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Wartime Victory Gardens

As part of the war effort, the government needed to ration foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, and meat so there would be enough to go around and plenty for the troops. Labor and transportation shortages also made it hard to harvest and bring fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government encouraged families to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted people to provide their own fruits and vegetables and to save food for the troops.

Victory Garden poster
Victory Garden posterpublic domain
World War 2 era Victory Gardens posters can still be found at antique shops.
World War 2 era Victory Gardens posters can still be found at antique shops.public domain

With nearly 20 million Americans planting gardens in backyards, empty lots and city rooftops, the Victory Garden program was a huge success. Farm families had been planting gardens and preserving produce for generations. Now, city families were doing the same.

Women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce and how to convert recipes to exclude items on the rationing list. Other magazines also published articles on Victory Gardens. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. It became a matter of pride to help in the war effort.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million Victory Gardens were planted during the war. Fruit and vegetables harvested in home and community gardens was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, nearly equal to what was produced commercially. However, when World War II ended, so did the government promotion of Victory Gardens.

At antique shops and estate sales you can still find evidence of Victory Gardens of the past, in old magazine articles and posters depicting gardening themes.