Featured Food Leader- Bradley Seibel

MEET BRADLEY SEIBEL – FOOD LEADER CERTIFICATE PROGRAM 2017

“Gardening is an active participation in the deepest mysteries of the universe.” -Thomas Berry

“He who understands nature walks close with God.” -Edgar Cayce

bradley 1My name is Bradley Seibel and I am a recent graduate of Marian University in Fond du Lac, where I am from and now live. As I was finally coming close to completing my theology degree after eight years I was gripped with fear. For so long I had the one goal of graduating, knowing that if I made it to that point it would be a miracle. When I finished my junior year it dawned on me that I might actually get it done, after which I would have to figure out what the next step was. I was spending hours a day researching graduate programs, thinking I would go the route most undergraduate theology students go – ministry. A dearly remembered friend of mine, Kathy, used to always say something to me that didn’t make sense during the early days of my spiritual development, she would say, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans.” I understand that much better now than I did then. The main reason why I struggled with my decision to attend graduate school was because I don’t necessarily fit into any religion, although I do have a particularly strong affinity for Christ for reasons I won’t explain now. As a rather devout, but not religious, follower of Christ I believe we are all called to ministry. It’s naturally human to want to help others, no matter how covered up that may be by our egos. I knew I wanted to be of service, but how was the question. After much doubt and confusion that I would follow with prayer and reflection it seemed to come together on its own, the path was laid out so clearly before me.

Bradley 4I have always loved nature. As a teen, I practically lived in natural areas, partly because sometimes I had nowhere else to go but mostly because I loved being there. I got my first taste of gardening at a retreat center in Portage called Bumpity where I met Kathy and her husband Bob. I learned about meditation and began my slow but steady ascent towards healing. One of the things that helped me the most was being out in their 2 acres of gardens. My mind wasn’t quite clear at that time, to say the very least, but it was enough to plant the seed that began to sprout just last year. When it dawned on me what to do it was such a relief, such a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t want to go to graduate school, at least not now. I don’t want to get up on a pulpit and preach, I want to be on the front lines. I want to do practical things to help people transform their lives, like Bob and Kathy helped me so very much. There’s not a day that goes by my heart does not fill with gratitude for what they did for me. Included in that gratitude is my advisor, Joyce Bautch the head of the theology department, who found an internship for me in Portland, Oregon with an organization called Eco-Faith Recovery. Theirs is a blend of spirituality and sustainability that was salve to my searching soul. They promote a system of practices for awakening leadership, among which is conscious leadership development. With the internship came a 750 dollar stipend, the exact amount for a student in the Food Leadership Certificate Program of Victory Garden Initiatives. I didn’t think that was a coincidence and decided to use my stipend for the program. I have learned so much and have been so inspired by the food leaders I have met.

Bradley 2I am only one person and can only do so much. With that said I want to do the most good I possibly can with the one life I have to live. So, I put two and two together and realized that by growing food and helping to change the food system I can effect change in a myriad of ways. Growing food strengthens the local economy, creating opportunity for so many to support themselves. Growing food strengthens our sense of community, nothing brings people together quite like food does! Growing food protects the environment, up to 60% of greenhouse gas emissions are related directly or indirectly to unsustainable farming practices. And obviously, growing food makes people healthier, giving more people access to fresh produce. And when people are healthier, they are happier. So, I decided to start an urban farm named AeroAbundance, LLC; that is after my plans shifted and changed and rearranged so many times I can’t count. God sure got a lot of laughter out of me this last year, and I’m laughing at myself most of the time too. I kept worrying about every little thing and then when I would just let it go everything fell into place. Funny how that works, isn’t it? An angel investor, Louise Taylor, has paid for everything and I can’t thank her enough. I’m using an aeroponics system developed by Ben Staffeldt to grow food year round in an office space I’ve remodeled to grow and sell produce in. The plants grow so much faster and they are so much more nutrient dense than traditional methods. Also, the systems use very little energy and water to maintain, only about 55 gallons every two weeks. The sprayers were developed by NASA and they create a mist with particles so small the roots can actually take nitrogen and oxygen from the air itself! The future of food is amazing, and we get to be a part! How cool!

Bradley 3A part of me wonders if I am wasting my theology degree, but then I come to my senses and realize I’m using it more than some ever do. As much as this feels like my project it doesn’t at the same time. I’m just as curious as to how this is going to evolve as anyone else. It’s becoming quite an adventure and I’m excited to journey it together with other food leaders I have had the good fortune to meet.

