Guest Columns

Victory Gardens: A Great Food Source That Helps Build Community

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By Emil Moussa

Whether you enjoy the winter season or not, spring is around the corner. Because of this, the gardener must always have a plan of action to tackle the necessities of having a successful harvest of his or her goods and bounty from the earth.

With that being said, I recently started to think about gardening as a whole. Although I am a self-admitted novice at this fun and endearing hobby, I feel that the garden is one of the great assets one can have when residing in suburbia.

I also started to think about the interesting history of the Victory Garden, what it means and what it stands for, and if you don’t have one already, why you should create your own version of the Victory Garden.

Victory Gardens are truly what they are – a garden to help declare victory. The concept has been around since World War I and continued into the second World War when foods were rationed. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate time to revive such a great idea.

The world we live in now has seen a stark increase in the cost of food, especially the ones that are better for us while the unhealthier foods remain cheaper to buy and consume. What’s been going on the past year has also played out on our television screens – long lines across America for those that, through no fault of their own, have fallen into despair as the current crisis has been trying the American spirit.

Times were difficult enough with the long economic recovery following the Great Recession; it’s now gotten worse the past year and the cracks of the facade of American prosperity are showing for the world to see. Who would have thought that one of the richest, most powerful, freedom loving people on Earth could succumb to such a tragic fate? Who would have guessed that a continental power, let alone a global power, could see food lines stretch across our great cities? No one, that’s who.

Let’s take care of one another. With all that’s happening in our world right now, a Victory Garden is but a small contribution you can make for the greater good. By no means will it solve all our problems. But it’s something we can do to help us contribute in a sort of national service (national in the scope of your local community at least).

You can start one of your own growing herbs and nutritious fruits and vegetables. Use it as an opportunity to give yourself and your family some nutritious foods in your diet. Take the kids out to work on it so they can actually know where their food comes from and a little extra work outside might actually be good for them. Nothing is a better confidence booster than seeing the fruits of your labor literally come out and knowing that it was because of you.

Use the excess to give or share with your neighbors, some you may not even know. This is how we build a community. We live so close together but remain so far apart. This is but a small gesture in rebuilding our suburban communities.

Perhaps your town has vacant lots and unused land. Why keep them vacant? What good does the empty land do? Why wait for a developer to come along and put another box store where we don’t need, and for that matter, even want one?

Create a group of fellow citizens to approach your local government to turn these once vacant lots into flourishing gardens that the community owns. A small piece of land everyone can work on and produce some extra food for themselves. Give the excess food to a local food pantry, letting your fellow citizens know that they are not forgotten and they shan’t be lost.

Some of us have forgotten how to take care of one another in this country. This is an effort to remind us of who we are. The Victory Garden is a way to bring back a uniquely American idea of growing one’s own food source in a patriotic and community-oriented way while still remaining an individualistic, self-reliant person.

I would encourage you to, at the very least, consider this idea and find a path to creating a Victory Garden that best fits you and your community. No two Victory Gardens will be the same, but they will have the same purpose.

Happy gardening!

Emil Moussa is a public school teacher and is a member of the Town of Cortlandt Conservation Advisory Council.

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