Looking back in the past and I was finding articles on war gardens, also called Liberty or Victory Gardens. Liberty Gardens were during World War I (1914–1918). President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to plant vegetable gardens to ward off the possible threat of food shortages. We Americans took up the challenge as a civic and patriotic duty.

There were slogans, and one from Burpee’s Seed Company read, “Food will win the War, Produce it!” Front yards, backyards, schoolyards, vacant lots all became vegetable gardens.

America became the world’s leading seed supplier during World War I, as Europe faced mounting seed shortages. Calling attention to the war garden movement, seed companies and nurseries embellished their catalogs with patriotic imagery.

Charles Lathrop Pack, head of the National War Garden Commissions, coined the term “Victory Garden” as World War I was nearing its end. More upbeat than “war garden,” the term was so popular that it was used again during World War II when Victory Gardens sprang into action once more.
In 1943, with World War II underway, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had a Victory Garden planted on the front lawn of the White House, just one of the millions of Victory Gardens planted that year. Books, newspapers and magazines suggested that home gardeners with limited space might plant vegetables in existing flower beds.

Gardeners for Victory proposed tucking asparagus, rhubarb and Jerusalem artichoke in among the perennials, while root vegetables could take the place of flowering bulbs. Beginners were encouraged to plant vegetables that took up little space in the garden, such as tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and cabbage. Soybeans, billed as “wonder beans” or “miracle beans,” required little room and served as a protein substitute when meat was rationed.

During World War II every family in America was issued ration books to ensure the fair distribution of food in short supply. The books contained stamps for rationed goods like sugar, meat, cooking oil and canned goods. Victory Gardens helped to supplement these items with fresh vegetables.

The school gardening movement joined the war effort during World War I. Here in Springville was the U.S.S.G. (United States School Garden) Army. Teachers were getting lesson plans to teach the students, what to plant, how much to plant and how to plan your garden, all using math to figure it out.
A family of four would take such amount of bean seeds to supply the family with so many processed beans planted. Then lessons on how to prepare the vegetables and can the vegetables.

There were vegetables to plant for the summer and winter gardens. Summer would be peas, beets, corn, turnips, kohlrabi, eggplants, okra, beans, lima beans and peppers. For the winter garden would be beets, parsnip, salsify — a root vegetable belonging to the dandelion family, also known as the oyster plant because of its oyster taste when cooked, looks like a long thin parsnip — carrots, cabbage Rutabagas and onions.

In 1919 there were 2.5 million children enrolled in the School Garden Army, producing 48 million dollars at the time. By May 1943, Victory Gardens supplied 40 percent of the produce in America.

Home canning reached its peak during World War II. Most families had a pressure cooker, which raised temperatures in fruits and vegetables high enough to kill off any bacteria before the food was “canned” in sterile glass jars.

Even now, how many kids have seen what a tomato looks like growing on the vine? What are the benefits of planting your own garden now? It sure can stretch your food budget, and most items picked or harvested and use right away taste so much better.

It is a great project to do as a family, and anything extra can be donated, thus teaching kids the meaning of help thy neighbor. With freezers in everyone household now, food can be canned, frozen or served fresh!

We down at the Lucy Bensley Center have some of the pamphlets that were saved by Lucy Bensley herself explaining all of these lessons and a play that was given by the kids in the school. She even saved the information on the Blue Cross, an organization that was established to rescue and rehab the animals that were hurt or used during World War I. Lucy also collected money to be sent for the cause in Europe.

You can come down and go through her many scrapbooks and view them. We are opened on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the second and fourth Sundays 2-4 p.m. You can send us an email at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com, or call us at (716) 592-0094.

Come share your stories with us, your photos — we will scan them and returned them to you — and any info that you want to. We love to have visitors and enjoy all the stories we hear!