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What is a Victory Garden?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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In the Second World War, millions of Americans and Britons were encouraged to plant victory gardens, private gardens in their back yards and empty lots which were designed to reduce the demand for fresh produce. By growing their own food, people could also supplement their rations, which were sometimes limited to ensure that the troops had enough food. The British and American governments also used the victory garden concept as a morale booster, illustrating that every citizen could contribute to the war effort in some way.

The idea behind the victory garden, from the point of view of the government, was that by encouraging people to grow their own food, the government could achieve lower prices for produce. This, in turn, would translate to reduced costs when it came to supplying the troops. By growing their food, citizens also made up for shortfalls caused by lack of labor to work the fields, and a high demand for farm products from the military. Victory gardens also provided a point around which citizens could rally, promoting community participation in the war effort.

Victory gardens sprang up in all sorts of places. Backyard gardens were common, and some communities took over empty lots and converted them into victory gardens for the duration of the war. Several cities also dedicated spaces in public parks, such as London's famous Hyde Park, to the establishment of victory gardens, popularizing the idea and providing space for people who lacked the room to garden.

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Over 20 million people in the United States alone planted victory gardens during the Second World War, and these wartime gardens were a major source of food for many families. Foods from the victory garden which weren't consumed immediately could be preserved for future use or given to disadvantaged members of the community, and some victory gardens became very successful, thanks to community effort.

At the close of the war, the victory garden movement was largely abandoned, because people expected the food supply to go back to pre-war levels. In fact, Britain in particular struggled with food shortages for several years after the war, as it took some time to bring fallow lands back to full production. In the later part of the 20th century, the victory garden movement experienced a resurgence, with advocates for locally grown, organic food encouraging people to plant victory gardens to supply themselves with food and to promote local means of production.

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