Bumpity Road Retreat – No place on earth quite like it

Art Garden Aeroponics YouTube Channel

Eco-Faith Recovery Practices for Awakening Leadership

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Conscious Kitchen

“Food is our common ground, universal experience.” ~James Beard

“Our everyday food choices have the capacity to change the world. Demand influences supply. So it makes sense to choose wisely, consciously. The factory farming of cattle (and other animals) is an energy-intensive, inhumane, earth-polluting, greenhouse gas-releasing endeavor. Once you learn that, how hard is it to replace that burger with a smaller one that came from a well-treated grass-fed animal? Not very. “ ~Menu for the Future, Chapter 1

Have you ever thought about making conscious changes in your kitchen? In your eating? If so, does the idea of a “conscious kitchen” inspire or overwhelm you?

In what ways can it be both inspiring and overwhelming at the same time? What might be one step you can take toward a conscious kitchen?

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P.S. Menu for the Future is one of many discussion guides offered by Northwest Earth Institute that provides insightful and inspirational reading to begin a conversation, whether it be with friends, colleagues, coworkers, and people coming together for a common cause like the Food Leader Certificate Program. If you are interested in finding out more about this discussion guide or others, check out http://www.nwei.org. If you order, make sure to mark your affiliation to VGI in the drop down box at checkout.

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Letter from the Director: The Global Grassroots

“I don’t like people who eat dogs.” my then 7-year old son said matter-of-factly to our two South Korean house guests, totally out of the blue. Without missing a beat, one of them gently replied, “We try to have tolerance for all people.”  With a little discomfort, we finished our ice cream and said our goodbyes. They had been pleasant enough house guests during their two weeks in Milwaukee while studying the food/water nexus at the Global Water Center.  They chose to stay with me because they wanted to be in a place with others whom they would have commonality.  It was an unusual and enlightening ending to our shared time, but not a bad ending.

A few months later, a delightful man from Ghana came to study urban agriculture as part of an international leadership development program that is funded by the US. Department of State.  As we all did, my son instantly liked him.  He was quick to smile, had a gentle spirit, and perhaps most importantly, seemed to enjoy it when my son climbed on him.  One night, while getting to know each other, and playing with our new puppy, Freeman casually said, “In my country, we eat dogs.” My son’s disposition changed, and he looked Freeman straight in the eyes, proclaiming, “I don’t trust you anymore.”

Freeman looked to the ground and put his hand on his heart as if physically injured, while my son left the room, and went to bed for the evening.

I didn’t know what to say exactly.  I, too, was horrified by the thought of a human being eating a dog, but unlike my son, I wasn’t in a position to let it be a barrier to developing a relationship with this otherwise wonderful human, who had traveled this far, in order to make his country a better place, by learning how to help people there grow their own food.

Over the months, Freeman worked on the farm in all kinds of weather, he charmed schools groups, inspired our older youth, and simply added to the character and flavor of everything that was happening at the farm.  Without really acknowledging it, my son overcame his discomfort with Freeman’s cultural food difference. When he left four months later, we were sad to see him go, and we still talk about his shining energy today.

Freeman

Freeman Ahegbebu with his students from “Changing the Dream Garden Initiative” class in Ghana. April 2017

Freeman was just one of many international internships that VGI has housed over the years.  We have worked with El Salvadorians, Hungarians, Haitians, Brazilians, Hmong, Syrians, Indians, and too many more to mention. People from all over the world are coming to the same realizations that we as citizens of the United States of Americans have had. It doesn’t really matter which country we were born in, we are all subject to the same humongous multinational corporations that control the quantity, quality, and variety of food that is available to people everywhere.

Funding for the national agriculture programs that promote local, sustainable agriculture is  diminishing. President Trump’s recently announced budget, will deliver a 31% cut to the EPA’s funding, which is the one remaining strongholds for ensuring the the Department of Agriculture performs its due diligence in protecting farmers, land, consumers and the earth, from vulture companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Du Pont, and Archer Daniels Midland.  These companies are exerting their insatiable wills globally, diminishing communities, addicting naive farmers to expensive and short-term agricultural strategies, and depleting soils and health.  To be quite honest, sometimes the effort to stop this death train seem futile.

