During this period, food was a big issue. In my last article, I made reference to the fact that many citizens are making early preparations for their spring garden. Because food and energy costs are related, it makes sense for citizens to produce their own food. When food is shipped from the farm to the store then to your table, gasoline is used. As gasoline prices rise, our food costs rise as well.
Today, many wise forecasters are saying Americans should start planting “Victory Gardens.” Victory gardens became common and important during World War II. Because of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. It was hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market because of labor and transportation shortages. So, our government turned to U.S. citizens and encouraged them to plant victory gardens.
The government wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables. It is reported that 20 million Americans answered the call. Gardens were planted in backyards, empty lots and even on city rooftops. Citizens pooled their resources and planted different kinds of food in the name of patriotism. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the victory gardens yielded between 9 and 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables. This amount was equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables.
Along with producing this huge quantity of food, families were encouraged to can their own vegetables in order to save the commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, 315,000 pressure canners were bought as compared to 66,000 in 1942. Albert Jones, a native of Carroll, and his friend Naomi of Greene County, who are in the above picture, remember vividly the World War II years and the emphasis placed on food production. Naomi, who had two brothers and her husband serving in the military, remembers how rural and town people as well had victory gardens and did their own canning.
Albert, who has been a farmer and avid gardener throughout most of his 97 years, remembers the effort made by everyone to produce their own food and any surplus as well. According to Jones, there were canning plants in Carrollton, Bowdon and Villa Rica where local residents could take their vegetables and meat to be preserved in tin cans. Glass jars were available to all residents for home food preservation. By all accounts, victory gardens made a huge difference in helping to preserve national and personal freedom.
When World War II ended, our government stopped promoting victory gardens. Most Americans did not plant a garden in the spring of 1946, and the U.S. is said to have experienced some food shortages that summer. At the present time, we are experiencing a transition from the strong economy of the 1980s and the 1990s to a weak or failing economy now. Those who say there are lessons to be learned from the past proclaim it would be a good time for Americans to again plant a victory garden.
I end this article with a quote from the famous industrialist Henry Ford: “No unemployment insurance can be compared to an alliance between man and a plot of land.”
(Taylor is a Carroll County resident and local forester.)