HOW WAR GARDENS HELPED
Every Garden Became a Soldier of the Soil
What the "three R's" mean to preparation for a life of peace, the three M's
become in the conduct of war. These three M's stand for men, money and
munitions. In its broadest sense, the term munitions includes everything needed
by an army, and of all an army's needs the basic and most important is food.
The quantities of food required by our army are huge.
Dietitians estimate that the average man needs, daily, food that will furnish
3,500 calories. The United States army ration allows 4,700 calories to each man,
and the unusual exertions demanded of our soldiers make it quite necessary that
they have this generous allowance of food. With less they might lack that
abundant supply of muscular and nervous energy upon which their very lives
Stated in terms of avoirdupois, the United States army ration
is slightly in excess of four and a quarter pounds of food a man per diem. Four
pounds of food does not seem like a great quantity. It allows each soldier
twenty ounces of fresh beef a day, or its equivalent in fresh mutton, bacon,
fish, turkey or other meat; eighteen ounces of flour or bread; twenty ounces of
potatoes with proportionate amounts of other vegetables; 3.2 ounces of sugar;
2.4 ounces of beans or 1.6 ounces of hominy or rice; and prunes, apples,
peaches, jam, milk, coffee, butter, and so forth, in smaller quantities.
When these amounts are multiplied by a million, the total
bulks as huge as the Rockies. It means 4,250,000 pounds of food daily, for seven
days a week, and for fifty-two weeks each year. To feed an army of 1,000,000 men
for one month, according to the quartermaster's department of the United States
army, there are required 973,000 pounds of butter, 1,000,000 cans of corned
beef, 1,000,000 cans of corned-beef hash, 2,000,000 cans of beef, 2,400,000
pounds of coffee, 3,000,000 pounds of sugar, 6,000,000 pounds of bacon,
23,000,000 pounds of frozen beef, 37,500,000 pounds of flour, and other articles
As the United States raised an army of 4,000,000 men, the
quantity of food that had to be provided was four times as great as the amounts
named or 3,892,000 pounds of butter, 4,000,000 cans of corned beef, 4,000,000
cans of corned-beef hash, 8,000,000 cans of beef, 9,600,000 pounds of coffee,
12,000,000 pounds of sugar, 24,000,000 pounds of bacon, 92,000,000 pounds of
frozen beef, and 150,000,000 pounds of flour, not to mention the "and so forths."
This huge total sufficed to feed our completed army for one month only.
A year's supply for this completed army required, in round
numbers, 46,704,000 pounds of butter, 48,000,000 cans of corned beef, 48,000,000
cans of corned beef hash, 96,000,000 cans of beef, 115,200,000 pounds of coffee,
144,000,000 pounds of sugar, 288,000,000 pounds of bacon, 1,104,000,000 pounds
of frozen beef, and 1,800,000,000 pounds of flour.
So huge are these figures that to the average person they are
meaningless, but that these army demands constituted a terrific drain on our
commercial food supplies was evident to everybody. Practically all of this food
was food diverted from its accustomed channels. Not an ounce of it went to the
feeding of the civilian population which formerly had practically all of it. At
the same time, if our allies were to be saved from utter collapse through
hunger, and our own country saved from the plight of having to carry on the war
singlehanded and alone, it was essential that greater quantities of food be sent
to Europe than America had ever before exported. After the war ended, and it
became necessary, in some measure, to provide for the population of the enemy
countries, still larger demands for food for export were to be expected. The
very causes that ha produced these conditions had, as we have seen, so stripped
the farms of men that a food production commensurate with the needs of the
situation was an impossibility.
"Those who cultivated the soil could hardly do more than they
were doing," said Luther Burbank, a member of the National War Garden
Commission, in speaking of the matter. "It was becoming evident that food, which
before had been taken as a matter of course, was in reality the foundation of
all life, all knowledge, all progress. What could be done? It became necessary
to conserve carefully what already had been produced, and then produce more.
Agriculture and horticulture had not generally been taught in the schools; the
old hit-or-miss plan of farming was all too common' the home garden was
neglected and the school garden a novelty. To the call both to conservation and
to increased production, the American people have responded nobly. How quickly
they have changed their attitude, how splendidly they have made good by adapting
themselves to the new conditions! When the war garden movement was started, the
problem of food production was on the way to be solved."
Garden of a Chicago Amateur
W.E. Babb, a newspaper reporter in the Illinois metropolis, decided in the sping
of 1817 that he would give war gardening a trial although he had doubts as to
what the results would be. What he accomplished is only partly shown in the
picture, for he carried off a first prize of $100. Contrast his orderly looking
plot with the weed-covered tract across the road.
Here, then, was the all-impelling, the all-important reason
back of the home food production movement. This was the outstanding motive above
all others which made the war garden a thing not only to be desired but actually
to be demanded. Our allies and the neutrals, as far as possible, as well as our
own people and our army, must be fed–this was the cry from the tower-top, this
the call of hungry peoples which had to be answered. Our task was Herculean!
