Dig this: we can grow our way to a brighter future.
The Fourth of July is a time for fireworks, love of country, and, hopefully, fresh summer produce piled on our plates.
Gotta yard? A roof? A balcony? Hell, even a kitchen window will do. To celebrate America’s birthday, why not take a hint from Eleanor Roosevelt and plant your own Victory Garden? During WWII, the First Lady urged Americans to grow vegetables and fruits as a means of safeguarding against possible food scarcity and also to boost moral — she understood the Power of Positive Planting and knew that tending a garden is both uplifting and empowering. She had foes in the Department of Agriculture, who worried that Americans growing their own food would hurt the industry, put she pressed on. Result? Twenty million such gardens popped up during World War II, and they produced 40 percent of America’s vegetables! They helped, oh, win the war and end the Great Depression.
In our era, popular interest in local produce and sustainable agriculture, plus economic uncertainty and concerns about food and fuel security have revived interest in Victory Gardens. The Obamas planted their own Victory Garden (the first since Eleanor’s) at the White House shortly after moving in response to an organized campaign to turn high-profile plots of soil into edible landscapes.
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While the traditional image of a garden might seem out of reach in most urban locales, with a little creativity you can grow your own eats whether you live in Iowa or Manhattan. My studio apartment in Chelsea is sans balcony, so I can’t exactly yield watermelons, but I’m headed to the Union Square Greenmarket today to find out what kinds of herbs and other small items I can grow on my windowsill.
And you don’t even really need your own soil. There’s yard-sharing, community gardening, and — if you’re feeling a little rebellious — guerilla gardening or pirate gardening, in which you simply find a neglected piece of ground and (shocker!) plant something on it.
Growing your own food represents a victory over our out-of-control agricultural-industrial complex. It’s victory over economic uncertainty and the feeling of paralysis that sets in when it seems like our political system has forgotten about ordinary people and our needs. The audacious act of placing seeds in the earth represents a commitment to Freedom from Want, one of the Four Freedoms FDR outlined as basic to human dignity.
So go ahead. Fight back with forks. Happy 4th, people!