But, when I look back on all the people from around the world that we have touched throughout the years, the emerging global movement to resist the continued globalization of our food system is clear. In the same way that our work has had ripple effects in southeastern Wisconsin, it is sending winds across the seas.

I have long believed that growing our own food is perhaps one of the most agreed upon strategies for making the world a better place.  It is unifying, across political lines, religions, cultures, genders, ethnicities, sexualities, income levels and practically any other dividing line we can contrive in our discerning human brains.

The original victory garden movement during World War II is often referred to as the most unified time in our country’s history. Given the global interest in taking control back from these large agricultural conglomerates the issue seems to be one that we can rally around, not only on a national scale, but a global one –  unifying the world against the new axis powers, the trifecta of large corporations, governments, and corrupted media outlets.

This year during our BLITZ to install 500 gardens, we received a gift from a donor who wanted to give gardens specifically to refugees families. We were able to build gardens for a handful of families from various countries. The one that stands out most for me, is a group of four Syrian brothers who until a few months ago, had been places all over the world in various refugee camps. Just a couple weeks before landing in the U.S., they found themselves at the same camp being told that they would go to the U.S. the next day.  They landed in Milwaukee, and by nothing short of a miracle, all four brothers and their families now share an apartment building together. In spite of differences, it is easy to see how beneficial this is for everyone involved.

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VGI Team enjoying tea with a refugee family during BLITZ 2017.

Sometimes, the cultural differences of those we perceive as dramatically different, those between whom we draw lines, creating an ‘other’ have more in common with us than we might think at the outset.  At Victory Garden Initiative, we believe that growing our own food can help these lines be less divisive. We believe in bringing people together towards solutions. We believe that grassroots efforts can make a more equitable world. We hope you’ll consider getting involved in our work, at any level, to help this happen.

A few months after Freeman went back to Ghana, I had a young Saudi Arabian man staying in one of my rooms.  The week before I knew he was coming, I had ordered a half of a hog from a local farmer, so pork was inevitably on the menu for the next several months.  I’ll never forget the way I felt when he walked into my kitchen one evening, and I explained that he was welcome to join us, but that I thought he should know what kind of meat it was.  When I told him, his face lost its color. A look of disgust, and maybe even fear washed over his face as he slowly paced toward the hunk of meat on the table, staring at it for a very long minute.  He did, however, agree that the powers that be need some undermining.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite prose, entitled Lines in the Mind, by Donella Meadows.

Think global, act local.

~Gretchen

 

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Another BLITZ in the Books

By Eric Anderson

Community Events Coordinatorshovel-squad-blitz-2017_34206791023_o

From May 13th – 27th Victory Garden Initiative was again able to build over 500 gardens throughout the Milwaukee Area! This was our 9th BLITZ, and the gardens built this year bring our total number of gardens built to over 3500. We may have had some rain, but it didn’t slow down our many volunteers who fanned out across the Milwaukee area to test out their shoveling skills.

This year, thanks to generous donations and sponsorship, we were able to subsidize more gardens than ever before. We built:

  • 31 gardens in the Layton Boulevard West Neighborhood
  • 21 in Clarke Square
  • 37 within 53218 
  • 15 in the Washington Park Neighborhood

We we’re also able to subsidize other gardens throughout the city for organizations and individuals who needed some extra help. Many BLITZ gardens went to first-time gardeners, and plenty of the gardens went to gardeners who had ordered BLITZ gardens in the past and wanted to grow even more.

34719335712_d001f288c1_oThe BLITZ aims to engage residents from throughout the Milwaukee area and encourages everyone to grow their own food. Growing food in your own backyard (or front yard!) helps improve our city’s food system and brings us closer to an environmentally sustainable future. The gardens built and soil delivered this year will help connect people of all ages to the source of their fruits, vegetables, and herbs. 

