During the height of COVID lockdown, the 4-H Victory Garden Club began as a multi-county “4-H From Home,” held on Zoom twice a month with 4-H staff as its club leaders. The club learned things about houseplants, orchids, and different types of growing scenarios. There was “show and tell” with members sharing their screens with pictures of their gardens, or their favorite recipes and all the while, asking questions and learning from each other and the leaders through the technology of the internet.
When things started to open up again, the club leaders could no longer sustain a virtual club after all the youth members were Zoomed-out and aching to be outside again. The leaders wanted to keep going because they loved the topic, but knew they had to bring it into a more local, in-person setting.
Around that same time, the Verona Community Garden was in its infancy, in its first growing season. The committee was careful not to take on too many activities or spread itself too thin. But by the end of the first summer, the 4-H felt the urgency to bring the Victory Garden Club to this thriving community garden, where many youth and adults had expressed their love of gardening and enthusiasm about continuing to learn and grow together in a club setting even after the typical growing season was done.
The opportunity for young adults to join in an in-person club experience is finally returning!
Why would it be called a “Victory” Garden Club? Well, back when the online club was starting, there were real issues about acquiring fresh food. Even now, when the need for Instacart seems to have stabilized, the media is warning citizens to be concerned about shortages and supply chain problems looming ahead. So, it makes sense to continue with the same name since the definition of a Victory Garden is, “a vegetable garden, especially a home garden, cultivated to increase food production during a war or period of shortages.” Hopefully, we won’t feel the shortages here in Verona, but we can certainly use what we learned from that difficult and interesting year. And in winter we often don’t think it’s a hardship to go without fresh lettuce, kale, or cabbage – we might think nothing is growing at all in our New Jersey soil.
But we can use this time to learn about what DOES grow in winter, how to prepare for the next crop and the next, all year round. Succession planting is just as important (and exciting) in winter gardening as it is in summer, thus preventing shortages of our favorite vegetables appropriate for that season. Hopefully, we can even learn about propagation and other topics that are interesting to all of us using seeds saved from the Community Garden when possible and learning how to keep fresh vegetables thriving in all weather conditions.
In our Club we would like to gather with youth in 5th to 8th grades and their younger or older siblings in the Verona Community Garden, rain or shine, and maybe even snow! And although we have some members who have already signed up, with the majority expressing interest in a Friday afternoon club meeting, if you know someone who might be interested in this Friday afternoon club, please forward this form to them with the return deadline of Friday, November 12.
In 4-H in Essex County we believe “the more the merrier” and always strive to include everyone if possible. We are happy to include youth in younger grades, provided an adult stay with children under third grade for the duration of the meeting.
At our initial gathering after school (3:15 p.m.) on Friday, November 19, we’d like to hand out record books for members to keep their information about each club meeting, discuss the schedule, topics and possible officer positions (scribe, treasurer, liaison, town crier and photographer), and then we will be ready to get started.