As Americans prepared to send soldiers overseas during the First World War, the government reorganized the economy to better supply and equip its troops. Peacetime industries shifted towards producing needed military00 goods (like uniforms and ammunition), and commercial farmers focused on feeding servicemen at home and abroad.
Citizens on the home front were asked to contribute to this reorganization in a variety of ways. From buying war bonds to reducing wasteful food practices, many citizens enthusiastically participated in patriotic initiatives intended to streamline the war effort. As seen in this poster by the National War Garden Commission, the planting of War Gardens, also known as Victory Gardens, was one way civilians could help.
Planting in backyards, parks, and other available spaces, many Americans grew vegetables, fruits, and herbs in their War Gardens. This encouraged increased household self-sufficiency, and it helped lessen the demands on commercial farmers. In fact, War Gardens were so effective during World War I that the government again endorsed them in World War II. As a popular activity that engaged men, women, and children while also supporting the economy, War Gardens were just one example of how the homefront played a crucial role in American victory.
Definition: War Gardens- small gardens for vegetables, fruits, or herbs grown on the homefront during World War I and World War II to assist the wartime economy.
Citation: War Gardens Victorious,World War I Poster, c. 1919, Prints and Photographs, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.
In Their Shoes: Imagine you and your classmates are living during the First World War and want to plant a War Garden at your school. Where would you plant it? What would you plant?
Analyze: Compare and contrast the program for War Gardens with other homefront initiatives (like buying wartime bonds, reducing consumption, etc.) during World War I. Which do you think was the most effective? Why?
Artistic Exploration: Create your own poster to encourage others to plant a War Garden. How might you visually convince others to participate?