Every Wednesday morning before work I wake up early to help the Snell family set up for the Portland Farmers' Market in Monument Square. In return for this work, we receive plants to populate our fire escape garden (shh, don't tell the fire marshall), and produce later in the year. Besides being extra-fresh and delicious, this payment is turning out to be more lucrative than tech stock options.
According to anecdotal accounts from the market's farmers, this is turning out to be a banner year for vegetable and herb plant sales. As food prices rise, it looks as though more and more people are taking up gardening to raise their own calories this summer.
In the San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Philip S. Wenz calls for a revival of WWII-era Victory Gardens to neutralize rising food prices:
"During the Second World War, which began while America was still recovering from the Great Depression, both money and the things that money could buy were scarce. Necessities such as food and fuel for heating and transportation were rationed at home in order to supply our soldiers abroad.Of course, those victory gardeners were just coming out of a decade of Depression, and they had a lot more experience in self-sufficiency than today's Americans. We may be at war today, but instead of asking us to conserve resources and grow our food, our government now asks us to go shopping, and instead of a decade's worth of experience in frugality, we're coming out of a decade of morbid obesity. In other words, it's way too soon to tell whether today's gardeners will earn the "victory" label - but at least we can enjoy some better food and more time outdoors.
The American people and their government responded to the shortages by starting the ambitious Victory Garden program, which encouraged citizens to grow vegetables. Almost overnight, millions of gardens were cultivated in private yards, schoolyards and parks across the nation...
The results were spectacular. Victory Gardens yielded as much as 40 percent of the country's nonmilitary produce."
Image: San Francisco victory garden, from the Chronicle's files.