In 1940, “The Victory Gardens Leaders Handbook” was published to encourage Americans to grow their own food, with straightforward how-to lessons in planning and starting a garden, saving seeds and canning vegetables from backyards and community spaces.
Tin was hard to come by, canned foods were disappearing from shelves and fresh produce was scarce because there were soldiers and a war effort to feed. Food rationing had begun, and the call went out to start “Victory Gardens” in the name of patriotism. Nearly 20 million Americans responded to the challenge; Victory Gardens were estimated to grow up to 40 percent of all the vegetable produce being consumed nationally at the time.
In 2012, we face wars on other fronts: climate change, drought, genetic modification resulting in crop-killing superbugs and weeds, consolidation of seed supply, soil depletion from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, political polarization preventing passage of a Farm Bill, and a stock market that bets on future prices of produce and livestock. With childhood diabetes on the rise and an epidemic of obesity, we need healthier diets and more nutritious foods.
Sounds like an active call for a 21st century Victory Garden effort—and, just in time, it’s here!
Empowering people once again to “grow their own” and now in its third year, The Grow LA Victory Garden Initiative (GLAVG) offers four-week, low-cost classes in gardening basics throughout Los Angeles County. Classes are taught by University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) LA County Master Gardener program volunteer instructors.
Taught seasonally in fall and spring, the current crop of 25 classes includes three on LA’s Westside: beginning September 29 at ; and starting October 6 at Venice Community Garden and in West LA at University High School.
Yvonne Savio, director of the UCCE LA County Master Gardener program, said the need for the GLAVG initiative was propelled by the public. “The bad news of the economy, publicity on diabetes and obesity all resulted in many more requests for our help in ‘How do I grow a garden?’ We were determined to offer public basic gardening classes throughout LA County, and Dr. Rachel Surls (former director of UCCE LA County) found funding.”
Classes cover the basics in seed starting, transplanting, healthy soil, backyard and worm composting, weed and pest management, container gardens, beneficial insects, propagation, harvesting and more. Prior attendees called the workshops “life changing” and said they “loved interacting and meeting with people who are just as passionate about social change and food security as myself.”
Savio’s goals for the GLAVG Initiative include community building: “We hope that gardeners will register for the class session that’s close to them, so they can join an ongoing local Neighborhood Garden Circle to share not only their excess produce but their knowledge and experiences as well.”
Strnad has been a Master Gardener since 1997 and has racked up more than 1000 hours of volunteer time. With her specialty presentation on container gardening, she’s trained other Master Gardeners as well as teaching at community gardens and in low-income communities; she volunteers with the Las Doradas Early Childhood Education Center in the Oakwood section of Venice; and her home garden has been twice featured on the Mar Vista Green Gardens tour.
Burke, a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a professional garden designer and installer focusing on kitchen gardens, who works with Santa Monica Unified School District as School Garden Coordinator at SAMOHI and Olympic High School. She also worked for three years at Virginia Robinson Gardens in Beverly Hills. In 2007 she received her certificate from the Gardening and Horticulture Program at UCLA Extension. $55 for the series or $15 per class; contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
At University High School on October 6, Master Gardener Don Smith leads the charge. Professionally a specialist in complex accounting software, Smith is certified in Permaculture Design, and is a Soil Food Web Advisor, as well as a member of the LA Mycological Society. He volunteers at Uni High’s new garden, which he helped design and build. Vermicomposting (composting with worms) is his passion. $75 for the series or $20 per class. Contact email@example.com to register.
Also on October 6 at Venice Community Garden, which she helped co-found, Master Gardener Norma Bonilla has led previous GLAVG workshops. She brings extensive expertise in community, garden and soil building to her four-week series. Bonilla runs SOILOVE: Education, Innoculation and Regeneration of the Soil. She is a Permaculture Design Course graduate and is also a 2012 Earthfort Certified Soil Advisor. $75 for the series or $20 per class. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
Yvonne Savio maintains an active email list that the general public can join. She says, “Anyone who’s interested in gardening is invited to join either or both of my resource elists: 1) Community Gardening and Food Security; 2) School Gardening. Send me an email at: email@example.com.”
For Grow LA Victory Gardens class locations and registration information visit celosangeles.ucdavis.edu/Common_Ground_Garden_Program/Grow_LA_Victory_Garden_Initiative_Classes/.