UNCLE SAM'S FIRST WAR GARDEN
How the Boys at Camp Dix Went Over the Top
With the mention of the word "war" there
immediately flashes across the mind a vision of long lines of soldiers marching
through streets crowded with flag-waving civilians or of those same long lines
drilling, wheeling, and maneuvering on the camp parade-ground; or of stern-faced
fighters with bayonets fixed charging across a smoke-clouded field toward the
enemy's positions. It was most appropriate and fitting, therefore, that the term
"war garden" should come to be associated with actual soldiers.
It was at Camp Dix, New Jersey, that the first sure-enough
war garden was planted. At that big army cantonment there was begun the first
big undertaking in the United States whereby the American army started to help
Early in the spring of 1918 the National War Garden
Commission, coöperating with the conservation and reclamation division of the
Quartermaster-General's office, effected the plans which promptly led to the
planting of a four-hundred-acre war garden at Camp Dix, that city of 48,000 or
more soldiers where men were being prepared for overseas duty. This was a
demonstration garden which was not only the largest but also the most
picturesque the country had seen. It was not only great in size, but in the
consequences that were to come from it. This important innovation in methods of
supplying the quartermaster's store with part of the food needed, not only had
the backing of the officers in charge, but also received the hearty commendation
of the Secretary of War. It proved of value in many ways.
BOYS, SHOW 'EM HOW TO HARVEST!"
This is what Sergeant Noel, on the left, is saying to the bean pickers in the
Camp Dix ware garden, whose work is being inspected by Major General Scott,
commanding officer, other army officials and a group of visitors. President
Charles Lathrop Pack, of the National War Garden Commission, is standing by the
side of General Scot. The young officer behind him is Lieut. John F. Bonner, in
charge of the farm.
At practically all the army camps, there were considerable
amounts of land not required for actual military purposes. These plots varied
from a few hundred to several thousand acres. There was, however, no fund
available under the War Department or army appropriations which could be used
for the purpose of placing this land under cultivation and carrying on the work.
At Camp Dix there were 400 acres inside the reservation which
could be immediately utilized for food production. Colonel J.S. Fair, assistant
to the Acting Quartermaster-General, and head of the conservation and
reclamation division, helped to work out and gave his active support to the plan
of planting a garden at this place. When it was found that the land could be
used and that Lieutenant-Colonel Edmond Tompkins, then Camp Quartermaster, had
the men available, the National War Garden Commission secured nine big
motor-trucks and rushed over from Philadelphia, thirty miles distant, thirty
plows and other garden tools, seeds, fertilizer, and other needed material. The
final arrangements were completed on one day, and on the following day the
supplies were on hand.
The Commission's demonstration war garden at Camp Dix was a
success from the start. It furnished an inspiration, and gave impetus to the
work all over the United States; and soon similar plots growing "Food F.O.B. the
Mess Tent Door" were under way in a number of other camps. Thousands of war
gardeners redoubled their efforts because of the knowledge that the men in the
American army were doing similar patriotic work. "Over the Top with the Boys at
Camp Dix!" became a new slogan which aroused genuine enthusiasm and put new
spirit into the back-yard and vacant-lot tillage.
After the Commission had provided the means for starting the
project, Lieutenant-Colonel Tompkins placed it in the hands of Captain E.V.
Champlin, conservation and reclamation officer of the camp, and the latter
selected as farm officer Lieutenant John F. Bonner, an energetic young officer
who was a graduate of an agricultural college and who had also enjoyed a
practical farming experience.
Major-General Hugh L. Scott, commanding officer at Camp Dix,
took a keen personal interest in the project. He made several trips of
inspection over the gardens, accompanied on two of these occasions by Mrs.
Scott, to see how the work was progressing and to encourage the young officers
in charge. He expressed his appreciation to Captain Champlin and to Lieutenant
Bonner, actively in charge of the farm enterprise, and to their assistants, for
the excellent results they were obtaining. His interest caused the boys to work
with an added will.
UP! FORWARD MARCH!"
Such was the order of the day at Camp Dix, New Jersey, when the boys began to
gather the big harvest which they had raised in the 140-acre section of their
war garden devoted to this important vegetable. Part of the land included in the
cantonment had formerly been rich farming land. Several thousand bushels of
potatoes were stored for winter use.
