Homegrown | Modern History
Sweet | Snack
Written by: Laura May Bailey
From religious to environmental vegetarianism.
Growing your own vegetables, herbs, or fruit can help tackle a variety of environmental issues from pollution to decreasing biodiversity. One of the biggest environmental impacts of conventional food shopping is food miles, or the distance food travels before it reaches the supermarket. In the United States , it’s estimated that food has travelled an average of 1500 miles from farm to plate.
Whether transported by ship, plane or train, these food miles contribute to climate change by burning fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel. The vast scale of production of these national farms also results in monocropping, or the process of only growing one type of crop in a large area. This reduces important biodiversity and often involves heavy industrialisation and use of pesticides and fertilisers which release chemicals into the air, waterways and soil.
Growing produce on a smaller scale, in gardens, allotments or even window boxes, is a one small way to limit this agricultural pollution. During the Second World War, there was an even greater emphasis placed on gardening which was seen as essential in Britain’s war effort. Perhaps today, gardening and growing your own can contribute to the war against climate change.
Britain’s Dig for Victory campaign ran for almost the entirety of WWII. It was introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to keep the country fed while food imports were being sunk and attacked by German U-Boats during the British Blockade. Dig for Victory was promoted in tandem with food rationing to prevent starvation.
From parks and gardens, to the lawns outside of the Tower of London, green spaces across the country were turned into vegetable patches to keep the nation fed. Britain’s food economy was transformed. Before 1939, about 55 million tons of food were imported by Britain every year but by 1945 almost 1.5 million people had allotments and were growing their own.
Home grown vegetables replaced a lot of previously imported ingredients, even when it came to baking. Beetroot or carrot cakes were a popular way to create a sweet treat without using up too much of the carefully rationed sugar.