The contributions of Ford Motor Company during World War II extended beyond those on the assembly line. While Willow Run was producing almost a plane an hour in 1944, the Ford Educational Garden Service was supporting “Victory Gardens” all over the country, helping relieve the demand for canned items needed by the nation’s armed forces.
During the war, the United States government urged citizens to take part in growing their own fruits and vegetables, in what were known as “Victory Gardens,” as part of a plan to reduce Armed Forces food shortages. The fruits and vegetables these Victory Gardens yielded for home consumption allowed for larger quantities of commercially canned items to be made available for military supply and also reduced the strain of food rationing on civilians. Civilian production accounted for 40 percent of the vegetables grown that year in the United States.
The phrase “Garden for Security” was the guiding philosophy of the Ford Motor Company Garden Educational Service, which was established in late 1943 to help to the thousands of Americans doing their part in the “food battle” during World War II. Ford Motor Company’s Garden Educational Service provided educational assistance to local Victory Garden programs wherever possible. Through the company’s plants and 6,000 Ford, Mercury and Lincoln dealers, Ford representatives would contact newspapers, garden associations and schools to provide literature on the planning, planting and cultivation of gardens.
One example occurred in in Charlotte, North Carolina, a Ford branch office and tractor dealership collaborated with the local country farm agent to produce two community plots. While branches in Chicago, Milwaukee, Richmond, Virginia; Des Moines, Iowa; and the Twin Cities all supported garden educational work within local schools.
Ford employees that did not have access to home or community gardens had the opportunity to request a company-employee garden, located in two different areas of Dearborn. These garden plots would have gardeners on site daily to administrate, provide advice, and instruct employees who had gardens on site.
The efforts of the Ford Educational Garden Service ensured that civilians would have access to produce healthier, more productive gardens. Current gardeners, as well as thousands who had never had a garden before, had access to a service that would be able to make their food source more secure. The Educational Garden Service gave tips on what to grow, what insects to look out for and how to control them, as well as tips for canning your crops. As a 1944 Service pamphlet stated, “Can all you can, store all you can. In this, in addition to a summer’s supply of vegetables, lies security.” These gardens were opportunity for both supplying nutrition and boosting morale during the hardships of war.