Victory Gardens a win for Hinsdale, U.S.

Series: Hinsdale 150 | Story 26

Gardening is a pastime many enjoy during the summer months.

During World War I, working in the garden became more of a necessity. In April 1917, the Village of Hinsdale ordered all citizens with vacant land to allow the use of it for Victory Gardens and that every able-bodied man not working in defense volunteer to tend them, according to an article that appeared in The Doings Centennial Edition in 1995.

"Schoolchildren were encouraged to plant and tend their own gardens," the article states. "All fruits and vegetables produced exceeding the needs of the gardeners were to be canned and sent to the Allies in France."

Growing food at home became a priority again in the 1940s during World War II. The gardens supplemented the diets of those on the homefront, who had to contend with the rationing of many items, including butter, cheese, flour, fish and coffee.

Many different types of vegetables were grown in Victory Gardens - including some unfamiliar ones, according to the website of the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

"Victory Gardens were responsible for bringing Swiss chard and kohlrabi onto the American dinner table because they were easy to grow," the website states.

In Hinsdale, a committee was created to learn how to can every kind of produce to eliminate waste, The Doings article states.

"And a canning demonstration was given at the high school to teach housewives how to preserve their produce. The saying was, 'It is healthful. It is cheap. It is here. - CAN IT!' "

McCall's magazine persuaded Charles Foster, president of the Canning Association formed during World War I, to have the village's efforts photographed for a feature story.

"The magazine hoped the story would help initiate other such projects nationwide," the article states.

The Unitarian Church and later the old ice house on North Park Avenue (behind the present-day police and fire station) had canning centers. Gardeners could bring their produce there for canning six days a week from mid-June to mid-September for a fee of 5 cents a can.

About 2,000 of Hinsdale's 2,400 families were expected to have a large Victory Garden and in 1943, 68,000 cans of food were produced.

At the peak, there were more than 20 million Victory Gardens planted across the United States, and by 1944, the gardens were responsible for producing 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the country.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean