In 1917, a U. S. commission was organized to encourage Americans to contribute to the European war effort by planting and storing their own fruits and vegetables in parks, backyards and vacant lots so that crops from farms could be exported to our allies. Shortly thereafter, our country joined the war, and promotion of the War Garden movement spread quickly through women’s clubs and civic associations, which provided suggestions for crops and directions for planting and protecting vegetables. Even children were enlisted as “soldiers of the soil.” Within a year over five million new gardens had been created.
Although the program ended at the end of the WWI, victory gardens reemerged during WWII, and by 1944 over 20 million families were planting victory gardens. After food rationing was signed into law in 1942, an estimated 40 percent of vegetables that were eaten by civilians were being produced in victory gardens until the end of WWII. Throughout both world wars, Victory Gardens succeeded in boosting morale and patriotism and helped preserve the distribution of food to our soldiers.
During World War II, forty Ipswich townspeople met at the Ipswich High School to establish a campaign to educate and encourage growing food in home gardens. A fair was held at the Town Hall with exhibits of fruits, flowers, and handicrafts. Spurred on by the threat of stricter rationing, people attended the Victory Garden lectures and formed committees that specialized in various aspects of vegetable gardening and preserving.
In 1942 as Mary Scott on Elm Street waited for word from their sons Roy and Arthur on the Front, Mary planted a victory garden and preserved vegetables in the kitchen. The house she and her husband lived in, formerly 16 Elm Street, is now the largest item on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, but her Victory Garden became a parking lot for the Ipswich Police Station.