Text Size Default Text SizeDefault Text Size Large Text SizeLarge Text Size Largest Text SizeLargest Text Size Print Print this Page

Citizen Leadership

Gardening and Citizen Leadership

Victory Garden Poster









Although the idea of home gardens in wartime can be traced back as far as the 1600s in England, the concept of a "victory garden" entered American culture during WWI and WWII. The program was meant to increase domestic food supply and encourage civilian effort in support of the military. Gardeners on the home front were empowered by their contribution of labor to a national campaign and rewarded by their own produce.

Woodrow Wilson allowed sheep to graze the South Lawn during World War I, and gardening as a patriotic effort continued between the wars with an emphasis on school gardens carried over from the previous century. In the Depression urban gardening increased in order to combat hard times, and Eleanor Roosevelt gave the concept an important boost in 1943 by planting a White House Victory garden. By 1945 the victory garden is credited with delivering as much as 40% of the nation's food and involving perhaps 20 million gardeners.


First-Lady Michelle Obama at the White House Vegetable Garden









President and Michelle Obama instituted their White House Garden in the spring, 2009, a time when civilian and military segments of the population are more divided than at any time in American history. As Kristin Henderson writes in While They're at War: "In a country of nearly three hundred million people only two and half million serve in the armed forces ... A year after the Iraq War started, if you looked at the people who were laying down their lives for the country. . . you found yourself looking across America at small rural towns, at decaying urban cores and close-in suburbs, past their prime, and at minority and immigrant communities. . . . Virtually none of those who serve come from America's elite classes: business executives, politicians, academics and celebrities-their children do not join the military."

Among the goals of the Cormier Honors College Vegetable Garden is the linking of Longwood students' citizenship with vital national commitments.