Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Victory/War Gardens revisited

First a rural economist definition - supply and demand - the more of something people want available for sale, the lower the price. Conversely, the fewer of an item people want to buy, available for sale the higher the price. This is an over simplified definition. I have left out several considerations, but it is sufficient for the discussion here.

If you have anything to do with the grocery shopping in your household, you know how much food prices have gone up. Even if you have nothing to do with the grocery shopping you may remember the news story a short time ago about the price of peanut butter going up 50%. I just heard this week that corn will be going up 4%. This means that everything from corn flakes to beef will be going up as well. While at the grocery store the other day, I was looking at the steaks and was surprised that T-bone steaks were $11.79 a pound. After seeing that I did some research and found an average of $11.68. That was astounding. I being a bit of a nerd decided to do a little math. A person making $35,000 a year after taxes, insurance, and a small 401k contribution around here brings home about $10.84 per hour. That means that this person would have to work 1.07 hours just to pay for a single pound.

With the increase of food imports we are once again weakening ourselves. We are putting our health and well being in the hands of others. We have gotten to the point where we do not know what is in our food. Genetically modified foods are growing. More harsh pesticides are used in other countries. Different herbicides are legal for use in other countries.  We really need to regain control of our own food supply.

Now I can hear a lot of you thinking what does all of this have to do with a Victory/War garden. Well here we go. The National War Garden Commission and campaign was launched in 1917 by Charles Lathrop Pack a multi- millionaire timber man. The reason war gardens were commissioned was because  food production had fallen dramatically. Men who would normally be working the fields were out fighting the war. The idea was that food production could be increased without having to utilize existing agricultural land, labor, and without additional use of transportation.  This campaign promoted the use of private and public lands. The result was over five million gardens. Estimated food production of food stuffs exceeded $1.2 billion and accounted for 40% of food production during the wartime years.

Admittedly the government has not been advertising, encouraging people to use what land they have to produce food, but there is a growing undertow of using available land for food production.  Today we would not call them war or victory gardens.  Today we would call them survival gardens.

There are community gardens springing up all over the nation. I just heard today that Baltimore is making over 20 acres of vacant lots available for food production.  The growth of locavors (we will discuss this more later) is extremely encouraging. The more we can produce for ourselves the less we will have to rely on others.

It does not take much to understand that everything you grow you do not have to buy. The more people that produce part of their own food the lower the demand on the food industry therefore the prices will go down. Savings for you and your family and eventually for everyone. Plant what you can where you can.  Find a local community garden.  Buy food at your local farmers market. Support your neighbors, community, and country.  Let us "Keep It Rural"