Posts tagged victory gardens

Victory Gardens

It appears the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood Association will soon have a demonstration garden in Poet’s Park, at Otis Road and 12th Avenue SE. An agreement expected to be signed today will now be signed on Monday, the group’s president, Michael Richards, said.

Richards and others hope the garden will inspire neighborhood residents to plant their own gardens.


Julie Sina, director of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, who is signing the agreement with the group, said that had the agreement been signed earlier, seedlings planted already would have been lost to this week’s frost. As an aside, she noted  that  the city gardeners at Ellis Park have seen their gardens wiped out by flooding this week from the Cedar River. This hasn’t been the ideal spring for gardeners.


On a more inspiring note, CURE International sent the following news release to me today. And Michael Richards passed along the item on peace gardens/victory gardens below.


LUSAKA, Zambia, May 2, 2008 – As food costs continue to rise around the world, the CURE International children’s hospital in Zambia has cultivated a ground-breaking solution. Many young patients arrive at the hospital so malnourished their frail bodies are unable to handle surgery. In an effort to strengthen their bodies and immune systems, children are fed a nutrient-rich diet of vegetables pre- and post-treatment.

When a hospital administrator noticed the cost of purchasing and transporting fresh produce was rising, he decided the hospital should grow a garden of its own. By converting unused land into farming ground and hiring two full-time gardeners, his research revealed that the hospital could yield enough crops to fulfill its needs and the project would pay for itself by the first harvest.

The first harvest was abundant, providing enough food for all of the hospital’s patients and staff members. There were even enough vegetables to sell to the local community at reduced rates. Hospital gardeners have also started teaching their advanced agriculture techniques to the patients’ family members so that they can apply it to their own gardens when they return home to their remote villages.

CURE, the largest provider of specialty surgical care in the developing world, treating more than 650,000 children to date, brings children around the world the benefits of First World health care. One hallmark of all CURE hospitals is to provide meals for patients during their treatment. CURE’s hospital in Zambia was established in conjunction with UK-based charity, The Beit Trust, as a pediatric orthopedic and neurosurgery training center.



Peace Gardens

One of the most successful civilian programs in WWI and WWII was the widespread cultivation of home victory gardens. The Federal Government did not support this program at first, due to the belief that it would be a poor allocation of resources and essential labor for a tiny yield of output.

But as many of America’s farmers went overseas to fight, domestic food production dwindled. This caused shortages and strict rationing of foodstuffs. Victory gardens quickly became an essential part of the civilian war effort. These small gardens supplied low cost and nutritious produce, and helped build morale during the hard times. By growing victory gardens, our grandparents resolved their food shortages through practicality and common sense.

Today, we Americans are confronted with similar dilemmas which could imperil our very survival: an economy in deep recession, a devalued U.S. dollar, war in the Mideast, totalitarian repression at home, contaminates in the food chain. Add to this the decline of small and family farms, the explosive growth of global factory farming, genetically modified seeds and foods, declines in food production due to drough and global warming, water pollution, and an ever increasing reliance upon imported food. By considering these factors, we begin to see the approaching spector of global famine on the horizon.

Today, the creation of home gardens has become an important aspect of personal sustainability. In a few short years it will be an absolute necessity. Because of this we must relearn these traditional skills, and begin supplying our own produce, just as our our grandparents did.

Gardening is a healthy and satisfying endeavor. It provides numerous benefits, including a sense of accomplishment and personal wellbeing, an inexpensive supply of high quality vegetables, and builds morale during stressful times. Growing vegetables reconnects us with nature, and strengthens us in many ways. Gardening is a perfect antidote for these dark and depressing times. I think of them as “Peace Gardens.”

A surprising quantity of delicious and healthy produce can be grown in this way, and it is easier to accomplish than one might suppose. This can be done almost anywhere: in backyards, vacant lots, in containers or planter boxes, on porches or on window ledges. Community gardens are popping up in urban areas as well as in small communities accross the country.

Small gardens are easy to create using inexpensive, local materials: wood, stone, soil, compost, manure, and water. The size and layouts of the gardens will be dictated by the spaces available. Raised beds are a good solutions for most gardens, and can be built using clean recycled wood, or local stone. They should be designed to provide good drainage (Gravel can be put in the bottoms to assist drainage). The best raised beds are 3-4 feet wide, 16″-24″ deep, and can be worked from either side.

