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Dec 10

Victory Gardens and Wartime Activities in Kansas

Posted on December 10, 2020 at 7:44 PM by Donna Casement


1-Join the United States School Garden Army
Edward Penfield, 1918, LOC

Victory Gardens and Wartime Activities in Kansas
Written by Donna Casement, State Library of Kansas
KGI Online Library Blog-December 11, 2020
(All copies of newspaper articles cited here can be viewed at KGI ONLINE LIBRARY)

Victory Gardens and Wartime Activities in Kansas

On December 8, 1941, the United States entered World War II. On that day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared war on the Empire of Japan, only one day after an attack on Pearl Harbor that killed 2,403 U. S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships, including eight battleships. (“A Pearl Harbor Fact Sheet”, census.gov/history/pearl harbor fact sheet)

My father was a 17-year-old sailor on the USS Minneapolis that day. At the time of the Japanese attack, the “Minnie”, as my Dad referred to this nearly 10,000-ton heavy cruiser, was performing gunnery exercise about 20 miles away and would return to Pearl Harbor only hours after the attack. My dad would never talk about that day.

However, my mother, a young girl growing up in World War II St. Louis, is very forthright when she talks about the enforced food, gas, and clothing rations, and enthusiastically talks about the backyard victory gardens and the importance and pride these gardens provided for a war-torn nation.

2-War Gardens Over the Top
Maginel Wright Barney, artist
National War Garden Commission, 1919
                                           
Throughout both World War I and II, the American public established millions of fruit and vegetable gardens. In World War I, the backyard garden was first called the “War Garden” and over time, the public was encouraged to do their part and plant a “Victory Garden”. These gardens were a personal effort to express individual patriotism and provided homegrown food, while allowing agricultural products to be sent overseas to countries suffering from starvation and food shortages.

3-1918 Victoy Garden Ads

“What family in Newton can not plant and tend a “Victory Garden?” Have it a large garden where this is possible, but remember that the little back door truck garden is going to count for great things this spring and summer, as the rotation is made from the spring to the summer and then the fall vegetables, supplying for the table edibles that will make it possible, the conservation of the products for which the allied nations are in the greatest want.

You may never be called upon to use a gun, but you are called on with all the stress and urgency that the government can call forth, to use a hoe. The men and women of the nation with the keenest of minds are giving all their time without any remuneration to working on ways and means of helping to win this war, and it is but just that they expect everyone to help.” (#1-Newton Kansan, March 14, 1918)

4-Uncle Sam Says Garden to Cut Food Costs
A. Hoen & Co., Baltimore, 1917

With the advent of the United States entering World War II following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the victory garden campaign was resurrected. Many people were familiar with the garden efforts during World War I, and with a new need for the ability of families to grow their own supply of vegetables, Uncle Sam was calling on garden clubs, as well as schools and organizational clubs to do their part.

5-Grow It Yourself
Herbert Bayer, NYC WPA War Services
Between 1941 and 1943

“TOPEKA, Jan. 12-A house to house canvass of all the 150,000 Kansas farm families will be able soon to try to persuade each one to plant a garden as a part of the 1942 ‘victory garden’ campaign. The campaign was outlined at a statehouse conference today. Farm officials estimated that 76,000 farm families do not have gardens now. Efforts also will be made to enroll all city dwellers who have sufficient land to raise vegetables.” (#2-The Morning Chronicle, January 13, 1942)

Following the statehouse meeting, a Victory Garden Conference, chaired by J. C. Mohler, Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, was held in Manhattan on January 17. The committee reviewed four reports recommended by the “Victory Garden” conference previously held at the statehouse. Chairman Mohler outlined the Farm Garden Campaign, the School and Community Campaign, publicity, supplies and budget.

The committee earmarked press and radio outlets of the Kansas Extension Service for full utilization of this program. Slogans were recommended by the committee that included, “Victuals for Victory, Vegetables for Victory, Fight with Food, Feed the Family First, and Vegetables for Vitality for Victory. The committee recommended a garden story to appear in every issue of farm papers in the forthcoming year stressing the program, the progress of the program and the results of the program. Also, the committee recommended the providing of prizes to farm families for outstanding achievement in the growing and preservation of garden products. (Victory Garden Conference, Kansas Memory, Kansas Historical Society)

“’Now is the time to plant peas,’ was the notice received Thursday by 720 Emporia school pupils who have arranged to plant ‘Victory Gardens’. The notice was in a garden bulletin issued by Earl E. McMunn, chairman of the Emporia school garden program. . .The sign-up to plant, cultivate and harvest gardens includes 227 pupils in the fifth and sixth grades, 306 pupils of the Lowther Junior High School and 187 students of the Senior High School.” (#3-The Emporia Gazette, March 6, 1942)

6-Fresh Vegetables For the Family, Meriden Message, March 19, 1942

“Uncle Sam’s wartime food needs have put the all-but-forgotten family vegetable garden back on the map. Millions of Americans are now pouring over seed catalogs, checking tools and eyeing likely planting sites. . . The effort is part of a great national Victory Garden program. In the weeks since Pearl Harbor, officials of the U. S. department of agriculture have been consulting with gardening experts from every state. Organizations everywhere have pledged their aid-garden clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, 4-H clubs.

