The farmers, gardeners, and victory gardens of WWI 

By Veronica Naujokas
via the Cecil Daily newspaper (MD) web site 

ELKTON— With spring just around the corner, gardeners and farmers across the county are gearing up to begin planting. As always, everyone is hopeful that a bumper crop will result, not only providing an abundance of food, but also giving much deserved satisfaction for all of the hard work put in. I thought it would be nice to take a little trip back in time and pay homage to all of the farmers and gardeners who kept everyone fed during World War I.

60409562ebadc.imageA January 1918 Burpee Seed advertisement noting the extreme food shortage and cautioning against waste of seeds.During WWI, Europe’s food supply had been seriously depleted. European farmers had been called to serve on the front lines, abandoning their farms and resulting in a mass farming crisis. Farmlands were quickly turned into battlefields, causing significant destruction of once rich soil.

As the war waged on, Europe’s ability to keep its soldiers and general population fed was becoming more and more difficult. As a result, the United States was called upon to shoulder the demand for mass quantities of food that was desperately needed overseas.

This month marks the 104th anniversary of the development of the National War Garden Commission. Created in March 1917, the commission was developed in response to the food crisis that raged in Europe.

The commission was organized by Charles Lathrop Pack, an American, who, along with others proposed that food production could be greatly increased simply by having people grow their own foods at home. By doing this, families would be self-sufficient and thus reduce the demand on the public food supply, which was desperately needed to keep soldiers and European civilians fed.

Victory gardens, as they were called, were heavily pushed by the United States in an effort to get people to grow their own food as a means of fighting the food shortage. The U.S. urged its civilians to cultivate gardens in their own back yards, as well as in their local community parks.

In the months following, newspapers across the United States were rapidly spreading the news and pleading for people to grow their own food wherever possible, and for farmers to do their part by complying with the government’s request to plant specific crops, such as corn.

Maryland and Cecil County participated fully in this effort as well. All citizens, including children were encouraged to contribute by growing their own food.

Cecil County newspapers from the time show a variety of advertisements and articles dedicated to the cultivation of gardens, as well as the reduction of food waste and the need for substituting certain foods, such as corn for wheat in cooking. From competitions on which gardens could grow the best produce to the governor himself calling on the youth to do their part by tending to gardens, our county and state was fully committed to the effort.

Read the entire article on the Cecil Daily web site.

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