Kick off gardening season at Victory Garden Seed Swap in Batavia

  • Families participated in last year's seed swap in Batavia.  During World War I, children were considered "Soldiers of the Soil."

    Families participated in last year's seed swap in Batavia. During World War I, children were considered "Soldiers of the Soil." Courtesy of Sammi King

Updated 2/27/2019 3:57 PM

I grew up in Batavia and spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather gardened In his spare time, and my grandmother preserved everything that came from the garden, filling the pantry with jars of tomatoes, beans, pears and applesauce for their use and to share with neighbors.

They planted their first garden, a Victory Garden, during World War II.


According to the Smithsonian, the beginning of Victory Gardens can be traced to World War I when the National War Garden Commission was formed to deal with a severe food shortage. Americans answered the call to "Sow the Seeds of Victory" so that more food could be exported to our allies.

Victory Gardens, also called "war gardens," were an essential part of the homefront effort during both wars to provide a food supply for both troops and civilians.

Across the country and around the world, people plowed backyards, vacant lots, parks, baseball fields, and schoolyards to plant gardens. Children, referred to as "Soldiers of the Soil," worked along with parents to fertilize, plant, weed, and water the gardens. Vegetables were the largest crop followed by fruits and herb gardens.

It is estimated that approximately one-third of the vegetables grown during World War II came from Victory Gardens.

The government provided Americans with information on how to can and preserve the produce.

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According to the Smithsonian, "seed collection was encouraged, and many garden groups, already experienced in saving seeds, shared seeds, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom."

Last year, Batavia Depot Museum Director Jennifer Putzier led the effort to plant a Victory Garden on the museum grounds.

"We were honored to receive an Award of Merit from the Illinois Association of Museums for our garden," said Putzier.

In conjunction with the planting of the garden, Putzier also held a Victory Garden seed swap which the museum will do again on Saturday, March 2, at the Peg Bond Center. The Batavia Environmental Commission will be joining the Historical Society for the Seed Swap.

"Last year, we had gardeners not only share their seeds but also their gardening tips," she said. "It 's a great way for gardeners to connect with one another."


For those who are itching to get their fingers in the soil, this is a great way to start the gardening season.

The Depot Museum will be opening to visitors in March. It will be the last month for Depot curator Chris Winter, who retires at the end of the month. Winter was responsible for many of the outstanding exhibits over the years. Her final exhibit is about Batavia interiors.

"I started with the park district 32 years ago in registration. Then I spent one day a week helping Carla (Hill) at the museum. About 20 years ago, I moved to full time at the Depot. I guess Carla realized she couldn't live without me," Winter joked.

Winter also did volunteer training and spent countless hours educating third-graders about the Depot and Batavia history. Her commitment to the museum and to Batavia is truly appreciated.

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