Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

World War Two Victory Gardens and Canning: Elk River on the Home Front

With the coming harvest season, I am reminded of the practices for preserving food during World War Two.  In 1943, with the war going full blast, every family tried to raise food in their own “victory gardens.”  The produce of these gardens seemed so abundant questions developed on how to best preserve the extra food.  In Elk River a unique program developed to provide canning services to any family in need of the service. 

In June 1943, the Elk River newspaper announced the high school acquired a canning unit capable of processing 500 quarts per day.  With the aid of supervisors, anyone needing access to the canning unit might preserve any food grown in their victory gardens.  The unit canned in glass or tin cans.  If the family used tin cans, they would be charged two cents per can.

“All are welcome to come in and can,” School Superintendent Robert Handke said.  He anticipated high demand for the unit, he encouraged residents to contact the school to reserve time for the operation. 

The only shortcoming of the program concerned vandalism of victory gardens.  In July, the Village Marshall posted an ad in the Elk River newspapers.  He knew of several vandals destroying victory gardens.  He wanted to give them an opportunity to turn themselves in before he turned these cases over to the state for prosecution.  The Marshall’s tactics apparently succeeded, as the vandalism stopped, and the Elk River canning unit preserved a bumper crop of garden produce.   

The canning units in Elk River serve as another example of the attitude of complete cooperation during World War Two. 

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