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Liberty Gardens Of World War I Updated For Today

rose hayden-smith and book cover

At Earth Eats, we have the pleasure of speaking with authors of all sorts of food-related books -- like food history books and kids' cookbooks.

Today, we look back almost one hundred years to the American Liberty Garden program of World War I, which became the Victory Gardens of World War II.

21st Century Message

"The models of the past can greatly inform the present," says author Rose Hayden-Smith, the leader for the University of California's strategic initiative in sustainable food systems. Her book is Sowing the Seeds of Victory: American Gardening Programs of World War I.

She says the message of connecting the food supply with national security can be updated for today.

"I want to move the idea of these gardens away from militarism, but I don't want to move them away from the idea of patriotism, because I actually view the idea of people leading a healthful lifestyle as being an obligation of citizenship," she says.

The message for today's "victory gardens" should be more about sustainability, civic engagement and improving food access.

Gardening At School, At Home

Hayden-Smith says we should look to school gardens to revitalize a nationwide gardening movement.

School gardens of the World War I era were the first federally mandated curricular programs. The United States School Garden Army linked school gardens with home gardens:

It did bear out that there was sort of a continuous location for youth to garden. I think that's very important, that if you really want successful school gardens, that they have to be within the context of an environment that's rich in opportunities to garden both in homes and community settings. You have to have a variety of places for youth to be able to garden.

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