Slow Food Nation's Victory Garden

Slow Food Nation’s Victory Garden

Fight bad food policy by growing your own

By Roxanne Webber

The lawn in front of San Francisco’s City Hall is typically studded with napping homeless people. But this July, it was ripped out and replaced with a 10,000-square-foot Victory Garden: raised beds filled with thousands of fruit and vegetable plants, including purple mustard greens, lettuces, kale, and tomatoes. The temporary garden, tended by volunteers, will provide food for donation to the San Francisco Food Bank.

Grow-Your-Own Resources

» Victory Gardens 2008+ (which partnered with Slow Food Nation to create the Civic Center garden) gives San Francisco residents the opportunity to get help in creating a home garden.

» At Revive the Victory Garden, there are historical photos, lists of where to buy heirloom seeds, advice on container gardening, and a formula for assessing how many miles your food traveled to get to you.

» Master gardener programs (partially funded by state and county governments) offer answers to citizens’ agricultural questions. Your local USDA Cooperative Extension office can put you in touch with master gardeners in your area.

» There are some large grants available through the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program for nonprofits that improve food systems in low-income areas. Federal Community Development Block Grants provide cities with money that sometimes goes toward building community gardens, though not home-based Victory-style gardens.

The Victory Garden is a public-works project that’s part of Slow Food Nation, a huge event over Labor Day weekend in San Francisco, sponsored by the organization of the same name that promotes local, sustainable, homemade foods.

What’s the victory? Originally, a Victory Garden was part of World War I– and World War II–era policy in which the U.S. government encouraged people to plant vegetables at their homes, in parks and at schools, and at their workplaces to augment the wartime food supply.

Today, community plots are back, and supporters have begun using the phrase Victory Garden. It refers not to a war win, but to a triumph over what they see as America’s outdated food system. With factory farming and centralized food production starting to look both impractical and harmful, home and community gardeners intend to help people eat more locally, nutritiously, and cheaply.

“Instead of asking people to demonstrate patriotism by going shopping,” says Rose Hayden-Smith, chair of the University of California Garden-Based Learning Workgroup, master gardener, and U.S. historian, “[we should have] leaders that will tell people, ‘This is important, this is a personal action you can take that will have a wonderful impact on the nation.’”

See a slideshow of images from the Slow Food Nation Victory Garden in San Francisco.

Roxanne Webber is an associate editor at CHOW.

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