For all of us, the last few weeks have changed how all of us approach our daily lives. Who would have thought that in just a few short weeks, the world would be ravaged and changed forever as a result of the COVID-19 virus, an unseen silent killer of an unimaginable magnitude never before experienced in history?
While local, state and the federal government officials have moved rapidly to address the immediate needs of the crisis, it is time for all of us to come together in anticipation of the needs which loom on the horizon, especially needs to help our neighbors and friends with food, food which in many cases will only be available through our local food pantries.
So, the question which we urgently need to answer is just how can we come together to prepare for the shortfalls of food which we hope will not occur, but shortfalls which likely will occur as we battle this pandemic? For many, the answer is almost as simple for those who grew up in the mountains, as it is for those who can remember the efforts of Americans during World War I and World War II when communities from coast to coast planted Victory Gardens.
The idea for Victory Gardens was born out of a need to address the severe food shortages in Europe and shortages which were certain to arise as America entered World War I and sent thousands of farmers off to the battlefields. Victory Gardens, or war gardens, were the brainchild of Charles Lathrop Pack. Pack’s idea was to increase the food supply without increasing the use of land already cultivated or labor already engaged in agricultural use. As a result, Pack organized the National War Garden Commission. As a result of Pack's efforts, before the end of World War I, more than 5 million private gardens had been planted, producing an estimated “foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.”
The next time America turned to Victory Gardens was during World War II which was the result of regular rationing of food in Britain and the need to feed our troops. Through the efforts of George Washington Carver, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others, the idea of Victory Gardens was portrayed as the patriotic duty of all Americans to garden. By the end of 1943, there were 18 million Victory Gardens in the United States, Victory Gardens which in 1944 produced nearly 10,000,000 short tons of food for the war effort.
So, today as we face a global crisis, a crisis which will likely impact the food supplies of not only America, but also, countries across the globe, it is time for all of us to roll up our sleeves, grab a shovel, turn over a small plot in our backyards, community plot or even in a garden container, and plant a garden. In the words of United States Senator Patty Murray from Washington, "In my generation, we all had victory gardens, we all participated in the country's success. It's that kind of sentiment that I hear from everybody, that we're all in this together."
Whether the food in your garden will be used to feed your family, a member of your community or someone in need, we should all consider it our patriotic duty to plant a garden in our fight against this pandemic. If all of us would participate even in a small way to planting even a small Victory Garden, we will all know that we’re all in the fight against this pandemic together.
So, as I often do, I will invite all of you to join me, and this time I would invite each of you to join me as we roll up our sleeves, grab a shovel, turn over small plot in our backyards, community plot or even in a garden container, and plant a garden, a garden which will contribute to the victory of the pandemic which we all need to face together. Remember, together, we will win this war, and we will also contribute to what will surely be a worldwide shortage of food and we will all be able to shout to the world that we participated in the successful war against COVID-19.