Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gardening is about patience

Just ask the members of the Walker Victory Gardens aka the Community Farm. Over a year ago a few folks thought it would be great to have a community garden where friendships, vegetables, and children could all grow in harmony. Today that dream took the first tangible steps toward reality. On a beautiful Saturday morning nearly 30 volunteers assembled to layout, construct and build the first phase of the Community Garden at the Old Airport in Jasper, just west of Airport Road. At the end of the day 30 brand new beds were ready for some gardeners to plant with hope, love, and patience.

Victory Gardens [1]

1940’s America. As part of the war effort, the government rationed foods like sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, coffee, meat and canned goods. Labor and transportation shortages made it hard to harvest and move fruits and vegetables to market. So, the government turned to its citizens and encouraged them to plant "Victory Gardens." They wanted individuals to provide their own fruits and vegetables.
Nearly 20 million Americans answered the call. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors pooled their resources, planted different kinds of foods and formed cooperatives, all in the name of patriotism.
Farm families, of course, had been planting gardens and preserving produce for generations. Now, their urban cousins got into the act. All in the name of patriotism.

Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about victory gardens, and women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers (used in the process of canning), compared to 66,000 in 1942. The government and businesses urged people to make gardening a family and community effort.
The result of victory gardening? The US Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables. So, the program made a difference.
Written by Claudia Reinhardt, the Ganzel Group.


Today’s Walker Victory Gardens are not so much a war effort as they are a survival mechanism for poor nutrition, strained grocery budgets, a lack of physical exercise, and a desire for the freshest most wholesome garden goodies. Paul Kennedy added that he “sees the vegetable as the second priority. First is the public health, second is the fun and esprit de’ corps with the others in the garden.” One sage gardener opined – “there is peace in the garden”.

In keeping with the ‘slow food’ movement in America the group that is running this garden is grateful for the help of so many. The Committee is advised by Paul Kennedy with the Walker Area Community Foundation and Chaired by Katherine Patton from the Walker County Soil and Water Conservation District. Phillip Grace takes time off from Hagar Oil to serve as the Farm Manager. All of these positions are temporary as the group pilots this idea through the growing stages. The Master Gardeners, the Herb Society and too many more to mention are at the heart of this effort under the tutelage of County Agent Coordinator Danny Cain. Amber Johnson with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Katherine Patton took care of much of the advance work. Margaret Dabbs, Secretary for the group, has been one of the many cheerleaders and organized all of the hospitality for the day’s events and helps to keep the group on track. To coin an old phrase – “It takes many hands to make light work.” Saturday, that was the case in many ways. The cheers went up as B.J. Dover rolled in with a bucket on a tractor after the first dozen beds were filled by hand. Whew!

In short - it was fun to do and very rewarding to see it beginning to take shape. All of this is the shared dream of many. Special thanks go to the Walker County Commissioners and the City of Jasper’s City Council Members and Mayor for having faith and making this a priority and a shared project. What a great way to showcase what good can happen when we all pull together. Thanks also to the Walker County Farmers Federation for providing a grant for the materials. The beds should have a life expectancy of four to five years. The benefits of good nutrition, fellowship, and economy will last a lifetime.

As the project progresses, we will be adding more beds and a variety of demonstration areas. Future plans also call for “meet the expert” sessions on Saturday mornings for a brief introduction to new techniques and ideas. We hope to have some chefs involved in the future as well. There are just a few beds available now.

If anyone is interested in learning more about the garden, how to participate, or to get a plot, please call Katherine at (205) 384-0606, or Phillip at (205) 384-3422. Additional information will soon be posted on the Walker Area Community Foundation website at

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