Victory gardens provide model for modern day community gardens

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 11.23.59 PM During World War II the U.S. government pushed a war effort that hit close to home. People across the nation were encouraged to get down and dirty to grow their own vegetable gardens, helping to ensure that there was enough food supply for both civilians and the troops during wartime.

Victory gardens” as they came to be called, provided a way for people to not only provide themselves with easy access to fresh produce, but to also do their part on the home front for the war effort.

Duluth was no different from any other city willing to take action. The Duluth Civilian Defense Council had a lot to do with planting the seed and pushing people to do their part. The council’s Agricultural Resources Committee helped with distributing plots of land, setting up community meetings, providing classes for amateur gardeners, and even helped with plowing and fertilizing the gardens.

In an article by the Duluth Herald on March 3, 1943, Civilian Defense Agricultural Resources Committee Chairman Oliver Anderson, warned Duluthians of the food shortages happening across the nation. He encouraged people to “provide themselves with 'food insurance' by cultivating victory gardens.”  He went on to say that if people grew their own vegetables, the problem could ultimately be less threatening.

In order for civilians to grow victory gardens, they had to register their allotted spot of land or sign up for an area that the Civilian Defense Council decided on. The lot sizes were limited to 33 feet by 66 feet, and it cost a total of $4 to receive a permit.

Adults weren’t the only ones willing to help with the victory gardens. According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune on August 15, 1943, Duluth public school children also got involved. The article recounted the event: “The St. LouisCounty 4-H club organization opened its doors to them and 1,109 public school children . . . flocked into the Junior 4-H Victory Garden clubs."

The kids ranged from fifth grade to ninth grade and were provided with assistance from literature, natural science classes in school, and a garden radio program that was presented weekly up until the harvesting season was over.

After the war ended and victory gardens weren’t necessarily needed anymore, many people abandoned the self-sustaining gardens and moved on. But today, communities are coming back together to grow and share fresh produce with each other, just like they did during the war.

A coalition of different community groups is focused on finding a way to provide easy access to healthy foods for the Lincoln Park area in Duluth. The Fair Food Access Campaign is working with the Duluth Community Garden Program (DCGP) to overcome the Lincoln Park food desert.

This campaign has grown tremendously since its beginning in 2012.

Jahn Hibbs, program coordinator of the DCGP, said that Lincoln Park was an area the program has wanted to expand on for quite a while.

“We knew Lincoln Park was an area of need, just anecdotally from the garden program perspective,” Hibbs said. “We had a lot of inquiries from people.”

An opportunity recently arose, which allowed the group to apply for a Cities of Service grant, and they won it. Receiving the grant has helped with the process of building the new garden and providing gardening classes to residents in the area who don’t have experience with growing their own produce.

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The garden will fill up two city lots, which have already been cleared of brush and prepped for the upcoming planting season. Sections of the plot will be split between individuals of the community and collective groups.

“The community gardens are one of five community identified strategies for creating food access,” Hibbs said.

She went on to explain that gardening is a way to stretch the family food dollar, it creates a fun activity for families, it connects people to nature, and most importantly provides affordable, healthy food.

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