The BLITZ Numbers:

  • 514 gardens built or yards of soil for gardens delivered (That’s at least 900,000 pounds of soil)
  • More than 2100 hours or volunteer time donated during the BLITZ alone
  • 19 volunteer groups donated their time
  • Over 3000 packets of seeds delivered to gardeners
  • 63 yards of soil moved in a single day (A BLITZ record!)
  • 31 gardens at schools, 9 at churches, 33 for nonprofits, and 42 for community organizations

 

Many Thanks To:

The generous sponsorship of the Zilber Family Foundation, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, Elm Grove Junior Guild, The Milwaukee Bucks, MGIC, Colectivo, Neighborhood Development Improvement Corporation, Marking Services Incorporated, Mandel Group, Johnson Controls,  Bliffert Lumber and Hardware, We Energies, PKSD, and The Fill

Habitat for Humanity for allowing us to take over their space for 2 weeks and providing constant support

Case/CNH for allowing us to use their skid steer

Stein’s for all of the seeds we distributed to gardeners

Organic Valley for all of the great snacks

Blue Ribbon Organics and James Jutrzonka for providing our wonderful soil

The Urban Ecology Center, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, and Housing Resources for letting us borrow their shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows

Lakefront Brewery for the use of their trailer

MATC Students and Faculty for creating a recipe booklet to distribute to gardeners

Kelly Moore-Brands for guiding me through my first BLITZ

All of the other VGI staff for their tireless support

Jeff Leswing (Dirtman) for brightening our days and moving an incredible amount of soil

Willie Jacks for the snacks, motivation, and willingness to lead volunteers on FIVE garden-building routes in one day

Every other volunteer who made this BLITZ possible

The BLITZ is truly a community effort, and without the help of so many others this program could never have become what it is today.

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Solutions: Powdery Mildew

powdery.jpgWhat it is

So what is powdery mildew anyway? This fungus is a type of mildew that is marked by a white floury covering consisting of spores on both sides of a plant’s leaves. It is one of the most widespread fungal diseases and no plant is completely immune to the disease. This type of fungus is host specific, meaning if you find it on one type of plant, it doesn’t mean it will spread to your other plants. For example, if you have powdery mildew on your roses, it won’t spread to your lilacs. While the spores can move from a specific type of plant to the same type of plant by wind, they can also spread by direct contact through insects, animals and gardeners.

What to Look For

Powdery mildew is most happy when plant leaves are dry, the lighting is low, temperatures are warm and humidity is high. Ideal conditions for powdery mildew growth is often during the late spring or early summer when evenings are still cool, but the days are beginning to get warm. At first the powdery mildew looks like dust and may be able to be brushed off with your hand, but it comes back and appears as light white or gray spots on the tops and bottoms of the leaves, stems, flowers and even fruit or vegetables.

How to control the Fungus

These remedies have been proven effective, but just like all diseases, they can build up a resistance to remedies. So we recommend spraying for powdery mildew every week (or recommended amount per remedy), but alternate between remedies as there are 8 recipes to choose from.

  1. Milk: Mix one-part milk to two parts water; spray once a week.
  2. Baking Soda: 1 tablespoon baking soda, 2 tablespoons ultra fine canola oil, 1 gallon of water. Combine all ingredients and shake well; spray once a week.
  3. Garlic: Blend two bulbs (not cloves) of fresh garlic in a quart of water with a few drops of liquid soap. The creation should be strained through cheesecloth or other sort of strainer to remove solids and then refrigerated. That concentrate should then be diluted 1:10 with water before spraying the plants once a week.
  4. Compost Tea: Mix one part of finished compost with six parts of water and let it soak for a week, then strain and dilute with water until it’s the color of tea; spray once a week.
  5. Oil (vegetable seed, canola, mint, rosemary, sesame, fish): Any of these oils can be used, at a rate of 2.5 to 3 Tablespoons per gallon of water, with the addition of a quarter-teaspoon of liquid soap to emulsify the oil. Spray every 7-14 days.
  6. Mouthwash: Mix one-part generic, ethanol based mouthwash with three parts water and spray on plants once a week; make sure to not spray new budding plants as it will damage them.
  7. Vinegar: Mix 4 tbs of vinegar with 1 gallon of water. Reapply every three days.
  8. Water: As stated above, powdery mildew does not survive well in moist conditions, so spraying the plants in the later part of the day with water from your hose just might do the trick!

How to Prevent

  • Make sure there is enough spacing between your plants
  • It is harder for the spores to spread when the plant leaves are wet, so it is important to keep the moisture levels up. The mildew also loves the cool air so try and plant in a place that gets plenty of sunlight.
  • Remove or treat all infested weeds and plants on your property and cut away infested twigs on fruit trees at the earliest signs of infestation Throw away the infected plants, do not compost!
  • Maintain healthy plants. Stressed plants are often attacked first, so it is important to monitor and remove unhealthy plants.

