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International Harvester Victory Gardening | Wisconsin Historical Society

Feature Story

International Harvester Victory Gardening

By Laura Farley

International Harvester Victory Gardening | Wisconsin Historical Society

By Laura Farley

During World War I and World War II, Americans were encouraged to help with the war effort in many different ways not only to support to the troops, but also to boost morale on the home front.

One popular way to support the war effort was to plant victory gardens. These gardens were located at people’s homes, parks, and even at businesses.

people working in a vegitable garden

Gardens Near Apartment Building, 1943

Large garden near apartment building. View the original source document: WHI 50794

Many companies encouraged their employees and customers to beccome involved in the victory garden war effort. The International Harvester Company <//www.wisconsinhistory.org/libraryarchives/ihc/>encouraged victory gardens on three different fronts: the corporate level, the employee level, and to the general public.

An article in the June 1943 issue of IH’s company magazine, Harvester World, <http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm4/results.php?CISORESTMP=results.php&CISOVIEWTMP=item_viewer.php&CISOMODE=grid&CISOGRID=title,A,1;date,A,1;none,A,0;none,200,0;none,A,0;100;date,title,none,none,none&CISOBIB=title,A,1,N;machin,A,0,N;model,200,0,N;none,A,0,N;none,A,0,N;20;title,none,none,none,none&CISOTHUMB=20%20%284x5%29;title,none,none,none,none&CISOTITLE=20;title,none,none,none,none&CISOHIERA=20;machin,title,none,none,none&CISOSUPPRESS=1&CISOTYPE=link&CISOOP1=exact&CISOFIELD1=title&CISOBOX1=harvester+world&CISOOP2=exact&CISOFIELD2=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOBOX2=&CISOOP3=exact&CISOFIELD3=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOBOX3=&CISOOP4=exact&CISOFIELD4=CISOSEARCHALL&CISOBOX4=&c=exact&CISOROOT=%2Fihc>

covered a meeting of the Sales Executive Club. At this meeting, IH’s agricultural advisor L.A. Hawkins spoke about the need for corporations to lead the promotion and implementation of Victory Gardens. Hawkins spoke of the government’s goal of reaching 20 million American Victory Gardens in 1943 and that IH could help that challenge. The advertising staff also announced that IH would start using garden-themed advertisements.

poster of Uncle Sam and farmers growing food

World War II Victory Garden Poster, 1943

Advertisment by IH to show support for the war effort by growing food. View the original source document: WHI 4762

At the local level, IH employees became involved in victory gardening. One example is Branch Manager R.C. Foster of Dubuque, Iowa, who was featured in the July 1943 issue of Harvester World. Foster was so dedicated to the idea of victory gardening to help the war effort that he cleared land in his own backyard to create an employee community garden, lending his knowledge on gardening and food storage, his own tools, and seedlings.

The October 1943 issue of Harvester World reported that approximately 4 million new acres of U.S. land was turned into victory gardens — yielding roughly 8 million tons of fresh fruits and vegetables. The same issue encouraged IH employees to continue the war effort by growing even more gardens. It featured a community garden used by other branch offices. The 40' x 45' shared space was planted with corn, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, snap beans, and lima beans. Each employee’s family was responsible for caring for the shared plot on a rotating basis. In addition, each family was given a 20' x 40' plot to plant crops of their choice. Participating in community gardens was remarkably affordable, costing $4.48 per lot, and included the land and tractor rental as well as seeds.

International Harvester also encouraged victory gardens outside of the company. A February 1943 advertisement promoted an 84-page book titled: Make a Victory Garden, on growing, harvesting, and storing produce. This book was distributed in the winter of 1943 and was available to employees and private citizens at no cost.

Various manuals and

Agricultural Extension Publications, 1946

Various manuals and "How To's" published by IH. View the original source document: WHI 33891

As World War II ended and soldiers returned home, there was less need for victory gardens. Today, many communities around the country are resurrecting the idea of the victory garden with community garden spaces available in parks, school yards, and apartment complexes.