April 6, 2007

Victory Gardens 2007+

I am so inspired by my Sew Green collaborators and by you commenters. So much to learn from all of you!

As far as i can tell, my backyard really really wants to become a garden. That concrete is bursting green at the seams!

When I was little, my parents grew corn, tomatoes, squash and dill in the backyard. We also had (and still have) many fruit trees. It was so satisfying to walk around in the sun, most plants taller than me, and just pluck and eat from the world around me. My grandparents in Sweden grew potatoes, carrots and many kinds of berries. My grandmother made all sorts of jams and drinks from the berries, decidedly the most delicious
berries I've ever eaten.

Mormor and morfar preparing to plant

I went to the
SFMOMA last week, and was so inspired by an art-political-environmental-gardening project called Victory Gardens 2007+ being shown, that I wanted to share it with you. I admit I was drawn to the project because of the beautiful posters the artist, Amy Franceschini, had made advertising the various gardening events. I’m a sucker for nice graphic design, words and color (as I’m sure many of us are). I love that this project brings together artists, gardeners, scientists, politicians, environmentalists, ordinary citizens.

Here is the website about Victory Gardens 2007+: http://www.futurefarmers.com/victorygardens/
(On the right side of this page at the bottom, you can see one of the posters I was drawn in by at the museum, though it’s more beautiful in person.)

Victory Gardens 2007+ is based on a historical community gardening model established in 1941 in the US.

Victory Gardens, also called "war gardens" or ""food gardens for defense,” were gardens planted both at private residences and on public land during World War I and World War II to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. In addition to 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. These gardens produced up to 41 percent of all the vegetable produce that was consumed in the nation.

In 1943's San Francisco, there were 800 gardens for food production in the Golden Gate Park alone! Read more about the history here: http://www.futurefarmers.com/victorygardens/history.html

Today’s Victory Gardens program draws on the historical one and

puts a new spin on the meaning of “victory.” In this program, “victory” is:
- independence from corporate food systems
- community involvement
- getting people closer to the natural environment.
Some interesting info from the website:

Seed banks represent genetic reservoirs of adaptive traits. By knowing the conditions under which the seed's ancestors have developed, botanists can identify characteristics signaling where else a plant might thrive...The Svalbord Global Seed Vault is located in Norway and has the mission to store as many seeds known to humans as possible, under the terms of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
There is so much to gardening that I have no experience with. But, I think home and community gardening will become more and more important as we try to get out of the mess we've gotten into with corporate farming, soil pollution and overuse, pesticides, food contamination, long distance food transportation, packaging, superfund sites, etc.

What are some of your community gardening experiences like? Send us links to your community gardens or city gardening efforts.

Other topics I’m hoping to learn/do more about through Sew Green are:

Superfund sites and electronics waste/cleanup
Milk (Seems like a simple topic, but I think one can investigate milk production from many angles.)
Paper (Chlorine use, getting institutions/entities to switch to chlorine free, recycled paper)
Plastic (So much cool stuff is made with plastic. What are the consequences/alternatives?)
Clothing/textile industry
Art for environmental change


Kathy said...

You could grow quite a lot of food in that yard! Dig deep, turn over the soil to loosen it up, add compost, and start planting. Put in some peas and pole beans along the fence, add in some cucumbers later on if you like, use the vertical space. Growing food is so exciting - I wish you well!

shari said...

i enjoyed this post so much shash. we have planted a tiny little garden out back and our seedlings are doing well. the victory garden site is very exciting!

ms. pea said...

A friend of mine started a community garden as a project of the local Boys Club: http://humbuzzwhir.blogspot.com/2007/03/big-dig.html

Camilla said...

Victory Gardens sound a lot like what we call allotments over here. Here's mine: http://www.muddywithmilla.blogspot.com although i'm a long way from growing enough to feed myself with my heart's in the right place!

tracy said...

great post shash! we have a community plot at the nearest community garden, but are finding it is just too far away to maximize. so we are looking at more raised beds in our yard... i find this inspiring too

Lisa B-K said...

What a great post.