 

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Inspiration From Detroit

In March, Victory Garden Initiative was invited to attend the Detroit Food Policy Summit as a member of the Midwest Food Council. Gretchen Mead and Beverly Tyree attended to learn, participate, and be inspired. Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places – Detroit is steeped in inspiration from many different places and people.

Meet Michael Wimberly “Mike”:33211143782_65fc810b78_o_Fotor.jpg

Mike greeted each visitor with a firm handshake, a smile, and an introduction “Hello, welcome, my name is Mike”. After the introductions, he introduced everyone to Detroit Friends Potatoes and shared his mission, humble beginnings, and inspired sense of humor.  “Some of the potatoes for these were born on a vacant lot in Detroit’s Hope District. They were nursed in our soup kitchen for the mentally and physically challenged. They are made by community activists in an effort  to bring work, hope and dignity to our vulnerable community. Some proceeds go to maintain the soup kitchen and to create other financially sustainable grassroots projects.”  Mike shared that they planted potatoes on one of the many vacant lots, hoping to sell them. This was not to be and they were left with many potatoes. With much determination and many failed attempts, the Detroit Friends Potatoes were born. Volunteers and neighbors alike joined forces to support those in need.

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Meet the Rap Boys:

These boys shared their nutritious food rap about McDonalds on the corner, grocery stores filled with potato chips, and choosing fresh vegetables instead. The rap was energetic, fast, and meaningful.Other community groups that we met were people who run the Detroit School District’s Farm lunch program, the owner of The Farmers’ Hand who works with Michigan farmers and products to highlight locally grown and produced products, and many more.

After visiting the many individuals that are all taking part in changing food access, community vibrancy, and the overall food system in Detroit, one thing became more evident: grassroots efforts are the answer. All of these individuals are taking action directly in their community, working themselves to impact the needs around them, just like Victory Garden Initiative. Join us in creating this vibrancy in Wisconsin!

 

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Buzz at The FARM

April was an amazing time at the Farm! With spring finally arriving, the planting has33612876323_a9a388143a_o.jpg begun, areas that have previously had grass are changed to grow food, and the landscape is turning beautifully lush.

Ian, the Farms farmer, and volunteers spent an afternoon inoculating mushrooms – Turkey Tail and Oyster – by drilling holes, inserting mushroom plugs, and capping with wax. Now, we keep them moist and watch them grow. We will be doing more of this in the future, so watch for special announcements to find out more about helping out.

34292079621_c432e92275_o.jpgHoneybees are critical to our food system and growing food – in fact, more than 1/4 of our food system relies on bees for pollination. We installed (or introduced) honeybees to new hives at the farm. Check out the https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FVictoryGardenMilwaukee%2Fvideos%2F10155258555804451%2F&show_text=0&width=400“>Facebook live video to watch Ian install the bees and hives while sharing his knowledge by answering questions for those watching. We will be caring for the hives throughout the summer and look forward to working side-by-side with the honeybees on the farm.

A big thank you to one of our volunteers, Quinn Wilder, who donated hops rhizomes to plant along the fence line at the Farm. Hops are a beautiful vine that grows tall, provides cover for the industrial-looking fence, and after a few years will provide a great harvest. Thank you to the many volunteers that helped with the planting!

 

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A Heartfelt Farewell To My VGI Family

Dear VGI Community,

When I first arrived back to Milwaukee after spending two and a half years in the Peace Corps in rural Panama, where I had lived without electricity and showered under the stars, I was in a bit of culture shock. The grocery stores! The electric washer/dryers! The refrigerated pet food! It was all amazing, disgusting, enthralling and disappointing in turns. I longed to find a healthy balance between the way I had lived in Panama and the comfort-inducing inventions of the modern world (it would take a lot for me to give up my washing machine these days).

After traveling the globe, living on both coasts of the US and places in the middle, too, I never thought I would find an organization like Victory Garden Initiative, right in the place I had grown up, amid the sprawling suburbs of the Midwest. An organization that helps people grow their own food in innovative and action-oriented ways, that provides green space, that promotes a culture of knowing where your food comes from, in a quietly radical way.

