Japanese Internment and Victory Gardens
Published: Feb. 23, 2012/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
.....Alert reader Don Hull from Costa Mesa pointed out a bit of untold history regarding the Victory Gardens I mentioned in last week's Garden Trends column.......
Although Victory Gardens were touted as the patriotic thing to do, he wrote, "Victory Gardens were the propagandistic answer to the chaos created by FDR's roundup and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in early 1942."
It was Feb. 19, to be exact, as we remember the anniversary of Executive Order 9066 issued by Franklin D. Roosevelt this month.
The only source that has a bit of news about the Japanese internment/Victory Garden connection is the San Francisco Museum at sfmuseum.org that says Japanese truck farmers in California were responsible for a $40 million a year industry in fruits and vegetables.
By March, 200,000 acres had been confiscated, sold off or given away to "non-Japanese" farmers mostly from Dust Bowl regions. Those farmers weren't nearly as efficient or experienced at growing crops in California. Food and labor shortages followed.
In a San Francisco News story dated March 9, 1942, the government asked that rural schools adjust their vacation schedules so children could help out during the harvest seasons.
These were called "Victory Vacations" and promoted as not only patriotic but also good for health, exercise and fresh air.
Although Japanese internment wasn't mentioned in the report, a photo caption stated that the evacuation of the Japanese farmers resulted in shortages.
A Victory Garden handbook for home growers from 1943 explains, "Our farmers produced a record amount of food in 1940, then broke that record in 1941 and '42. Their goals are still higher in 1943, but civilian and fighting demands keep mounting, while farmers must make out with less labor."
It is interesting to note those Victory Garden pamphlets and other government messages leave out the fact that thousands of experienced farmers were locked up at time.
Gary Hayakawa, a nursery consultant in Irvine, was born in an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas.
"My father was arrested by the FBI because he was active in the Japanese School," he said. "Three of my sisters were interned in Arizona. We lost everything – my parents only took what they could carry. "
Hayakawa's family was in the nursery business and not directly related to the food supply, but thousands of other farmers were.
Still, nurserymen could be relied upon to supply the seeds, fertilizers and tools that 20 million Americans needed in the 1940s to grow more food at home.