for the coming season.

The Victory Garden is now as vital as the war garden. Peace brings new food needs. In reclaiming territory from the enemy in France and Belgium the number of people who must be fed is greatly increased. Europe cannot feed herself during the first year of reconstruction. Mr. Hoover says that the world food shortage will last for another seven years. The War Garden must now be made a Victory Garden in the full sense of the word. Last year the Sheridan County Garden club members raised 105,000 pounds of foodstuffs.

This year there must be an even greater crop than last year. America has pledged her honor to send abroad two-thirds more food than she sent in 1918— a total this year of twenty-million tons. The carrying out of this pledge depends upon the loyal hep of every citizen and the pledge itself lays a special duty upon the garden club members of America.

Soon after the armistice was signed, Premier Lloyd George announced that one of the great tasks for Great Britain and America is to organize the world against starvation. In this program — so vital to the future of democracy, the club members of America have a great part to play. A total of 2,500,000 boys and girls were enrolled last year and with but an average of only $20 profit each, which is probably very low, a total of $50,000,000 worth of foodstuffs and livestock were produced by club members.

This year these enthusiasts will not lay down their hoes because the drums have ceased to beat but will loyally respond to the need of the world. The schools of Sheridan which did such creditable work last year will be reorganized shortly and Director Early expects every loyal boy and girl with the necessary land to join the movement for Victory Gardens.

It is hard to imagine today, when we can buy nearly every type of vegetable or fruit, either fresh, canned or frozen at the nearby supermarket, that at one time everyone had to grow and preserve their own fresh food, and that during WWI the world was an entirely different place than it is today. The War Gardens and the Victory Gardens were also a way for the people on the home front, even here in Sheridan, Wyoming, to contribute to the war effort.

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