Little Rock’s Modern Victory Gardenby Anabel Logan
That the idea of a Victory garden survived the World Wars that fostered it is kind of neat. For those unfamiliar, Victory gardens were part of a wartime initiative that encouraged home and community gardening to lighten the load on the public food supply and provide a little morale booster to those at home during war. Thanks to Internet Archive, there is actually a video still available for online viewing issued by the Department of Agriculture in the 1940’s on Victory gardens. Nearly a century after Charles Lathrop Pack organized the National War Garden Commission, the Victory garden holds meaning as a way of taking greater stake in our food supply for the good of our communities and beyond.
The Victory Garden is a community-based gardening space located in the Stifft Station neighborhood on South Valentine St. Ryan Boswell founded the garden in 2011 with aspirations to sell the plots for a small price so that people could come out and grow their own plants. However, since people were not maintaining their plants and beds properly, this initiative did not work out like Ryan had hoped. In Spring 2012, Ryan decided that he would make the Victory Garden more available to the public by allowing the plots to at no cost. Ryan focused on edible plants such as arugula and Japanese spinach and integrated livestock (chickens and ducks) into the plot, as well as several sustainable farming practices. Under Ryan’s direction, the Victory Garden also hosted several successful volunteer days (and still does!) and fundraising events.
Since then, Ryan has moved for an apprenticeship on an organic farm in Northwest Arkansas, and Angela Garner and her husband John, who were already dedicated Victory farmhands, took over the garden and are now focusing on native plants. The couple is trying to get the word out to the community that spaces are available with the commitment of maintaining and providing one’s own gardening tools/supplies. Angela and John have plans to grow, among other things, sweet potatoes, cow peas (a variation of black-eyed-peas) and provide seeds for the community. Victory is also participating in Community Crop Mob, a gleaning effort coordinated by Josh Hardin of Laughing Stock Farm, in which a network of community gardens commit to grow rows of specific produce for area food banks and shelters. Gleaning is an old farming tradition, in which people come out to a farm after a big harvest and collect the leftover crop to take to a food bank or shelter. With proper management this type of farming provides resources to those in need. I was completely unaware of the gleaning method, but it makes perfect sense in theory. I wonder how effective it actually is… Time will tell with this Community Crop Mob project!
Victory Gardens also has an herb bed that includes sage, oregano, mint, rosemary and cilantro. All of these herbs are sold at ALFN’s Local Food Club and area farmers’ markets. I think that having a community garden is a fantastic idea, but I do not know how many people are aware of this opportunity to grow their own plants on a communal plot. I think John and Angela plan to promote the garden to a greater extent in the near future, but it will take time and dedication to do so. Look for the Victory Garden at the Bernice Farmers’ Market on Sundays, with their baby duck in tow!