I was lucky enough to land a job here after volunteering for a number of months. From the beginning, I was thrown right into the chaos, getting to know more neighborhoods in Milwaukee than I ever knew existed growing up. My husband and I bought a house in the city, and promptly started gardening on our own. While I was an agriculture volunteer in Panama, it is a vastly different experience to tend to a tropical garden than a temperate one. There, you can simply throw a stick in the ground and it will sprout roots and leaves within a matter of days. You just have to watch out for the loose chickens, horses and pigs (I lost so many plants to those damn piglets!). Milwaukee, in my own backyard; this is where I really learned to garden and grow food – experiencing powdery mildew and blossom end-rot, learning to companion plant and starting our own compost bin. Getting messy in the dirt, and enjoying every minute of it.

At the 2016 BLITZ with our Beloved Dirtman

Being in the Peace Corps made me confident to conquer my fears, and helped prepare me for the more public opportunities presented to me by my job at VGI – representing the organization on both television and the radio, at big events and in front of intimate groups of really smart people. My time at VGI has been a vast learning and growing experience, and it has impacted me deeply. I’ve met incredible people whose lives have been impacted by our work – Food Leaders sharing their stories; kids at the FarmStand selling veggies; Garden Mentors, chefs and educators teaching others how to grow and eat good food; and each of the hundreds (thousands, really) of BLITZ volunteers, gardeners and sponsors I’ve been in touch with over the last two and a half years.  

Together, you and I have planted 11 community orchards, delivered over 1,000 gardens (and we’ll deliver 500 more at this year’s BLITZ, fingers crossed!), hosted more than 30 Move Grass Classes, trained 18 Food Leaders and 45 Garden Mentors, and had a ton of fun doing it all. We are a community built on the knowledge that growing your own food empowers us all, connects us to the land, and gives us the freedom to eat what we want.

2017 Fruity Nutty Five Orchard Planting Day

I feel so lucky to be connected to a network of talented and passionate people doing good environmental work across Milwaukee, from food to water to conservation policy to land stewardship and beyond. Thank you all for the work that you do, for the time you commit to good causes like VGI and for touching my life in a way that I will never forget. 

I’d also like to extend a big, heartfelt thank you to all of my family and friends who have supported me and this organization’s work – to my parents and my husband, especially, for not only lending their vehicles and tools whenever I asked, but attending events and donating their time to volunteering with VGI. I am honored to know you and to be loved by you.

Today and every day!

It will be difficult to separate myself from the daily tasks of this organization, but as I move on in my new role as Environmental Projects Coordinator at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers, I know that I will run across many of you through that work, and I look forward to expanding my knowledge in Milwaukee’s water circles.

To all of you, the VGI Community: please continue to show up to events, to support VGI and its good work, to grow your own food, to show Gretchen, Beverly, Ian, Logan, Meenal and Eric (our new BLITZ Coordinator!) what an amazing group of people you are.

Until we meet again…now let’s get to work!

Happy Gardening,

Kelly

p.s. If you want to say farewell in person, come to the BLITZ! There’s still time to volunteer or get a garden or order soil to be delivered during the Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ – help us reach our goal!

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Letter from the Director: An Invitation to Cure Loneliness, Yours and Others

There is a faint memory that manifests repeatedly in my mind…. It comes on the same way that trying to remember a dream from the night before comes, scarcely bringing back the details, with a feeling that I cannot quite locate. The memory includes sun-tanned, dirty children, who are peaceful and naive, and with a glow and wildness about them. The sun is shining from the east.

Families burdened with dual wage earners. Single parents living paycheck-to-paycheck. New mothers overwhelmed with their desire to raise children in a way that is counter culture, but have nowhere to turn. Even the tedious scheduling of play dates, which are unconducive to playing when the time to play naturally arises, has come to be part of a grind. Deep conversations with many friends have lead me to understand the longing for a different way.

The famous author and political satirist Kurt Vonnegut ponders.What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.”

Is it daring to create stable communities? What does a young person have to commit to to cure the disease of loneliness? Loneliness. Disconnection. Alienation. Lack of support. Too much stress. “How are you?” we ask our neighbor with a smile. “Just busy” she says, as if that is the only answer.  It is no secret that many people want something different, less rushed, many even something pastoral.

In a seemingly unrelated discussion, people are flocking into the city to live at incredible rates, essentially abandoning rural towns and land. Farmers are decreasing in numbers. In spite of Wisconsin’s formative values that land is a community (as espoused by Aldo Leopold) not a commodity, our land use policies are being dominated by the incessant greed of agribusiness, while we as concerned citizens sip lattes at modern cafes and get nail jobs. Our modern conveniences have a cost… money, time, and natural resources. The lifestyle, causing the very ailments that we describe wanting to escape from while rural lands are exploited in ways that we claim to object to.