As the program develops, activities will follow two major lines: 1. Farmers and their families throughout the United States will co-operate by planting 5,760,000 vegetable gardens. 2. Small town and big city dwellers will sponsor community and school gardens, and wherever possible individual family Victory gardens.
The last war demonstrated: that home gardening can contribute importantly to the food supply. In 1917 alone, 1,150,000 acres of city and town land were under cultivation. By 1918 there were 5,000,000 gardens which produced 528,000,000 pounds of food.” (#4-Meriden Message, March 19, 1942)


7-Victory Gardens-Charter for War Effort in Kansas School
“Victory Gardens”

“When Lewis Carroll linked “Cabbages and Kings” together he spelled nonsense. But not today. Cabbages, and all the other good green produce of the earth, are helping to shape the future of the world. From our farms and gardens, as well as from our mines and factories, come the munitions of victory against the oppression of dictators and the hunger which is their ally. In France and in all other Axis-occupied countries today a cabbage head is no joke.” (“Victory Gardens”, Pamphlet No. 1, February, 1942, Charter for War Effort in Kansas Schools)

8-Purposes of a Victory Garden

"A Garden for Every School-A Garden for Every Home" a pamphlet, put out by the School Committee on Victory Gardens, went on to promote its message to all Kansans. “The school garden and the home garden furnish projects around which instructional programs can be organized and developed. These programs may deal with nutrition and health, elementary science and nature study, and other subject matter related to student needs. The school can make a great contribution by encouraging a victory garden in every home.”

Wm. F. Pickett, horticulturalist at the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station in Manhattan, explained the program for the “Victory Gardens On the Farm”. “The 1943 program for victory gardens in Kansas calls for: (1) a garden on every farm; (2) a home garden for each family living in village or town where suitable land is available; (3) community gardens for school lunches, and (4) flower gardens and ornamental plantings to be maintained; parks and home grounds to be made more attractive.” (Page 63, “Victory Gardens on the Farm”, by Wm. F Pickett, 1941-42, Thirty-third Biennial Report of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture)

9-Kansas Victory Garden Budget

Pickett suggested a victory garden plan with a budget set up by specialists at the Kansas State College in Manhattan. The budget encouraged growers to include early season, mid and late season vegetable varieties, as well as establishing fruit trees such as, plum, peach, apple and cherry. They suggested that a 20 square foot garden could produce large quantities of produce for a farm family.

10-Kansas Wartime Extension Activities
(Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics
Extension Circular 175, April, 1944)


“A Nation at war! Nearly two years of strife! An armed force of 8,500,000 for America! With a continued trend upward to meet demands!

Rapid conversion of peacetime industries to the manufacture of implements of war! Population shifts form small and rural areas to old as well as newly constructed centers of industry to build more planes, more tanks, more ships, more guns, more munitions to meet the needs of progressive warfare!

Manpower shortage! Heavily laden transportation system! Acute tire and gasoline shortage! Food rationing! More food to feed the armed forces and the civilian population, to meet lend lease commitments, and to send the liberated countries! Higher taxation! Increasing production costs!

“This was the general picture confronting the nation in 1943,” wrote extension director H. Umberger. (“Kansas Wartime Extension Activities, Extension Division, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (K. S. C.), Manhattan)

11-A Nation At War-Umberger
(Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics
Extension Circular 175, April, 1944)


Director Umberger went on to write, “One industry that felt the reverberation of these wartime conditions was agriculture. And because Kansas is a leading agricultural state, it was necessary to call upon all available resources to maintain and increase its agricultural output. Kansas was asked to increase its food and fiber production in 1943 over that of 1942. The state far exceeded its production goals in 1943. Again, its goals were pushed upward for 1944.

It was to the State Extension Services of the Department of Agriculture that much of the educational task of meeting food and fiber increases was turned.” (“Kansas Wartime Extension Activities”, Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics, Extension Circular 175, April, 1944)

12-Rural Youth through their 4-H clubs
(Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics
Extension Circular 175, April, 1944)


The pamphlet “Kansas Wartime Extension Activities” highlighted programs and facts concerning all aspects of wartime activities within the state. The extension service had 103 county Farm Bureaus that supported farm families in the war efforts. “Supporting this work was a large corps of cooperating farm people. These included nearly 35,000 men, nearly 22,000 women, and more than 17,000 4-H Club members.

Wartime responsibilities of the Service included a thorough organization of all rural areas in the state, stipulated as rural areas and towns of 2,500 and below, into what was knows as the Neighborhood Leader organization. There were nearly 20,000 of these neighborhood leaders.” (“Kansas Wartime Extension Activities, Extension Division, Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (K. S. C.), Manhattan)

13-Women and young man in field
Cooperative Extension Work in Agriculture and Home Economics
Extension Circular 175, April, 1944)


In the past, victory gardens involved the cooperation and dedication of the entire family. Today, the winter months may be the perfect time to plan your own home victory garden. The National WW II Museum sponsors an online classroom called “The Classroom Victory Garden Project” for students. The program Introduces a basic WW II overview and focuses on the Home Front and Victory Gardens.

An online course called “Victory Garden 101” is a series of classes sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and the Sedgwick County extension office. The course features classes on: (1) Preparing Your Garden Site & Soil, (2) Basic Garden Planning, (3) Grow Your Own Salad, (4) Tips for Great Tomatoes, (5) Using Your Vertical Space, (6) Water, Weather and Weeds!, (7) Common Insect Problems, and (5) Common Disease Problems.

Maybe it’s time to plant your very own Victory Garden!