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Time to Grow an Urban Victory Garden!

Let us hearken back to a time when frugality and a sense of serving the common good saved communities. I refer to the period during the world wars when “Victory Gardens”...

Virologist Ian Mackay, adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, was reported to have recommended that, as COVID-19 isn't widespread in most parts of the world,

"now is a great time to make a list, label up a 'Pandemic Stash' box, and begin to slowly fill it with items that won't go off and that you won't touch unless needed."

He released a list of items to collect in case COVID-19 is declared a pandemic—but stressed that people should not panic buy or hoard.

So this morning we read about the stockpiling of supermarket items.

The Kraken has been released.

Let us hearken back to a time when frugality and a sense of serving the common good saved communities. I refer to the period during the world wars when “Victory Gardens” (also known as “war gardens” or “food gardens for defence”) were established in private homes and parks in Australia and other countries involved in the wars. In the US by 1944, around 20 million families planted Victory Gardens and grew 40% of the country's vegetables!

They were used along with Rationing Stamps and Cards to reduce pressure on the public food supply. 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 labour and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front.

These days it is of great concern that our food comes from the economic enterprise of one to two percent of the population who are farmers. The other ninety eight percent or thereabouts rely on the ongoing capability of the few. It would take only a small catastrophe, related to supply or transport, to disrupt our regular food supplies.

Our personal reliance on such a vulnerable food production and supply system is the weak link in our survival kit but most of us are not aware of this. 

In these unstable times, the knowledge of how to grow your own food to survive is an imperative.

The following article  Victory gardens, Second World War by Michael McKernan, All in! : fighting the war at home(Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, NSW 1995), describes how Victory Gardens assisted to increase the availability of fresh food to the nation.

During 1942 food shortages began to have an impact on the Australian home front. The agricultural industry was struggling with massive labour shortages, a severe and prolonged drought, and major shortfalls in imports of seed stock and fertiliser. There was a growing realisation that unless agriculture became a focus of the war effort, food shortages would be imminent.

In January 1942 the Prime Minister, John Curtin, launched “Dig for Victory”, a publicity campaign urging householders throughout Australia to grow their own vegetables as a contribution to the war effort. The press loved and promoted the idea, as did industry and local community groups.

Many Australians were already keen home vegetable gardeners, being self-sufficient, with fruit and vegetables and a “chook shed” down the back. Others took to the idea afresh and turned over their whole front and back gardens to vegetable production, often selling excess produce to raise funds for the front. Some people formed neighbourhood gardening groups as a means of feeding their families. Others formed gardening collectives, specifically to raise funds for the war effort. Legacy, the Red Cross, the YWCA, and the Salvation Army were some of the organisations that received funds raised through neighbourhood gardening.

The idea of establishing “Garden Armies” was invented by the YWCA, who created “Garden Army Week” in July 1942 to advertise the cause. Melbourne recruits rose from 500 in June that year to several thousand in July. The garden armies received broad media coverage, from photographs of women in overalls wielding pitchforks to attention-grabbing production targets, such as 50 tons of onions for the front. Many municipal councils also organised gardening collectives and some councils provided incentives, including awarding volunteers a badge with a three carrots design.

As the fear of invasion dissipated towards the end of 1943 food production became more of a national priority. Even though improvements were made in the agricultural sector to meet the demands of war, home gardening continued to raise funds and morale, and feed local communities and families, throughout the war.


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