Bonner Community Gardens called Victory Gardens during W. W. I. Bunkhouse in background. Montana Memory Project. Circa 1917 

Bonner’s Community Gardens were a marvel during WWI 

By Jim Harmon
via the Missoula Current (MT) web site 

It’s gardening time, at least hopefully, now that we’re past our last gasp of wintry weather!

This time of year also brings back memories of the war gardens and victory gardens of the past. During World War I, with commercial farm produce needed for the military, American households were urged to create their own backyard gardens.

“We should plant to garden every back yard in Missoula within the next 30 days!” proclaimed the Missoulian newspaper on Sunday, April 1, 1917. “This nation is entering upon the world-wide war and no man knows the full extent of our immediate needs and food necessities.”

One of the largest “community gardens” was created at Bonner, where the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (ACM) encouraged its lumber mill employees to use a huge tract of land for the purpose.

The company plowed up 25 acres of its land, including a 10-acre grass park, offering plots to “any employee of the company who desires to make a garden … sufficient to raise enough green vegetables for a family’s use during the season and enough potatoes and other tubers for the winter.”

The company also arranged for water to be piped in, and encouraged middle-school children to “have a hand in the gardening.” Charles A. Hart organized the work of 60 Bonner mill families who participated.

The guidelines were straightforward: “Each child will be required to plant and care for a 16-foot row of onions and beets, and as much more ground as they can handle.” The girls, reported the local press, “are quite as enthusiastic as the boys in the scheme.”

The Chamber of Commence joined the effort, offering prizes totaling a thousand dollars for the best gardens in a variety of categories.

Read the entire article on the Missoula Current web site.

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