VICTORY GARDENS ARE NEEDED
Americans Traditionally Use Too Few Vegetables
As to vegetables, colonial writings include some references to turnips,
peas, and beans; but only the last two were grown chiefly for human
consumption, for which both were matured and dried. Of the native
American vegetables grown and used freely by Indians, beans apparently
were adopted directly by English colonists, and these came into general
use in a short time; squashes and potatoes were grown generally in
Europe about as soon as they were in America; tomatoes were introduced
to the northern colonists by the French settlers in the southern part of
the country as early as 1750 but were not accepted generally until after
1835. Sweet corn is about the only one exclusively adopted by Americans;
they obtained field corn from the Indians, and there is evidence that
sweet corn appeared as a natural variant in a Yankee cornfield.
The attitude of the early American toward vegetable production is
inferred very bluntly by William Cobbett, in the preface to his book,
"The American Gardener," written in 1819: "The object [of the book]
evidently is to cause the art of gardening to be better understood and
practiced than it now is in America; and, very few persons will deny,
that there is, in this case, plenty of room for improvement. America has
soil and climate far surpassing those of England, and yet she is
surprisingly deficient in variety as well as quality of garden products.
I am not alluding to things of ornament, or appertaining to luxurious
enjoyments, but to things that are really useful, and that tend to
profit and to the preservation of health, without which latter, life is
not worth having."
Vegetables for sale, other than potatoes, were recorded in the census of
the United States for the first time in 1850, when the farm value of the
commercial crop in the United States was stated as a little over five
million dollars. For a population of 23 millions, this represents an
annual commercial production of less than 25 cents worth for each
Fifty years later, in 1900, the total value of vegetables grown for sale,
other than potatoes and sweet potatoes, was reported to be $74,000,000
and that of vegetables grown on farms for home use was $46,500,000.
Potatoes and sweet potatoes brought the farm value of all vegetables to
$242,200,000 or an annual value of $3.19 per person for a population of
76 millions; for vegetables other than potatoes, the value per person
was half as much, or $1.59.
The average annual consumption of fresh vegetables, including
potatoes and sweet potatoes, per person during the five years from 1937
to 1941 inclusive, was 298.9 pounds, with a farm value of slightly over
$3.11. This relatively small value, in comparison with 1900, was due to
the lower prices of vegetables in the later years; it represents a
return to commercial vegetable growers of less than one cent a day for
each person in the nation's population.
If the retail value of vegetables is approximately three times the farm
value, the average American actually spent only slightly more than two
and one-half cents a day for vegetables, including potatoes, from 1937
to 1941. If the expenditure was slightly greater in 1943, it was so
mainly because prices were higher.
Part View of Eighty Community Victory Gardens at Seneca,
Sponsored by the Oil City Victory Garden Committee
click for larger photo
Handbook of the
Victory Garden Committee
War Services, Pennsylvania
State Council of Defense
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