Getting to Victory Gardens in Staunton, Virginia

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I live in a small city in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. We are lucky enough to have an enormous public park with baseball diamonds, a football field, basketball and tennis courts, a skate park, three dog parks, picnic areas, ponds (stocked), and walking spaces. Early on during Covid Time, just as we began to realize that we needed to stock up (the stores were being emptied rapidly of everything, especially toilet paper), I went for a walk in the park.

It was empty.

No kids skateboarding. No dogs frolicking. No THUNK of tennis balls. No one. Nothing. It was reassuring that people were hunkering down, but it was depressing. However, when I got to the pond, I saw way way more people fishing than the usual number of people. It dawned on me that those are people who do not have the extra funds to stock up. They’re trying to stock up on fish as a way to keep food in their houses. I started thinking how much better off they would be if they had been able to can food the previous summer, or put a surplus of vegetables in the freezer, or a bunch of potatoes and squashes in a root cellar.

What this town needed was victory gardens, allotments like they have in the UK. We need to be better equipped to self-sustain.

I reached out to a lot of people. It was too late to get in municipal victory gardens for 2020, but not for 2021, so we’re working on that, but the least I could do is try to match people who would like to grow food with people who have big yards and land. Who would step up to let strangers grow food in their yards? Who would work with me to ensure municipal land could be made into victory gardens? Who could lend a hand to a novice? Who would take their own surplus to people who need it?

Turns out lots of people, including a member of the city council and a couple of non-profits. And a restauranteur offered to give canning lessons in the fall.

I created a Facebook page, Staunton Thrives, for these initiatives, and we now have 70 members – that’s plenty to get ideas off the ground. I look forward to seeing this project grow. It is so meaningful to me to help people feed themselves with healthy food. I’m not much of a gardener myself, a few tomatoes and cucumbers each year, and that’s about it.

But I can’t wait to see what happens next. And none of this would have begun had it not been for a deadly virus in our midst.

-Story contributed by Yvonne S.

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“Getting to Victory Gardens in Staunton, Virginia ,” Community of Gardens, accessed July 3, 2020, https:/​/​communityofgardens.​si.​edu/​items/​show/​12403.​
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