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Victory Gardens are the way to go

I think Michelle Obama rocks. She's turning over the lawn and putting in a garden and swing set at the White House. What better example of family values, self-sufficiency and health can you have? Indeed, as I look over the last of the snow and enjoy some days in the sugar bush, I am thinking of my garden. I'm hoping to put one in at my rental place here in Detroit Lakes. And, I'm thinking of those Victory Gardens of the olden days. It may be about time for them again.

Around 50 years ago, the Victory Garden movement flourished, linking local gardens to homeland security. Americans were urged to garden, putting less strain on a national food supply and ensuring that the soldiers abroad would have plenty of food. The country responded -- around 20 percent of the population grew the victory gardens (at that time almost 60 percent of Americans gardened) and those patriotic Americans were able to produce up to 40 percent of America's vegetables. People felt empowered, like they were really contributing something to the country. Relationships between community members were strengthened over the picket fence, and I guess folks ate pretty well.

I'm thinking it's time to bring back those gardens. Food security is sort of dodgy these days, between the recalls of hamburger from the school lunch program and the nationwide concerns about peanut butter. Job security and income security are at an all time low, and we're in tough times with our health. This is to say that the National Center for Health Statistics suggests that some two thirds of us are overweight or obese. We just eat too much junk food, fast food and don't exercise. Gardening provides a key answer to many of these challenges, and gives us an opportunity to not only save money, but also, perhaps, to save our health.

"Victory gardens focused on delivering maximum nutritional value," Pamela Price, a victory garden historian, explains. "Planting a rainbow means including a variety of colors which represent different nutrients and pack a dense nutritional punch."

Additionally, gardeners might look to heritage vegetables, as many of these are higher in anti oxidants and amino acids than their more recent hybrid descendants. Hominy corn is high in carbohydrates and protein. One serving of hominy yields 47 percent of the DRV for fiber and 33 percent of the B vitamin Thiamine and has half the calories of market corn. Arikara squash has 13 percent of the DRV for fiber, 64 percent of the DRV for vitamin A, and half the calories and double the calcium and magnesium of the market equivalent. Similarly, Potawatomi lima beans are low in fat, and high in carbohydrates and protein. B vitamins are found in abundance, including thiamine, pantothenic acid, niacin and B6. Potawatomi lima beans also provide 24 grams of fiber per serving, and 21 times the anti oxidants found in market beans.

Besides that, lawns may not be the only way to live in a neighborhood. Rumor has it that we use the same amount on lawn pesticides and fertilizers as the entire GDP of Haiti. Most of the world has gardens, not lawns.

The White Earth Land Recovery Project worked with the Tribal Council over the past couple of years and has plowed over 150 gardens, put in around 10 greenhouses, and constructed some grow boxes for community members. We hope that there will be an interest in continuing this trend in 2009, joining up with the Obamas. I personally am looking forward to some killer tomato and awesome squash competitions in the neighborhood. Gardening is pretty patriotic in the end, and awfully healthy. If you're interested in gardening in White Earth, please call White Earth Tribal Housing.