There was one great difficulty in the road to accomplishment;
the problem of common psychology. It is recorded that when God called Moses to
lead his fellows forth from Egypt, Moses replied; "Who am I, that I should go
unto Pharoah, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of
Egypt?" Even so did the average American regard the appeal made to him to raise
food and save the world from starvation. The difficulty was that the average
American, like the deliverer of Israel, lacked imagination. He could not
visualize the collective contributions of million of backyard and vacant-lot
gardens. He was like the little girl, who, when asked to save a slice of bread
to help feed the army, replied; "Papa, I don't see any reason why I should save
a slice of bread. It can't feed an army." Her father took her down to the harbor
in New York City and showed her a great transport at the wharf, waiting for food
to carry to Europe. He then told her that if every little schoolgirl in the
United States saved a slice of bread a day, their combined savings would fill
eight large transports every week. Her blue eyes opened wide as the great truth
flashed upon her, and after that she didn't want to eat anything at all.
In his nursery days, the average American had learned that
Little drops of water, little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean and the pleasant land.
Unfortunately, however that infantile lesson had been put
away with other childish things when he became a man. The task the National War
Garden Commission set itself was to make the average American feel the full
truth, the actual force, of that childhood jingle. The truth–the truth that was
to set us free– was striking enough. Among the garden records of the National
War Garden Commission is the story of a certain garden in Pennsylvania, which
was very much like other American back-yard gardens in many respects.
IN AN ITALIAN GARDEN
In New Haven, Connecticut, the side lawn of a handsome home was converted into a
food plot. In addition to growing a lot of vegetables, so delighted was the
owner that she said never again would her family be without the pleasure which
this experience had given them.
In size it was 40x40 feet. The gardener kept a careful record during one entire
year of the quantities of food produced in that garden. His figures are as
pecks Celery–450 stalks
bunches Rhubarb–10 bunches
Rutabaga–64 Scallions–12 bunches
pecks Dried beans for winter use–20 quarts
heads Peaches, from two trees in corner of garden–7 baskets
Cauliflower–14 heads Lettuce–equivalent of 60 heads
Onion sets–3 quarts
peas–40 quarts (pods) Onions dried–1/2
dozen Pole beans–108 quarts
If this production, such as could be had from any ordinary
back-yard garden with good soil, were reduced to pounds and ounces, it would be
found that this one yard had yielded considerably more than half a ton of
foodstuffs. It is reckoned that there are more than 20,000,000 families in the
United States. If every family could have a garden, and each garden could yield
half a ton of food, the total annual production would aggregate 10,000,000 tons,
or almost twice as much in weight as we normally shipped to Europe in a year in
pre-war days. of course it was not possible for each of our 20,000,000 families
to have a garden, but with 45 per cent. of our people living in the country or
in small towns, and with such vast areas of vacant lots in the larger cities, it
would be entirely possible to have 10,000,000 war gardens. These gardens, could
they produce at the rate of this Pennsylvania garden, would yearly supply in
weight as much food as before the war we annually shipped to Europe. Such were
the possibilities of garden production that stimulated the National War Garden
Commission to maximum effort.
Of course, garden food does not possess, pound for pound,
anything like the food value of the concentrated foods sent to our allies and to
our armies, but garden food is provender, and it is wholesome food. Peas and
beans are great meat-conservers; potatoes, both sweet and white, important
cereal-savers; and a little larger bulk of many garden products, such as
potatoes, will take the place of a smaller quantity of meat r other concentrated
foods. To figure out the exact food values of the total products that might be
raised in our gardens is of course both impossible and unnecessary. The point is
that millions of pounds of food could be produced right in our own yards and in
neighboring vacant lots and that by eating these foods we should so lessen the
demand on our commercial supplies that these would be sufficient to meet the
heavy demands upon them.
to reach the entire population of the United States, to
convince one hundred million people of the necessity of gardening, and to
convince them to the point of action, was such a colossal task that the
Commission hardly dared to hope for the creation of more than one million war
gardens during the first year of its activities. Yet the estimated total was in
excess of 3,000,000; and i 1918 a very careful canvass set the number of such
gardens at 5,285,000.
IN THE CHAMPION GARDEN CITY
This is a small home garden in Marion, Indiana, which boasts of holding the
record in the United States for a city of its size in number of war gardens.
With a population of only 20,000 persons, it had 14,081 vegetable plots, or
almost one for every two inhabitants. Louis De Wolf, chairman of the War Garden
Association there, was very active in the work.
What these war gardens actually accomplished toward feeding
the army was shown by a careful estimate as to the amount of food which they
added to the nation's larder. This was reckoned in 1918 a having a value of
$525,000,000. Taking into consideration equivalent food values, it was figured
on a conservative basis that our 1918 war gardens grew food equal in
body-building power to the meat ration required by an army of 1,000,000 men for
302 days; the bread ration for 248 days; or the entire ration for 142 days. This
wonderful saving of commercial supplies made the war-garden movement eminently
worth while from this standpoint alone.
