How great would it be to bring together bloggers around the world to call attention to just one important topic for a day? That is the mission of Blog Action Day, and today is that day! This year Blog Action Day corresponds with World Food Day, so its focus is on food. In this spirit, our blog will focus on growing your own food, with a touch of nostalgia.
During the Second World War, the U.S. government encouraged citizens to grow “victory gardens,” producing their own food to help free up resources needed by the military. Today many people are starting gardens to grow their own food for a variety of reasons – to save money, to be more in touch with nature, to lessen their environmental impact, to have more confidence in the safety of their food. Some call this a new Back-to-the-Land movement. We also could think of these as modern day victory gardens. While the goal is not to help the military, it is still about conserving resources – only now, it’s for families and for the planet.
America has its roots in farming. It began as a primarily agrarian society and remained one for most of its first three centuries. Agriculture was, and still is, a big business in this country. The National Museum of American History has an extensive collection of Trade Literature, which includes catalogs for farm/garden equipment, as well as a special collection of seed catalogs. These trade catalogs are an invaluable way to learn how industries like farming have changed over the years.
These images show the front and back covers of a 1900 catalog for a Philadelphia-based farm and garden tool manufacturer. It makes you wonder how many American farms were using camels for plowing back then, though! The following interior catalog page shows more typical equipment used for harvesting potatoes.
If you are starting a garden to feed your own family, you probably won’t need this kind of equipment to gather your potatoes. It’s also unlikely that you would have access to a camel to pull it! A trowel or hoe should work just fine.
This 1903 seed catalog shows the bountiful harvest you could expect if you used this company’s products –- and how happy it would make you!
While we can no longer order seeds or equipment (or camels) from these companies, they can serve as inspiration for our own gardens. Turn-of-the-century gardeners and farmers didn’t have most of the chemicals that are used in agriculture today, so they relied on more natural, environmentally friendly methods. If you are interested in learning more about organic gardening, the following resources may be helpful:
- National Agriculture Library: Organic Production
- Organic Gardening Guru
- About.com: Organic Gardening
For many parts of the country, autumn is a great time to put in leafy greens like spinach and kale, or root vegetables like carrots and turnips. So get out there and start your own modern day victory garden!
--Trina Brown, Instructional/Reference Librarian, National Museum of American History