A Nation of Farmers

by: Heather on 04/20/2009
Posted in: New Books

Just off press, A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton is packed with ideas on how to create resilient local food systems and become part of the solution to the food crisis by growing, cooking, and eating sustainably and naturally. Far more than a gardening book, A Nation of Farmers is about creating a paradigm shift. The book urges us to wrest control of our food system from corporations and return it to individuals and communities - to bring it back home where it belongs.

From the book:

Getting Back to the Victory Garden

What would a nation of farmers and home cooks look like? Many of us are so far removed from food production that imagining that world seems like a return to the dark ages. In fact, we only have to look back two generations, to the US in 1945, at the end of World War II. In 1943, 44 percent of all the vegetables eaten in the US were produced in home Victory Gardens, and 20 million American families worked in gardens, in addition to the one-fifth of the population living on farms. Americans fed themselves and were proud of their ability to meet their own needs. A popular war poster read, "Guts ...and sweat...that's the stuff victory is made of ! We're fighting this war to WIN...and every mother's son of us is doing his job.... Who said the US is soft? PRODUCE FOR VICTORY!" We tend to think of growing and cooking our own food as unimaginably arduous, but even were that true (and it isn't -- more on this shortly), have we gone soft? Are we really incapable of guts and sweat any more?

Envision this. During the First World War, the town of Marian, Indiana, for example, had a population of 29,000 and more than 14,000 Victory Gardens. In Dallas, Texas, during the same period, there were 20,000 Victory Gardens. During World War II, the total quantity of vegetables produced in Victory Gardens was equal to the total output of produce from all US farms combined. Think about that -- Americans produced in their yards and in vacant lots as many vegetables as all of the farms in the US. That, we think, gives us a sense of the scope of possibilities.

A society in which many of us cooked dinner every night and got our food from our own gardens and the farms and gardens of our neighbors would look very much like the World War II era. Only this time, we'd all be fighting our war from home, rather than sending sons and husbands off to battle. A nation of farmers and cooks is one that needs less oil and is less vulnerable to terrorism -- and thus needs to fight fewer wars. Instead of a war on two fronts, all of us would be working together on a single victory
-- a victory at home.

The shift is under way. More people that I know then ever before are greeting spring this year by stocking up on seed catalogs. Hoes and trowels at the ready, we dream of rows of succulent squash and leafy lettuce. Office chatter revolves around the progress of garden beds and new and creative ways to keep the deer out of the veggie patch.

What's in your Victory Garden?

A Nation of Farmers

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