Sowing the Seeds of Victory

American Gardening Programs of World War I


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About the Book

Sometimes, to move forward, we must look back. Gardening activity during American involvement in World War I (1917–1919) is vital to understanding current work in agriculture and food systems. The origins of the American Victory Gardens of World War II lie in the Liberty Garden program during World War I. This book examines the National War Garden Commission, the United States School Garden Army, and the Woman’s Land Army (which some women used to press for suffrage). The urgency of wartime mobilization enabled proponents to promote food production as a vital national security issue. The connection between the nation’s food readiness and national security resonated within the U.S., struggling to unite urban and rural interests, grappling with the challenges presented by millions of immigrants, and considering the country’s global role. The same message—that food production is vital to national security—can resonate today. These World War I programs resulted in a national gardening ethos that transformed the American food system.

About the Author(s)

Rose Hayden-Smith is an academic with the University of California, Agriculture and Natural Resources. A well-known gardening, food systems and sustainable agriculture advocate, she lives in Ventura, California.

Bibliographic Details

Rose Hayden-Smith

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 264
Bibliographic Info: 24 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2014
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7020-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1586-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface: Sowing the Seeds of Victory 1

Introduction: Summary of the National War Gardening Effort 5

One: The Garden Revolution 11

Two: In the Furrows of Freedom 32

Three: The United States School Garden Army 72

Four: Propaganda, Posters, Promotion and Memory 98

Five: The Pennsylvania School of Horticulture for Women 121

Six: “Sisters of the Soil”: The Woman’s Land Army of America 143

Seven: Mobilization for Nutritional Defense 181

Conclusion: Demobilization, the Trajectory of the Programs and Public Policy
Implications for Today 192

Chapter Notes 215

Bibliography 234

Index 247

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Choice
  • “Excellent book”—Chicago Botanic Garden
  • “Rose Hayden-Smith has done us a great service in researching a history that has been hidden in plain sight, right beneath our feet. This book is a great place to start for anyone interested in the U.S. gardening movement, not just for historical interest but because it’s a subject, as her treatment of gender shows, that couldn’t be more relevant today.”—Raj Patel, author
  • “With this landmark book, Rose Hayden-Smith has kept the American food movement from suffering a sort of amnesia that could cripple current and future initiatives if we persisted with our lack of familiarity with our precedents. Instead, this wonderfully written retrospective actually opens doors for gardeners, food activists and food security planners so that we might build upon the remarkable Victory Garden legacy she has so passionately described.”—Gary Paulk Nabhan, author