One hundred and forty acres were planted to potatoes, both
early and late varieties; seventy acres to beans; forty to corn; twelve to
beets; twelve to onions; eight to cucumbers, five to tomatoes; one to cabbage;
and other areas to a variety of vegetables. The land on which the camp was
located had been farms, on which there were a number of orchards. These were
cared for and the fruit gathered. In addition, about three hundred tons of hay
were harvested. The garden even included an acre of broom-corn, which supply
officer in charge of purchasing brooms figured saved many a dollar. The boys,
however, maintained that their reward from this particular corner of the garden
came from the help rendered in "sweeping on to Berlin."
Aside from the food produced, the Camp Dix war garden was of
benefit in other ways. It afforded healthful outdoor work for convalescents and
other men who were not physically fit for active military training, but who
after a few weeks or months of the exercise were able to go back into the
fighting ranks. Colonel F.B. Beauchamp, inspector of the southern command of the
British army, who had come to the United States on a tour of inspection of the
camps here, pointed out what this form of work was accomplishing for many men in
the British army, and how thousands of them were being so benefited by the
regular living in the camps and the life in the open that they were able to
return to service on the battle-field.
In addition to using convalescents and men not physically
capable of service overseas the camp garden afforded opportunity for putting
"conscientious objectors" and alien enemies to work at some useful non-combatant
form of labor. Among the first 150 men assigned to the war-garden work at Camp
Dix were a number of Germans and Austrians, two Turks, and representatives of
other nationalities. Drafted men of this sort, having declared themselves
unwilling to take up arms against their own countrymen, were almost without
exception happy and contented in their work as food producers. In some cases
alien prisoners were transported to army camps to till the gardens. The first
lot was sent from Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, for
this purpose. At the camp, under guard, they cultivated a war garden of ninety
acres. There were one hundred of these prisoners, most of whom had been taken
from interned German vessels.
As a result of the immediate success of the Camp Dix project,
plans were made for greatly extending this form of war gardening in 1919. The
work had proved its worth as an adjunct to army life. A number of military men
who had not approved of the plan at its inception were converted by the
excellence of the results obtained and gave it their support. The experience
gained in the first year, coupled with the greater demand which it was known
that there would be for food, made it desirable that this scheme be carried out
on a broad scale. It was realized that it would furnish much relief in supplying
the army and the nation with food.
This staple article formed the principal crop from the 400-acre war garden which
was inaugurated at Camp Dix, New Jersey, by the National War Garden Commission
in coöperation with the Quartermaster General's Office of the army. More than
5,000 bushels of the tubers were grown.
Shortly after the Camp Dix war garden was started, Secretary
Baker gave the undertaking his hearty endorsement in the following letter
addressed to the National War Garden Commission:
The War Department finds much satisfaction in the creation of
war gardens at various army camps by the Conservation and Reclamation Division
of the Quartermaster-General's office. Food production at these camps has been
the subject of some concern with the Department. The large areas of tillable
land within many of the military reservations have been regarded as offering
potential food production on a large scale, and I feel that the army is to be
congratulated that the utilization of this space has now taken concrete form.
Camp war gardens will serve more than one useful purpose. The
production of food at the mess door is of great importance in that it not only
lessens the army's demand on the usual sources of supply but eliminates
transportation as well.
To the National War Garden Commission I extend the thanks of
the Department for its quick response to the appeal of the
Quartermaster-General's office for coöperation. Not confining itself to mere
compliance with the letter of the request, the Commission entered fully into its
spirit. At a time when funds were not available through Government channels the
Commission voluntarily provided seed, fertilizers, and equipment which made
possible the establishment of a war garden of 300 acres or more at Camp Dix. For
this generous contribution and for swift action to overcome the handicap of a
late start I take pleasure in making this acknowledgment and in expressing the
hope that the Camp Dix war garden of the National War Garden Commission will
prove an unqualified success.
Thus, in teeming army camps and on isolated mountain-tops, on
the wide reaches of the prairies and in sun-splashed openings in the dusky
forests; beside roaring factories and in sequestered nooks on which deer and
bear peer shyly from near-by leafy coverts, there have sprung up innumerable war
gardens. In riding across the country one sees them beside the railroad right of
way, in back yards, small and great, on lawns and in open fields, in every
conceivable place that tell, as truly as the tiny Liberty Loan button on the
coat-lapel, where the owner stands and what he stands for, because a war garden
is a service badge of living green.
OUT TO MEET THE CROP
As "the man who feeds the army" Col. J.W. McIntosh, chief of subsistence, was
deeply interested in the demonstration war garden made by the soldiers at Camp
Dix. His interest in the food supply prompted him to go into the fields at Camp
Dix and the camera caught him as he helped camp Quartermaster Tompkins pick
tomatoes. Col. McIntosh is at the left.