I'm v passionate about gardening, particularly as it pertains to local eating and self-sufficiency, and really learned most of what I know now by gardening for several years at my town's organic garden plots. University students garden there, as well as elders, grad students from nations outside the US, families, expert gardeners and newbies like me. People bring beer and set up their lawn chairs and just hang out in their garden plots, which on a hot July night seems like just the thing. Those nights, the air is heavy with the smell of dill (which re-seeds so vigorously that everyone's garden has it) and compost; the fireflies and the moonlight are marvelous.

I learned so much about growing things, saving seeds, dealing with pests, etc from these people, all of whom were thrilled to share their knowledge (and their zucchini!) with anyone who asked.

When we finally bought a house a couple of years ago, it fit my only criteria: the yard was pure lawn - no trees, shrubs, or anything to mar my future vegetable garden. As soon as the weather got decent, my husband and I made 7 (!) 5 x 12 raised beds, got 4 chickens from some friends of ours, and embarked on our own garden odyssey, which we continue today (less two chickens). We have friends over a lot, and I've taught a few neighbors a thing or two about vegetables and kitchen herbs, so I like to think of it as a "community garden". I still hang out at the organic garden plots, though...

... oh - and there's a great book out there that's not exactly about victory gardens, but about gardens created during wartime - it's called Defiant Gardens, and it's truly fantastic.

Sorry so long, but you clearly struck a nerve with me - this is something that's really, really important in my little corner of the world.

cally said...

wonderful post, i loved when i looked at the link and they said the starter kit is delivered on a tricycle - sweet.

it's so good that way they give that extra help at the beginning as that's when people really need that little bit of back-up. Once they've had results then the thrill of having succeeded keeps them going.

knitrat said...

I would love learn more about plastic alternatives as well, especially after reading this on the weekend. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070406.wbisphenolA0407/BNStory/Front/

scary stuff! time to go plastics free I think. it would be great to hear people's ideas on creative ways to avoid plastics.

knitrat said...

hmm that link didn't go so well.
let's try that again

knitrat said...

I notice I'm not the only one attempting to post links that get cut off, could someone post on how to create a link in comments, or is that possible?

Allisone said...

I was visiting the SFMOMA last week and loved that exhibit. I'm now home in Philly and planning my own "Victory Garden".

lisa s said...

knitrat - don't worry about the links - we can cut and paste them into a browser window [and great link btw!]

shash - GREAT post - thank you so much. i love when art inspires in this manner....

ashb said...

I love this post Shash. I was already familiar with Amy's work and I totally agree, she has such an eye for graphic design and I'm thrilled to see this victory garden project in action.
I have a 4 by 12 foot raised bed in my backyard that will be home to many veggies this year :)

go gardening I say!

xo ash

amisha said...

i love the photo of your grandparents gardening!
and you are right... these community/ home gardening projects are so exciting to think about... the more they grow the greater the chance of breaking out of the commercial production loop. the victory garden project is great. right now i have a wee bed in the backyard for herbs + tomatoes... in school i took organic gardening class so that i could have a big plot on campus, which was so nice.

Eunice said...

sorrry if this is late...but what a great post about one of my favorite subjects :)

i've been vegetable gardening for 4 years now, and i'll be moving to a cohousing community where i hope to work on the community garden there. one good thing about it is that we may have food "supplies" in time for the community dinners as well as community harvest/preservation. i'm really looking forward to it.

some of my gardening inspirations come from colonial williamsburg, monticello, and just recently, path of freedom's blog.

also, one more great link for benefits of gardening: a study finds that gardening is a natural antidepressant.

happy gardening!

Anonymous said...

A great source for seeds for all those victory gardens out there is www.seedsavers.org. This is a non-profit that works to preserve the thousands of fruit, vegetable, and flower varieties that have been produced over the years. It is a great source for "lost" heirloom varieties, many of them organic. Check it out!

Anonymous said...

Gallery 16 published a book with Amy Franceschini which chronicles her inspired re-imagining of the original wartime Victory Garden program. More information about it can be found here: