Relief Gardens

In 1934, the government established three types of relief gardens in an attempt to provide food for the needy. For some, the gardens provided income as well as providing food.

In 1934, the government established three types of relief gardens in an attempt to provide food for the needy. For some, the gardens provided income as well as providing food.

The three types of gardens started at the local level where community projects were sponsored in return, or for exchange of the garden produce. At the county work projects, laborers were paid hourly wages. At the cooperative projects, people from the relief rolls worked in the gardens and divided the harvest proportionately to the number of hours they worked each week.

Two contrasting views appear about the production of the gardens. One view states there was an abundance of produce, while another view states that due to the drought, the gardens were of poor quality.

In the month of November, nearly 1,200 people from 300 families were given food in Daviess County due to the Federal and State relief aid. The foodstuff was distributed three days per week at three county points namely Gallatin, Jamesport, and Pattonsburg.

Typical portions were ten pounds of sugar, one can of pears, one can of beef broth, one and one-half pounds of canned beef, and one package of rice. Sometimes butter and other foods were given and there was always plenty of flour.

Each of these towns had a four acre tract of land for the relief gardens, and seed was furnished by the government. Members on the relief roll worked in the garden and were given script which was exchanged for food. Men worked an eight hour day and were paid 25˘ per hour. Most of the food was state grown and state purchased, and was to be used in Missouri only. By 1935, the number of relief gardens in Missouri alone were to climb to over 500 acres along with 114,000 state sponsored subsistence home gardens many of the unemployed had planted for their own use.

Missouri had as it’s goals of 6,000,000 cans and more than 3,000 tons to feed the hungry for the 1934 winter season.

The State Garden Program had over 200 canning centers and the size was determined by the amount of food produced for canning in their area. Those living close to the large canning centers were aided in home canning and storage. While the State Garden Program furnished the cans and much of the canning equipment, many counties purchased their own to be used later in permanent community gardens. Many of these canning centers weren’t elaborate buildings.

The Gallatin canning center was located in the City Hall building. Still, it was said to be one of the best canning centers in the state.
The relief office at Braymer in Caldwell County ran short of foodstuff at one time and over 3,000 cans of pears were shipped from the Gallatin exchange. At that time, Gallatin had over 80,000 cans of pears to be given away.

— researched by Wilbur Bush