The Good Acre: Surviving Hard Times With a Family Garden

Everett G. Reid recounts how the family garden he planted on a one acre plot of land enabled his family to feed itself abundantly during the Great Depression and World War II.

| July/August 1973

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A well-tended family garden can help you survive scarcity, whether of income or of products on store shelves.


If you're too young and tender to remember, almost every subject (except alternative sources of power) featured so far in MOTHER EARTH NEWS was covered just as earnestly during the Great Depression of the 30's ... and again throughout World War II. Everett G. Reid, one of the authors of a steady stream of subsistence farming and gardening articles in both the 30's and 40's, says:

A small piece of land provided our family with food during the depression when there was no money  to buy food ... and again during WW II when there was no food to be had for any amount of money. The following article — first published in the March 1943 issue of Land and Home — is a brief account of how we ate well during those two chapters of our nation's history. 
Today we've reached the other end of the line: inflation. Excessive prices now put store-bought food almost out of reach for many citizens, especially retired people on small pensions. I no longer write, but I'd be delighted if you could find someone qualified to do a piece about the value of a homestead today, during this trying chapter in the life and times of our country.

For what it's worth, Dr. Franz Pick — the world's foremost authority on gold and national currencies — is predicting that the inflation we're now experiencing will soon heat up, spiral completely out of control, and lead to the collapse of the global monetary system. Maybe so, maybe not. But if it does, we're gonna be right back (in a depression) where Everett Reid came in ... and here's how his family handled that situation and the war years that followed:

Today everyone is talking about Victory gardens. Apparently they intend to do something about it, too. It is midwinter as I write, yet the local hardware dealer tells me that the demand for gardening implements is the greatest he has ever known. It's evident that my neighbors are out to beat the ration book.

Victory gardening is an old business with our family. When we began our modest experiment in self-sufficiency on an acre of land back in 1933 it was called "subsistence gardening." At that time money was scarce and commodities overabundant and of low value. According to my carefully kept diary, I cheerfully worked a nine-hour day for $1.50 and considered myself lucky when I had work to do. Having earned one day's pay, I could take it to town and buy:

1 sack of flour. . . . . . . . . . .  $0.48  
10 lbs of sugar. . . . . . . . . . .  $0.40 
1 peck of potatoes . . . . . . . . .  $0.10
3 pounds lard. . . . . . . . . . . .  $0.18
1 pound butter . . . . . . . . . . .  $0.20
1 can tomatoes . . . . . . . . . . .  $0.08
1 can pork and beans . . . . . . . .  $0.06

It was at that time, when money was scarce, that we made the following resolution: "We will never buy anything that can be made or grown at home." It was our way of making my small and uncertain income stretch to its greatest limit.

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