Munitions represent only one of the three M's. Money is
another. Money makes the army as well as the mare go. The value produced by home
gardeners went far to meet the increasing demands for money due to the war. To
realize the wonderful financial possibilities of war gardening is almost as
difficult as to grasp the possibilities of food production. The products of the
little Pennsylvania garden already referred to were worth, according to the
records of the gardener, $63.50. That valuation was made at pre-war prices. The
same products, in 1918, would have been worth probably half as much again, or
close to $100.00. Even if its products were worth only $50.00 that sum would
have enabled the gardener to buy, with the money saved by gardening, a Liberty
Suppose all our war gardens averaged as well, what would be
the result? The 5,285,000 gardens of 1918 would have yielded $264,250,000.
Actually, the results were almost double that figure, the estimated value of our
war-garden crops for 1918 having been $525,000,000! A half billion dollars!
Enough to cover the expenses of the Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., and all other
similar war-work agencies for a long time; or to build 500 great ships; or to
pay for one-twelfth of the fourth Liberty Loan issue!
In thousands of cases his war garden meant to its owner the
difference between ability and inability to subscribe to a war loan. There were
more than 21,000,000 subscribers to the fourth Liberty Loan. The estimate of
war-garden production means that the money saved through war gardening enabled
at least one-fourth of these subscribers to become holders of their country's
Of the three M's there yet remains the third–men. Just as
money saved through gardening can be used for the purchase of bonds instead of
food, so labor saved in one field can be shifted to another. Specifically, men
released from food handling were free for service elsewhere. And the name of the
men so released through war gardening is legion. The products of the little
Pennsylvania garden already discussed, weighed in excess of half a ton. Had
these products not been raised at home, it would have been necessary to bring
their equivalent to the gardener's home. He has a family of three. Families of
three do not buy food in half-ton lots–seldom even in one-hundred-pound lots. To
put an equivalent amount of food in his home, therefore, would have required
many trips on the part of a deliveryman, certainly not less than twenty-five. If
every war gardener who made enough out of his garden to buy a Liberty Bond
also saved his deliveryman twenty-five trips, the total saving of labor was
enormous. The number of persons employed, before the war, solely to wait on
other persons, was beyond belief. Soon after the United States entered the war,
merchants began to face a readjustment of their business. It was estimated that
in New York City alone simplification of delivery and clerk systems would
release 100,000 men for service in the army. In the aggregate, war gardening
aided to an incredible extent in this readjustment.
MEDAL IN COMMEMORATION OF THE WAR GARDENS
In recognition of the war time service of the War Garden a commemorative medal
was struck by the National War Garden Commission for presentation to the rulers
of the United States, England, France, Belgium and Italy. The illustration at
the top of this page shows the obverse of this medal. The lower picture is a
reproduction of the reverse.
Nor are these all the benefits conferred by war gardening.
Nothing is more essential to success in war than the creation and maintenance of
an ardent patriotic spirit. War gardening fostered this spirit by enabling so
many individuals not actually in the army to do something tangible in the
struggle. Millions of patriots joined the army of the soil because of their deep
love for their country, and their desire to help in the hour of need.
Many of the slogans sent ringing throughout the country by
the Commission breathed the spirit of America and of democracy. That spirit
spoke from the commission's posters and other matter. War gardeners were called
on by the beautiful figure of Liberty to "Sow the Seeds of Victory." Another
slogan, a clever paraphrase on the title of a famous song, told them to "Keep
the Home Soil Turning." West Virginia started the message: "Food Must Follow the
Flag," which became a household word throughout the United States. The Marion
(Indiana) War Garden Association placed is squarely up to the home food
producers in this fashion: "Earn the Right to stay at Home–Plant a Garden." The
honored title of "Soldier of the Soil" gave the home tiller the feeling that he,
too, was performing a service for his country although he was not wearing the
uniform; and when he was informed that "Every Garden is a Munition Plant" he
knew that he was helping the boys over there to fight their battles, for "The
Seeds of Victory Insure the Fruits of Peace." The patriotic spirit is contagious
and the war gardener helped mightily to spread it.
Of special value to the nation in its days of need was the
habit of thrift engendered and built up into a common trait by home gardening.
Before the war, it is estimated, there were only 300,000 bond-buyers in the
United States. More than 21,000,000 people subscribed to the fourth Liberty
Loan. The significance of that fact is splendidly summed up in a single sentence
by Fred H. Goff, president of the Cleveland Trust company and a member of the
National War Garden Commission. "A nation that saves," says he, "is a nation
saved." Truly, war gardening is as full of hidden blessings as the widow's cruse
was of oil.
THE WAR GARDENER'S BOAST
To war gardeners throughout the United States the National War Garden
Commission furnished window hangers, printed in green to symbolize growing
vegetation. These were proudly displayed in the front windows of several