Browse Exhibits : 3
El Monte Federal subsistence homesteads. One hundred homes, each with three quarters of an acre land, all occupied. Average family income, eight hundred dollars per annum, (1936). Dorothea Lange for the U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, Photographer. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USF34-001676-C.
Between 1933 and 1935, the federal Division of Subsistence Homesteads (DSH) created thirty-four New Deal communities....The homesteads were organized as examples of how the country could benefit from a proliferation of semirural neighborhoods, where part-time farming on inexpensive but desirable land would encourage uplifting social functions and help establish a better way of life. Combining the benefits of rural and urban living...the communities were to encompass a new expression of some basic American values and demonstrate the path toward a healthier and more economically secure future.
Carriker, Robert M. (2010). Urban Farming in the West: A New Deal Experiment on Subsistence Homesteads. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, p. 5
In response to the Great Depression, a Federal housing program was created in 1933 that aimed to improve the living conditions of people coming from overcrowded urban centers, while simultaneously giving them a new opportunity to experience small-scale farming and home ownership. "The homesteads were organized as examples of how the country could benefit from a proliferation of semirural neighborhoods, where part-time farming on inexpensive but desirable land would encourage uplifting social functions and help establish a better way of life. Combining the benefits of rural and urban living (rurban), the communities were to encompass a new expression of some basic American values and demonstrate the path toward a healthier and more economically secure future." Carriker, R.M. (2010). Urban Farming in the West: A New Deal Experiment in Subsistence Homesteads. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, p. 3. After being transferred among several different agencies, the program officially ended in 1937.
This review of the Subsistence Homestead program showcases the materials produced by the Department of Agriculture to help the public take part in this form of "rurban" life.
Gardening is essentially practical. There is nothing better fitted for the healthful development of children. It affords opportunity for spontaneous activity in the open air, and possibilities for acquiring a fund of interesting and related information; it engenders habits of thrift and economy; develops individual responsibility, and respect for the rights of others; requires regularity, punctuality, and constancy of purpose.
Miller, Louise Klein (1904). Children's Gardens for School and Home: A Manual of Cooperative Gardening. New York: D. Appleton and Company
In 1906 the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that there were 75,000 school gardens in the United States (Jewell, 1907, pp. 37-38). The first American school garden was established in 1891 at the George Putnam School in Roxbury, Massachusetts. The peak of the school garden movement was reached in the years immediately following World War I when War Gardens turned into Victory Gardens. Finally, the urgency for surplus food production began to wane after the War. The value and use of school gardens is enjoying new life however, with the popularity of the local food movement, USDA's current Farm-to-School Program and the USDA's People's Garden.
This review of the school garden movement in the early 1900s reveals the roots of school gardening as an educational tool designed to enrich many aspects of children's lives.
Some victory gardeners showing their fine vegetables, (1942-43?). Alfred Palmer and/or Howard Hollem for the U.S. Office for Emergency Management, Photographer. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC-USZ62-69917.
The Victory Garden program of World War II proved iconic, and has engaged the imagination of many today, who seek to transform the nation's food system, one garden at a time.
Hayden-Smith, Rose. (2014), Sowing the Seeds of Victory. McFarland & Company, Inc.: Jefferson, North Carolina, p. 197.
Just 12 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor the Secretary of Agriculture co-hosted a conference designed to "discuss and formulate a broad coordinated program for enlisting interest in and guiding a national campaign to encourage home and community gardens as a defense measure" and "to reinforce the effort to reach the goal...of 5,760,000 farm gardens for 1942, to improve health through encouraging better food habits, and the use of high-vitamin and mineral foods, to improve home food supplies and aid in maintaining morale." (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1942. National Defense Gardening Conference: Washington, D.C., December 19-20, 1941, p. 2).
This program would differ from the War Gardens of World War I in a shift in emphasis from producing food for overseas civilian and military consumption to one focused on maintaining the strength and physical health of the U.S. domestic population. As M.L. Wilson announced at the conference, "Total war makes demands on everyone. All of us can't take part in the military defense of the Nation; but we are a part of that military defense just the same. Before there can be victory, there must be work and toil and sacrifice. Every man, every woman, every child must be ready to take his place or her place. To do so requires health. Once cannot expect to be physically fit, mentally alert, and ready to 'take it' unless a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, has provided that energy and fuel which is necessary to keep in top-notch condition all the time" (p. 4).
This review of the Victory Garden and Farm programs of World War II showcases the materials produced by the Department of Agriculture to help the public take part in this form of "military defense."