When picking a spot, make sure that is has good solar access, and the availability of good water. If you must use city water, acquire food grade 55 gallon plastic barrels as a temporary holding tanks. This will allow the chlorine in the city water to evaporate prior to watering. Roof water catchment is also a good alternative in areas where pollution is minimal.

Find the best garden soil that you can acquire. Do not dig soil near roads or highways, as these are all polluted with petro chemicals and lead. Ask around and find our where others get their garden soil. It should have lots of worms. Soil with a high clay content can be used, but must be improved. If you must use soil that is marginal, start by sterilizing it with solar, heat or steam. This will kill all bacteria, spores and nematodes, etc. Then augment the soil. You can add washed sand, wood shavings, organic compost, chicken, sheep or horse manure (seasoned not fresh), etc. Mix it in well with shovels and pitchforks.

The economic gifts of gardening are considerable. In addition to supplying ourselves with high quality organic vegetables at a low cost, we are also able to trade, barter or sell our extra bounty. This facilitates our participation in the alternative (underground) economy. The alternative economies will be essential as the traditional ones will soon collapse under their own dead weight.

As spring approaches, it is a good time to begin gathering the seeds, the supplies and the tools necessary to begin gardening. During the dark and cold months that precede spring, one can brush up on the essentials of gardening: composting and making soil, acquiring organic fertilizer, sprouting and planting the seeds, making raised beds, protecting the seedlings from pests, weeding, harvesting, “putting up” the produce, and finally – the many ways of preparing and eating the bounty. There are numerous resources available to assist in this learning process: Libraries, used book stores, university extension programs, and best of all – from experienced gardeners in our own communities.

Planting a peace garden is an excellent vehicle for re-establishing one’s connection with nature, restoring one’s place in the natural food chain, for preserving personal freedom, and for sewing the seeds of peace. This is the essence of true homeland security.


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Urban permaculture in Cedar Rapids

A job at Clipper Wind brought Frank Cicela and his family to Cedar Rapids recently from Indiana. Wanting to meet some “kindred spirits,” Cicela decided to bring in a few experts to conduct a permaculture workshop at his new home in Cedar Rapids.

The workshop will be Saturday, May 3, and Sunday, May 4, at 3409 Seminole Valley Rd. NE.

Permaculture is the design of human habitats that have the stability, diversity and resilience of natural ecosystems. The multi-disciplinary approach integrates renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, agriculture and food systems, natural building, rainwater harvesting and urban planning, along with the economic, political and social policies that make sustainable living possible and practical.

This sustainability  allows people to begin taking food security and energy security into their own hands and into the hands of their community.

The focus of next weekend’s permaculture workshop will be on gardening. Part of the discussion will be how to garden in a three-dimensional zone, that is, using the space above, as well as the traditional design of a garden.

Quite a bit of work goes into starting such a garden, but once established, Cicela likened it to a “food forest,” that maintains itself. “Once it’s created, you just walk through and eat,” he said.  

The course – an intensive classroom and hands-on event – will be taught by three staff members of “Big Green Summer” from Fairfield.

Cicela said the workshop normally costs almost $200, plus a drive to Fairfield. This two-day course is $55 per person.

To see the schedule and register, go to: or call (319) 832-1025.


 Michael Richards of Cedar Rapids, founder of  SUSTAINABLE ECOLOGICAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT (S.E.E.D.) noted the following to take into consideration on the importance of urban permaculture:


– 95 percent of  the food on the shelves of Iowa grocery stores travels an average of 1000 miles to get to your table.


– A few decades ago, Iowa was close to total self-sufficiency in food supply.  Over the years, local creameries, canneries and meat processors all over Iowa have gone out of business in the “bigger is better” world of cheap energy.   

 – The opposite economic structure is now our present reality;  Energy is no longer cheap.

 So now what?      

 It is time to re-build Iowa’s local food production and local food distribution infrastructure.

 It makes no sense for the state that has the most fertile soil on earth to lack the ability to feed ourselves with local sources.

 Start in your own backyard with urban permaculture.

 We can all plant “Iowa Victory Gardens” to supply 10 to 20 percent of our household food needs in our own backyard or in neighborhood community gardens.   We can then gradually build back up the local food production and infrastructure throughout the State of Iowa to reclaim the economic foundation of a safe, healthy and abundant local food system.


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