War Garden Girls, Washington D.C., 1919

Restoration & Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

Restoration & Colorization by Manos Athanasiadis

National Emergency War Gardens Commission. Girl Scouts and others. Washington D.C., 1919 (Harris & Ewing Collection / Library of Congress)

National Emergency War Gardens Commission. Girl Scouts and others. Washington D.C., 1919 (Harris & Ewing Collection / Library of Congress)

Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Germany during World War I and World War II. They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply.
Food production had fallen dramatically during World War I, especially in Europe, where agricultural labor had been recruited into military service and remaining farms devastated by the conflict.
In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the war garden campaign.
Charles Lathrop Pack (1857–1937), a third-generation timberman, was “one of the five wealthiest men in America prior to World War I”. During World War I, he was a principal organizer and was heavily involved in the war garden movement in the United States. Pack and others conceived the idea that the supply of food could be greatly increased without the use of land and manpower already engaged in agriculture, and without the significant use of transportation facilities needed for the war effort.

Poster for National War Garden Commission, by J.Paul Verrees, 1918

Poster for National War Garden Commission, by J.Paul Verrees, 1918

To support the home garden effort, a United States School Garden Army was launched through the Bureau of Education, and funded by the War Department at President Wilson’s direction.

Food will win the war.”
Pr. Woodrow Wilson

Besides indirectly aiding the war effort, these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front. The campaign promoted the cultivation of available private and public lands, resulting in over five million gardens in the USA and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.
Sources / More to Read:
Wikipedia: Victory garden
Wikipedia: Charles Lathrop Pack
City Farmer: How the ‘National Emergency Food Garden Commission’ Will Help the Nation’s Food Supply
Library of Congress
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