Extension Viewpoints: Victory gardening in 2020

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By Robin Young
PREVIEW Columnist
Charles Lathrop Pack pioneered the “Victory Garden” movement in the United States during World War I. A self-made millionaire, Pack was also very community-minded and was enthusiastic about promoting the importance of self-sustainability of food supplies in the U.S.
He went on to become the president of the U.S. National War Garden Commission. During his time there, he instigated the victory garden, or as they were sometimes called “food gardens for defense.” These gardens were meant to be supplemental and contributed to the food supply in times of shortage and rationing.
The need for victory gardens continued into World War II. Agricultural Secretary Claude Wickard started promoting the need and in December of 1941, the Department of Agriculture produced pamphlets to guide growers in all areas from the farm to the cities on how to grow food. Neighborhood and community committees were formed with veteran gardeners guiding new gardeners on how to garden. Land Grant universities through the Smith-Lever Act helped with education through their Extension agents. Guided by the Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the national 4-H program produced a significant number of crops and animal products to feed soldiers during WWII.
Skip ahead about 80 years later and here we are, faced with a different kind of emergency for our food supply. Our nation (not to mention other countries) are on lockdown to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus and people panicked. It was evident when the toilet paper started disappearing off the shelves. Then it got worse, people were hoarding food. You couldn’t find fresh produce, eggs, milk, bread and other perishables. My hope is that they consumed it or preserved it before it went bad.
The fear is twofold: first, people don’t want to have to interface with others at the grocery store and they buy up what they can thinking it will last them; and second, there will be a shortage and/or that the delivery trucks won’t come. The fear is the unknown.
So, what can we do? Grow victory gardens. Thank goodness it’s gardening season and if you have to be stuck at home, you may as well plant some vegetables, fruit or herbs this spring. Even if you live in small spaces, you can grow some sort of veggie or greens. The excess food can go to a food bank, neighbors, friends and family. CSU Extension has many resources on how to grow food and we will be giving classes via Zoom soon. Stay tuned.
The Archuleta County Food Coalition is working hard to provide food to people in need. If you are in need or are able to help, please go to https://foodcoalition4archuleta.weebly.com/ and fill out the form.
Upcoming events
April 3 from 2:30 to 3 p.m. — Best Management Practices for Produce Safety. To join the Zoom meeting, visit https://zoom.us/j/187245762 or call in at (253) 215-8782 or (301) 715-8592. Meeting ID: 187 245 762.
April 22 at 6 p.m. — Resilient Archuleta will be hosting a Zoom gathering on Earth Day. Please join us via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/133064826 or call in at (253) 215-8782 or (301) 715-8592. Meeting ID: 133 064 826.
There is no need to register or sign up; just join in.