At the turn of the twentieth century, numerous Canadians were concerned with civic beautification. A beautification movement erupted out of a reforming zeal initiated by prohibitionists, suffragettes and evangelists. Gardening became a quest for "good citizenship, improvement, social remedy, morality, material progress."  Horticultural duty, gardeners believed, would "purify home life...promote a greater love of home...and thereby lay the foundation of a patriotism worthy of the land we possess."  Soon after, that patriotism was tested when the First World War erupted. Citizens all throughout Canada began growing crops for wartime food production; horticultural Societies urged their members to plant backyard gardens. John Webber, head of the Hamilton Horticultural Society, spoke of the desirability of using all backyard space to grow vegetables, something he viewed as a patriotic duty.  Vacant Lot Associations were organized with the mission of getting the unemployed, as well as returned soldiers, to garden on vacant plots of land. Many of these gardens produced vegetables for the war effort. In 1917, Toronto had 798 vacant lots in cultivation, with produce valued at $40,000 (over $650,000 in 2017). 
The war resulted in an exodus of male farmers and factory workers leaving for the front. Most older women filled in for them by working in munition plants. This exodus also left space for young women to spend their summers working on farms to aid the war effort. Known as Farmerettes, these women planted, tended and harvested crops. At first, they were met with skepticism; many were deemed "city girls" who would not provide much help. This assumption proved wrong, as numerous county and city girls alike rose to the task, providing an immeasurable contribution to wartime food production. In Niagara, the Young Women's Christian Association brought women enrolled in universities and women's colleges to harvest fruit. They came from Montreal, Quebec City, and other Ontario communities. With the women's help, fruit was harvested with minimal loss. 
There were a plethora of initiatives that showed the desire of everyday citizens to pull together to aid the war effort. For some, it was as simple as planting crops in a backyard garden; for others, it meant dedicating more substantial amounts of time to farm labour. However big or small the contribution, Canadians worked hard to feed both Canadian and allied soldiers.
Thank you to Julie Bushey, Collection Management Assistant of the Grimsby Museum for selecting, scanning and sending the above images.
 Edwinna von Baeyer. Rhetoric and Roses: a History of Canadian Gardening (Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1984), 3.
 Canadian Horticulturist, May 1904, 190.
Hamilton Horticultural Society Centennial Year Book and Garden Guide, 1850-1950, 12.
 Philip F. Dodds and H.E. Markle, The Story of Ontario Horticultural Societies, 1854-1973 (Picton: Picton Gazette Publishing Company, 1973), 58.
 St. Catharines Museum. Niagara's Farmerettes. St. Catharines' Blog https://stcatharinesmuseumblog.com/2016/10/18/niagaras-farmerettes/ (accessed September 10, 2017)
Community Memories. Grown in the Garden of Canada: The History of the Fruit Industry in Grimsby, Ontario, http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000438 (accessed September 10, 2017)
Like during the First World War, many Canadians worked to produce food for the war effort during the Second World War. There were several food production initiatives throughout the war years; this post focuses on the students engaged in Farm Service. Male and female students worked on farms in the summer as a means of gaining course credit while also assisting with food production. Not only did this program help provide food for soldiers fighting overseas, it also instilled democratic values in Canadian youth. The 1941 Labour Gazette stated that:
Some teachers have questioned the advisability of allowing students to leave school so early in the year because of the loss in education. On the other hand this plan may be a gain for education if there is taken into consideration the value of training in Democracy involved in the self-discipline of farm work, the understanding of urban-rural relationships secured, the responsibility of the individual to the community which is developed in rendering a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, the co-ordination of body, mind and spirit in serving the social purpose of food production, and the realization of the value of time, work and money. 
Others, like the Chairman of the Toronto Board of Education, echoed this sentiment when he stated, "in these troubled days, may the boys and girls in our own schools learn the lessons of true patriotism and thus prepare themselves to champion loyalty, fair play and truth." A 1941 government issued handbook (shown below) states that, "this challenge [of Farm Service] is a call to you to take your place in this line of defence and man it so effectively that Great Britain and her allies- fighting for life, liberty and freedom, ours as much as theirs, need never fear a shortage of food." 
In the war's closing years, approximately 35,000 Ontario students were enrolled in Farm Service and stationed on sixty farms across the province. This number included members of Canadian Girls in Training, whose summer program was combined with the Farmerettes. More young women than men were engaged in this service, which was partly attributable to the men fighting on the front, as well as men's tendencies to seek more lucrative summer employment elsewhere in the expanding wartime economy.
Below are several pages of The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, a pamphlet issued in 1941 by the Minister of Education in Co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour.
Image reproductions are courtesy of the Royal Botanical Gardens's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies.
Wartime Farm Labour Program In Ontario, Labour Gazette, April 1943, http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/oldlabourstudies/onlinelearning/article.php?id=856 (accessed September 14, 2017)
 Empire Days in the Schools of Ontario, May 23, 1940 quoted in Charles M. Johnston, "The Children's War: The Mobilization of Ontario Youth During the Second World War" In Patterns of the Past: Interpreting Ontario's History edited by Laurel Sefton MacDowell, et al. (Dundurn Press, 1996), 357.
The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, 1941, item found at the Royal Botanical Garden's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies
 Jeff Keshen, "Revisiting Canada's Civilian Women During World War II" Histoire Sociale/ Social History vol. 30, no. 60, 1997, 364-365.
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