Victory Gardens Reappear
By Mary MacVean
Los Angeles Times
Julie Stern and Christo Brock say they were drawn to growing delicious food. Brock, a documentary filmmaker, doesn’t think of himself as a patriotic gardener, but he is worried about the future of the planet.
Los Angeles Times / RICARDO DEARATANHA
LOS ANGELES — These days, planting lettuce or beets is a political act.
Just ask Julie Stern, who shares a backyard garden with her neighbor in Topanga Canyon in western Los Angeles county.
Or Sandra Young, who put raised beds of carrots, lettuce and beets in the front yard of her house in west Los Angeles.
Gardening, Young said, is one thing she as a citizen can do –– “a step in the right direction.”
During World War II, “victory gardens” planted at the behest of the federal government helped Americans cope with food shortages. (In World War I, they were called “liberty gardens.”) By 1943, Americans had planted more than 20 million victory gardens and reportedly produced 8 million tons of food that one old film called “America’s hidden weapon.”
Now, in a fractured economic climate, a new victory-garden movement has captured the attention of people who want to lessen their reliance on mass-produced or imported food, reduce their carbon footprint, foster a sense of community or save on grocery bills.
When the National Gardening Association compiles its annual data later in January, market research director Bruce Butterfield expects to see a 10-percent rise in food gardening for 2008. Based on anecdotal evidence and trends in past recessions, he expects even stronger growth in 2009.
“People want to have more connection with their own world,” said Yvonne Savio, manager of the Common Ground Garden Program for Los Angeles County-University of California Cooperative Extension, which includes a master gardener program to help people grow food. Applications, she said, have doubled in recent years.
Jimmy Williams, who runs Hayground Organic Gardening from his Los Angeles house, has 6,000 to 10,000 seedlings thriving on the roof of his garage. His business –– selling seedlings and designing gardens –– has quadrupled in the last year, he said.
“They’re worried,” Williams said. “They don’t know what’s going to happen.”
The desire to grow food, however, crosses economic lines. Some people are struggling financially, but others prefer lettuce over lawns. Do-it-yourself types are eager for healthful food close at hand. And people see how much better food that they grow tastes.
“Even super-rich people who can afford to send people to any store anywhere –– they even want gardens,” Williams said.
Christy Wilhelmi, who teaches gardening at Santa Monica College, says that growing your own food is the shortest path possible from field to table, eliminating the need to transport crops, sometimes thousands of miles.
Behind her house, she gardens in eight raised beds, growing asparagus, strawberries, tomatoes and more. She would like to add chickens to eat kitchen scraps and garden pests, and provide eggs.
See the rest of the article here.