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Looking Back: Suggest resurrection of ‘victory’ gardens in Maple Ridge

‘take a lesson from the past and plant a health gardens, for hope, for the future, for good health’
A group of teen girls clearing a plot of land for gardening in Maple Ridge in 1941. (Maple Ridge Museum & Archives)

by Shea Henry/Special to The News

With the current international crisis affecting all corners of our society, everyone has been called upon in some way to help whether as a frontline worker or simply staying at home.

Every day in the news, on social media, and even from the mouth of the prime minister, himself, the connection is made to the last great crisis to hit our world, the Second World War.

Connecting the two world-altering events is sure to instill the seriousness of the situation and ensure that we take this seriously.

Outside of the calamitous effects of war and pandemics there are positive effects that individuals can have on the world, our societies, and even our immediate lives.

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Those of us who are not frontline workers – working at hospitals, clinics, grocery stores, gas stations, and other essential services – we stay at home striving to flatten the curve.

On that homefront, we have many options for entertainment, certainly more varied than in the 1940s, but we also have ways of helping.

Those on today’s homefront can donate money, use their entertaining skills on social media, encourage friends and family through video calls, and give the daily shout out at 7 p..m. to the frontline workers.

During the Second World War, the homefront felt a similar need to help – the need to give back, be part of the war without being in the battles.

They took to sending care packages, knitting, sewing, mandatory rationing, and of course planting the ever-important victory garden.

Victory gardens were a push by the government during both world wars to supplement an already stressed food system.

Victory gardens became an important food source, but also an important activity to those at home who just needed to do something for the war effort.

In Maple Ridge many people already had their “kitchen gardens” on the side of their house to supplement their store bought food. During the war,. these local kitchen gardens were expanded and those who did not have them, added them.

This pandemic has hit us in spring, which is when the gardeners out there are starting up their gardens, planning everything out and planting their first seedlings.

While in the war these gardens were touted as being one step the homefront could do towards victory.

In our current situation, we are certainly not at war, but we are battling a global disease.

So, in this case, I would suggest a rechristening of war-time victory gardens, to pandemic time “health gardens.”

Planting your own garden in our situation today is not just about the food you may get from it.

Yes, having a home garden down the road might mean fewer trips to the grocery store, putting fewer people at risk of infection.

RECENT COLUMN: Quarantine back in the day of the Spanish flu kept Maple Ridge safe

But in this case, I would suggest that the health we are striving for is not just our physical health.

Planting gardens whether it is a vegetable or flower garden provides us with much needed mental health and clarity.

We are missing our friends and family, seeing disease hit all over the world, but with a garden we can see, at even a small scale, new life.

We can watch that new life grow and thrive and we can be the ones who started it.

For those on the home front in the Second World War, seeing the often-devastating newsreels, their victory garden represented something similar.

So let us take a lesson from the past and plant our health gardens, for hope, for the future, and for good health all around.

– Shea Henry is the curator at the Maple Ridge Museum & Archives


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