gardening on the homefront: take that, Slacker Land!

August 14, 2008 at 10:02 pm 1 comment

As America entered World War I, women and children enlisted in garden armies, gardeners went to battle against insect pests, and every effort was made to ensure that “our food is fighting.” But as if all that wasn’t enough, American land also was compelled to go to war.

The National War Garden Commission targeted empty city lots and sent out battalions of pitchfork-waving civilians…to use their pitchforks and garden. America could not afford to have any land slacking off during wartime. Gives a whole new meaning to the idea of fighting to protect American soil.

The “slacker land” was put to work as sites for community gardens. The benefits of community War Gardens included sharing expertise, soil preparation activities, plants, and equipment. And there were the social benefits: friendly rivalry, community building, etc. In The War Garden Victorious (1919), Charles Lathrop Pack promoted community gardens as community assets that increased real estate values, freed up funds that would have been spent on food, and beautified the city. He urged local governments, chambers of commerce, and other civic organizations to retain the gardens as a post-war economic development program.

Contemporary proponents of urban agriculture use many of the same arguments today. See “Urban Agriculture in Providence,” a publication of the Urban Agriculture Policy Task Force initiated by Southside Community Land Trust/Citywide Green. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vacant lots in Providence. Join a community garden, and “put that slacker land to work!”

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Entry filed under: community gardens, food, gardens, Providence, urban agriculture, War Gardens, wartime gardens, World War I. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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