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A Google search using the words “How many Americans have a garden” produced an interesting array of results. Amongst these, nearly at the top of the list: “How many Americans have a passport”. Totally unrelated, I thought. Then again, growing your own produce is a sort of passport to sustenance, isn’t it?
Each generation has its own perception of its economy and customs. We do our part to create a sound environment in our homes and make good choices about how we’re going to care for ourselves, our belongings and our little corner of space. We do not necessarily realize that while some of what we do today appears to be innovative – think of vertical gardening for example – much of it is a variation on the theme of practices that repeatedly surface throughout the world and throughout history.
I used to have a teacher who said, “We are not inventing anything. The ancient Greeks invented everything. We are merely adapting their inventions.” There is a lot of truth to this. Take home-grown produce, for example. More precisely, let’s consider “Victory Gardens”.
It will not be long before the generations who experienced WWII and those who heard about it directly from a parent or grand-parent will no longer walk among us, keeping their history and, truly, their victories alive. Knowing “how we got here from there” gives our lives and even the food on our table a whole new flavor.
A very well researched and fascinating article on the Living History Farm website explains that, “As part of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant ‘Victory Gardens.’ They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables.”
It is estimated that as many as 20 million Americans planted backyard, rooftop and balcony gardens. Indeed, the cooperative approach to produce production soon became common practice as neighbors pooled resources to secure a variety of foods for their families and for each other.
Today, we typically turn to the Internet to search for information about home gardening. Social Media played an important role during the war also. For instance, writes Living History Farm, “The Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about Victory Gardens, and women’s magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops.”
The article provides mind-boggling statistics. According to the US Department of Agriculture, 9 to 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables emerged from as many as 20 million home and community Victory Gardens. In 1942, 66,000 pressure cookers were purchased by American families for canning purposes. In 1943, Americans purchased 315,000 pressure cookers.
We often think of history in terms of “what came before”. However, history is always in process and while historians are fascinated by the past and what we can learn from it, some scientists turn their attention to how we will adapt to our environment in the future. This, inevitably, opens the door to thinking well outside of the box; even well outside of the boundaries of our planet.
“First Mars Astronauts May Grow Their Own Food,” announced a recent Discovery News article. “A high-tech ‘kitchen garden’ may be the answer to the worry about what astronauts may eat on a long journey to Mars. According to experts, “Maintaining food supplies remains one of the greatest challenges faced by Mars mission planners.”
Maya R. Cooper, research scientist in the Space Food Systems Laboratory, TX, explains that, “Weight, nutrition and variety pose the biggest problems… For the International Space Station, astronauts get 3.8 pounds of food per day. For a 5-year round-trip mission to Mars, that would mean almost 7,000 pounds of food per person.”
Researchers are considering plants that require minimal tending and space. 10 candidates fit this description and are currently under consideration: tomatoes, radishes, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, spinach, spring onions, peppers, strawberries and herbs.
Thus it appears that community gardening might be one of the first activities to occupy humans living on Mars. Is it reasonable, then, to assume that Mars colonies will be at a great advantage over any other human in history to develop a peaceful, diverse and truly collaborative society since community sustenance truly will be at the center of their lives?
Also Read: The Oldest Gardening Show in the US