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Victory Gardens: How a Nation of Gardeners Helped to Win the War

Sunday, October 24, 2021 - 11:00am to 12:00pm

Berkshire Botanical Garden

This program has been cancelled.

During World War II, homefront Victory Gardens flourished nationwide—in former lawns, flower gardens, school yards, parks, abandoned lots, and ball fields. As part of the war effort, posters encouraged patriotic Americans to “Grow vitamins at your kitchen door” and “Eat what you can, and can what you cannot eat.” In fact, Americans needed to supplement their diets during a time of food rationing and shortages. Nearly 20 million gardeners answered the call, including many who had never wielded a hoe. Victory gardeners learned to prepare soil beds, grow seedlings, cultivate, control weeds, irrigate, and eliminate pests—raising successful crops for the duration of the war years. Join us as we explore the role of 1940s vegetable gardens, ration-book cookery, and food preservation in wartime victory. Victory gardens provided food and promoted morale during World War II, and by 1944 American gardeners grew forty-four percent of the produce that fed civilian families. In this slide illustrated talk Judith Sumner will trace the Victory Garden movement, including the Roosevelt White House garden, urban gardens, school gardens, food preservation, wartime nutrition, and ration book cookery. We will also look at the British Dig for Victory campaign, Hedgerow Harvest program, and the Women’s Land Army. This program is led by Judith Summer, author of Plants Go to War: A Botanical History of World War II (McFarland Books, 2019).

Judith Sumner is the author of Plants Go to War: A Botanical History of World War II (McFarland Books, 2019), the first book to examine the historical roles of plants and botanical science in warfare. Judith is a classically trained botanist and author who specializes in ethnobotany, flowering plants, plant adaptations and garden history. She is a graduate of Vassar College and completed her graduate studies in botany at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. She studied at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; at the British Museum; the Jardin des Plantes; and did extensive field work in the Pacific region on the genus Pittosporum. Judith is currently at work on a botanical history of the American Civil War.

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