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)
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