US Department of Agriculture
Bureau of Education, Department of The Interior
United States Office of War Information
Local and Regional U.S. Historical Societies
National War Commission
Library of Congress

The Victory Garden For Food and National Security

- When Growing A Garden For Food Was Your Patriotic Duty

War propaganda or not....
Was this the last time this country collectively 
sacrificed time and energy, and believed their 
duty was to protect our national security, as 
well as the health and well-being of each other?

At their peak, there were more than 20,000,000 Victory Gardens planted across the United States. US population in 1940 was 132 million.

More than a million tons
of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens during WWII.

Seriously awesome is that by 1944, Victory Gardens were responsible for producing 40% of all vegetables grown in the United States. Mull that over for a moment.... 40% of America's produce was grown in small home gardens. Not commercially.

Americans without a yard planted small Victory Gardens in window boxes or on their porch or patio.
City folk in apartment buildings planted rooftop gardens.
Many schools planted Victory Gardens on school grounds and used their produce in their school lunches.

So, why has this not become a voluntary American tradition?

 Stats from article in Nevada State Journal, 1943

The Victory Garden 1943


"Food For Freedom"

Victory garden handbooks and advice manuals were distributed to the public by local governments informing and advising the home front population on how to grow a proper victory garden. The information included in theses handbooks encompassed everything from the best type of soil to plant in, to combating bugs and fungus that might attack the plants. This was considered "good" propaganda. During these unsettled times of climate change, loss of honeybee and other pollinators from our landscapes, and the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic on our food chains, I think returning to it might be a great idea. Grow and preserve as much food as we can. It's a good idea to practice sustainable gardening even without a global crisis like wars, pandemics and famine. Some of the most popular veggies grown in the Victory Garden included beans, beets, cabbage, carrots, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, tomatoes, turnips, squash and Swiss chard.

"Beans Are Bullets", "Potatoes Are Powder"... there were many propaganda phrases used to get us going and hoeing.


Victory gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, were vegetable, fruit, and herb gardens planted at private residences and public parks during World War I and World War II. In wartime, governments encouraged people to plant victory gardens not only to supplement their rations but also to boost morale. 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 labor and rewarded by the produce grown. This made victory gardens a part of daily life on the home front. There were Victory Garden and Rationing movements in several countries.

The Women's Land Army  was a civilian organization the operated during the First and Second World Wars. Women were called upon to work in agriculture replacing the men drafted into the military. The WLA operated from 1917 to 1921, employing both urban and rural women. Colleges and universities formed WLA units. The WLA program was supported by Progressives like Theodore Roosevelt. Other groups working with WLA were The Woman's National Farm and Garden Association, the State Council of Defense, the Garden Club of America, and the YMCA.  During World War II, WLA was a part of the United States Crop Corps, alongside the Victory Farm Volunteers for teenage boys and girls, and lasted from 1943 to 1947. 

The farmer also deserves a lot of credit for the sacrifices he was also asked to make.

During World War I, the newly created U.S. Food Administration urged Americans to conserve food so that more could be exported to Europe. Fourteen million Americans signed “pledge cards,” agreeing to observe wheatless Mondays, meatless Tuesdays and porkless Saturdays.

During World War II, Americans were limited to locally grown produce because trains and trucks had to be used to transport soldiers, vehicles, and weapons. 
Victory Gardens were planted by families to help prevent a food shortage. 

Planting Victory Gardens helped make sure that there was enough food for US soldiers fighting around the world. 
Our food was rationed using a coupon system called a Ration Book. 
Victory gardeners canned and otherwise preserved their vegetables for their families, which took the pressure off the rations of food in the US. 

Children were also put into service to accomplish these goals. 
The  U.S. government sponsored the U.S School Garden Army and the National War Garden Commission. 

Consider the fact that in this age of politicizing everything, including our well-being, we have to actually fight, sue and legislate or defend ourselves in courts, to be permitted to grow our own food in some cities. Horror of all horrors..... using your tastefully landscaped front yard to grow little beds of berries and food, conserving water by using rain barrels inconspicuously on our own properties, and as payers of taxes, we still have to fight to allow the children to grow gardens in schools, ask that they be provided with a healthy school  lunch, and provide good food during the school day to so many children who go hungry at home. I find it pitiful, ignorant, and morally wrong.

If you think about the new age of enlightenment concerning "new" gardening methods and sustainability movements, that used to be called common sense....
organic, water-wise, sustainable food gardening, preservation, hobby farms, homesteading, school and community gardens, it looks to me that a lot of what what was old is new again. Thankfully.

During WWII, what I call "guerilla gardening" was patriotic. Now it's sometimes derided, and considered a New Agey Thing that old hippies do. I've even heard the preposterous and ignorant notion that growing our food kills farm and supermarket jobs, or that people grow vegetable gardens because they're too poor or too cheap to buy food. Seriously. And, of course, these differing opinions differ across particular regions and cultures in the U.S.  It's worth noting, however, that such idiotic derision appears to be non-existent when i arrive on someone's doorstep bearing fresh berries, fresh and dried herbs, preserved jams and sauces, or share meals with others that I created in winter with the ingredients from my summer harvests. No, ma'am. I never hear anything but a yum! and a very grateful thank you.

Do like the ladies during war food rationing did... "Grow Your Own, Can  (preserve) Your Own".  
Then share it.


Article ©2020 Mary Hyland for Mary's Bloomers
All Rights Reserved.
Reproduction is not permitted.

Graphics on this page were chosen for this article, and not available for download.


To enjoy some vintage WWII Victory Garden harvest and 
Meal-Stretching Rationing Recipes, you can find them here----> 

For a more in-depth look at the real Victory Gardens, and a peek at life during the war years
Download free .pdf versions of  Vintage Victory Garden Guides below:

"A Victory Garden"

Job P. Wyatt and Co. Seedsmen "Garden For Victory" 1943
"Victory Garden Leaders Handbook

If you're interested in a graphics collection of 
popular WWI and WWII posters, click here

For Victory Garden and Wartime rationing graphics, click here

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