Surviving 1918 and 2011.
Did you know that Muncie/Delaware County has an impressive and fascinating past of surviving through a WW1 by means of community gardening?
According to the book “Delaware County in the World War”: WAR GARDENS-
“Muncie and Delaware County held first place in the Nation, demonstrating in most effective fashion, the practical side of food substitution and conservation program.
For example, in 1918, nearly 7,050 war gardens were planted in the county. Products valued at $44,650 were used in homes, while largely taking places on the domestic menus were foods such as wheat, pork and beef. These were shipped abroad as war supplies. On the conservation side, continuing the substitution of preserved fruits and canned vegetables for wheat and meats, the gardeners in 1918 canned products for home use worth $9,400, and sold canned vegetables and fruits valued at $940. The net profits for the season were reported at $38,803.21.
School gardens in 1918 numbered 18, each containing one-sixtieth of an acre, or twenty-one acres in all. Vacant lot and other gardens numbered 5,790, comprising 684 acres. A total of 705 acres were cultivated by loyal gardeners, old and young. Boys and girls to the number of 1,948 enrolled for the movement.”
Based on the results recorded in this local history book, Delaware County was a national leader in gardening, food production, and preserving food while surviving tough economic times through a war. While we know that the Ball Brothers and canning probably played a huge roll in this success, we can not underestimate the vast amount of community organizing and networking that had to take place to accomplish such statistics.
Think of the following questions:
- Has our community come full circle almost a hundred years later?
- Are we once again recognizing the importance of growing healthy fresh food in our neighborhoods and vacant lands?
- Could we set up school gardens again and add healthy fresh food into our school systems?
- Can urban community gardening play a role in helping to fight obesity?
- Could building a local sustainable food system strengthen and create jobs in our economically depressed city?
Younger generations have no idea where their food comes from, nor do they know how to grow, can and preserve it. Education and employment for our younger generations is absolutely crucial.
I am not saying that urban gardening is the answer to all our problems, but it can reduce our community’s food insecurities.
Urban community gardening also creates community relationship building when neighbors come out of the house to interact with one another, and provides moderate activity that keeps people moving to improve their health and wellness.
To encourage more growth and sustainability, Muncie Delaware Clean and Beautiful has created a network of urban gardeners called the Urban Gardening Initiative (UGI). The mission of UGI is to strengthen existing community gardens, and help set up resources to create more local urban gardening opportunities. Join the conversation on Facebook at www.facebook.com/munciedelawareUGI.
By: Jason Donati