April 22, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney
Amidst a global pandemic, April 22 marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day and many in the Sam Houston State University community during this milestone are practicing the art of growing vegetables, fruits and flowers while stay-at-home orders are in place.
However, Zachary Doleshal assistant professor for the department of History says this is not a new trend and that the United States has a long history of creating home gardens when there is economic instability.
“The victory garden in the United States came about during World War One, when political leaders viewed food production and gardening as a part of national security. Nationwide organizations, such as the Women's Land Army, the National War Garden Commission, and the United States School Garden Army, helped to organize community and private gardens. Their efforts produced real results - according to Rose Hayden-Smith, an expert on the subject, these organizations ‘transformed the American food system.’ They would be replicated again in World War Two,” Doleshal said. “More importantly, the idea that food production was a national security issue would continue to be a theme in American society and politics into the present. Victory gardens set in the American imagination that when faced with an existential threat, Americans can and should do something about it by producing food in their communities.”
Creating a victory garden can be a source of empowerment during hardship and uncertainty.
For Liz Corbin, a Food Science and Nutrition major, healthy living has always been a passion of hers.
“Growing your own produce can inspire you to learn more about the origins of your food and help you make better choices about what you put on your plate,” Corbin said.
According to Stephanie Smith, marketing coordinator for IT@Sam, she initially started her garden to be more self- sufficient and save money in the long-term.
“I like canning and grew up on fresh vegetables so, having a garden is a little piece of my childhood,” Smith said. “It also is a great way to teach my daughter responsibility and allow her to experience the pride that comes with taking care of something that you can see through every stage of development – from planting a seed, to seeing the plant sprout, and finally getting to pick the vegetables and place them on your table to provide for your family.”
Mass Communications major Kelly Clark is using the stay-at-home orders as an opportunity to weed and pot plants.
“I never intended to neglect my lawn, but school and work always came first,” Clark said. “Now, my yard has never looked better and I have an excuse to get out of the house.”
From novice to experts, there are many reasons people are getting out and gardening.
"Research shows that contact with nature plays a vital role in our psychological wellbeing,” Tim Pannkuk associate professor for Horticulture and Agronomy said. “For some people, it is a casual leisure pursuit, for others a stress release, and for others, perhaps they have more time to introduce children to working outdoors.”
Michael Foster, videographer for the university’s Marketing & Communications department believes that gardening has brought his family closer together.
“I originally started with flowers because they made my wife happy, then I moved onto vegetables to make myself happy,” Foster said. “Now, the kids enjoy the birds and the butterflies that the plants attract.”
For many SHSU parents, they are using gardening as an outdoor activity to do with their children while they are home from school.
Jennifer Alexander, an administrative associate for the Graduate School, has started growing tomatoes and jalapeños from seeds and plans to plant them by the end of the week. She has been able to get the dirt ready with the help of her daughter, Lauren.
Long-time gardener Rebecca Renfro, associate professor for the School of Music, believes that along with sustenance, gardens also provide real satisfaction.
“I come from a long line of farmers, and my mother (SHSU class of 1964) is currently active as a master gardener, so I have learned a lot from her,” Renfro said. “I find gardening very meditative and peaceful, and a fun way to create beauty in your own little corner of the world. Luckily for all of us, Mother Nature has been very obliging this spring and has given us pretty weather to help the garden along.”
While Earth Day will be different this year, there are still plenty of ways to get engaged and benefit the planet, whether you plant a victory garden or pull weeds.
Pannkuk offers his advice for individuals experimenting with gardening and landscaping for the first time.
“Read as much as you can on the topic before beginning. Keep in mind, just because you see your neighbor doing something, does not mean it is correct,” Pannkuk said. “Also, Texas Cooperative Extension has a plethora of “electronic handouts” on various topics in gardening and landscaping.”
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