Thursday, June 18, 2009

Recession gardening, Victory Gardens, and Family Tales

Last season, the news was full of a new term: Recession Gardens. Folks across the U.S.A. were figuring out what we backyard gardeners already knew: fresh home grown veggies are inexpensive and delicious, with less risk of contamination in the harvest or shipping process. Whether I call it recession garden or kitchen garden, this plot of soil will produce the produce my family loves.


Mother-In-Law recently shared a story about her childhood in Milwaukee. MIL spent her formative years on Milwaukee's north side, around 41st Street between Silver Spring and Capitol Drive. They lived in a small house, and her father bought the two lots on either side when the owners were in arrears on their taxes. "He got them cheap!" she told Husband. Using the extra lots, the family started what she refers to as their Victory Farm in the city of Milwaukee.

They grew vegetables, they raised chickens (she remembers having about 500!), and near the back of their extended lots they grew the grain to feed the fowl. She, as the only daughter, canned their produce as it ripened. When they had more than the family needed, she would work out trades with the neighbors and/or the small grocers in the neighborhood. She remembers trading berries she'd canned for a crate of peaches. As she canned the peaches, she threw a few peach pits in the backyard, and (you guessed it!) ended up with two peach trees. As these hardy cold-weather trees began to bear fruit, the family had one more crop of their own.


I've read that at one time Victory Gardens produced 40% of the nation's food supply. That figure seemed rather high at first glance, but if a lot of city families did what my MIL's family did, 40% could be a realistic estimate. MIL told Husband that the family started their Victory Farmette before WWII, toward the end of the Great Depression. It must have been fairly well established by the time the Victory Garden became the trendy thing to do.


My backyard plot - call it Kitchen Garden, Recession Garden, or just my patch of dirt - won't come near Victory Garden quantities. I can only hope it'll grow stories that I can tell my kids when they have kids of their own. Maybe they'll talk about how their mother liked to play in the dirt all summer long and added home grown spinach to everything they ate!

Enjoy the home-grown and local food, everyone, and keep telling the family tales. That's the kind of growth and stimulus our country will always need.

This is a compilation of two earlier posts, reworked and revised for Scribbit's June Write-Away Contest. Her theme is "Food." Win or lose, growing some of our own food is important to me, so this post is a good fit. Deadline for entries is Sunday, June 21 at midnight Alaska time.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Swistle said...

The Victory/Recession Garden concept appeals to me, I think because it gives a good reason to try something I might otherwise be nervous to try. I can tell it appeals to my husband, too, since he dug up a big chunk of our yard to plant tomatoes and peppers this year!

6/19/2009 5:23 AM  
Blogger Lisa Sharp said...

I'm loving seeing so many more gardens around!!

6/19/2009 11:07 PM  
Blogger TC said...

"Enjoy the home-grown and local food...keep telling the family tales. That's the kind of growth and stimulus our country will always need."

Here here!! Well said Ms. Daisy.

6/20/2009 1:19 PM  
Blogger Scribbit said...

I've always done fine with flower gardens but vegetables? Not so much. We can only grow a few things here (at least compared to other places) and then daylight tends to make things flower too quickly.

6/20/2009 6:38 PM  
Anonymous cityslipper (food dryer home) said...

I've always wondered: Why does something have to become a trend before everyone starts doing it?

But seriously: It is kind of sad that society has dragged itself so far away from the soil... We once had a visitor point at a carrot top in the garden and ask, "Is that a tomato?" She wasn't being funny; she simply had never before seen any of her food "in the wild."

Growing a kitchen garden isn't hard work; seeds want to become plants, and plants want to reproduce. Even very unskilled gardeners can succeed if they maintain reasonable goals and expectations.

8/02/2009 6:20 PM  

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