As innovative and “hot topic” as they are, the concept of urban and suburban community gardens is not actually new, nor a USA phenomenon. Just a seemingly “modern” and “developed economy” phenomenon. Innumerable acres of public and private land across the USA, U.K., Canada and Germany were being used for small scale agriculture during WWI and WWII. London’s Hyde Park, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and New York City’s Riverside Park (not to mention Eleanor Roosevelt’s White House lawn) all had plots for cultivation in order to mitigate the costs of growing and transporting produce during wartime. A Victory Garden campaign during WWI is said to have influenced the creation of over 5 million gardens in the USA alone.
Several of our contributors, myself included, have written about this resurgence, but for the most part within the context of the desire for healthy, local food for both our families and our food banks. But as the economy of the USA is in a rough patch, more people in even rural areas where farm produce should be in abundance are beginning to remember the value of planting and preserving food, as well as the extra benefits of selling surplus. Organizations from Gardening Associations to “Ag School” Cooperative Extensions are seeing an increase in the number of people asking for advice and assistance, and many community gardens have waiting lists for plots.
In her report on West Liberty, Kentucky, Sabrina Travernise writes
Garden plots are dug into the green hills, laid out in fuller force than people have seen in years. People call them sturdy patches of protection in uncertain times.
The growing interest in Victory Gardens has sprouted numerous grassroots organizations, and it continues to be promoted by journalists, chefs and the current first lady of the USA.
A concept popularized nearly a hundred years ago is still bearing fruit.