Bill Mollison gives the famous example of the permaculture principle, The Problem is the Solution, with this, “You don’t have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency!” (referring to slugs taking over a garden, and a duck’s taste for them.) And, indeed, we gardeners, many of us do indeed have a duck deficiency.

Might I suggest, that Bill Mollison’s famous permaculture principle might once again be reinforced.  The problem of loneliness might very well be solved, if we opted to solve the problem of the abandonment of our rural lands by making that leap to populate this land with people who commit their lives to caring for it, together.

People coming together to own and care for land, while living a shared, or even tribal lifestyle, is not new.  There are existing models for making this happen and they are often referred to as co-housing communities or intentional communities. The social, financial, and legal structures vary, from place to place and group to group, but there are some common themes: shared land, shared resources, shared meals, shared workload, a goal of generational diversity, smaller separate living quarters for each family unit with larger community space.  Notice that there is a theme of sharing.

This model of sharing land, and living small, is a model for the future, one in which the people who collectively own the land ensure that the land is cared for and preserved for generations to come. The problem of our modern culture is the solution to the environmental issues of our agricultural system. The problem of the urban/rural divide is for city folks to move to rural lands and participate in caring for the land. The problem of loneliness, cured by the agrarian tribe being reimagined…warriors of a new path forward.

There is opportunity for transformation to happen. For land to be shared and cared for.  For children to run wild, and stay innocent, with a tribe supporting their still-feral desires, of frogs, and trees, and freedom.

Victory Garden Initiative has a database of 10,000 mostly urban people. Land-owners reach out to us on a regular basis to offer land up to be used for sustainable agriculture, for free.  If you are interested in reconnecting with land, if you have land that you wish was farmed and cared-for differently, if you seek a tribe and space, if you think that perhaps the problem is the solution, I invite you all to participate in a new conversation called Convergence Community and take this short survey, so that when the time is right we can begin to create the solution.

~gretchen

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Grow a Vertical Garden with These Easy Steps

by Guest Author Jenna Lynn Buege

If you find yourself wishing you could grow a garden but are lacking the space, look no further! Have you ever heard of a vertical garden? Vertical gardens were inspired by nature — think vines growing up the sides of a building. This type of gardening allows one to utilize small spaces and create something beautiful by growing plants in a vertical fashion. How is this done you ask? Keep reading to find out!

blog-outdoor-vert-gardhttp://homesthetics.net/21-simply-beautitful-diy-vertical-garden-projects-that-will-transform-your-design/

Before jumping into action you must first decide what style of vertical garden you want to grow. There are plenty of options to choose from such as the container style garden, a plastic or wooden wall garden, or perhaps a pocket style garden. One creates a container style garden by either attaching potted plants to a wall or by stacking planters. If you are the proud owner of a pocket shoe-rack such as the one in the photo below, or if you’re feeling crafty, a pocket style garden might be a wise choice. Plants can be easily placed in these compact chambers and the rack is no trouble to hang. Last but not least, the option of a plastic/wooden wall garden. Use a large wooden or plastic wall planter, which can be made from an old wood pallet or a recyclable plastic pallet.

shoe-organizer-herb-garden-vertical-bloghttp://www.remodelaholic.com/fantasatic-indoor-herb-garden-ideas/

Next you will want to consider placement. It is very important that your plants get enough sunlight each day. Keep an eye on the area you are thinking of placing your vertical garden and take note of how many hours of sunlight the area is exposed to. It is a good idea to look for a spot with half-exposure. This means the area is neither all sun nor all shade, it gets a little bit of both!

You should also do some research on what kind of plants you’d like to grow. Take into consideration your sunshine allotment and be sure to choose plants that are flexible and able to move. Since the garden will be vertical, you want plants that are soft and able to accommodate the space well.

blog-pallet-gardenhttps://uk.pinterest.com/explore/herb-garden-pallet/

Potting soil is a good option for your vertical garden, as it will help to retain water. It should be noted that a vertical garden can dry out quickly. Because of this fact, watering is also an important factor to keep in mind. You will want to keep the plants that require the most moisture at the bottom of your vertical garden so that any water that trickles down reaches them and doesn’t drown someone else who doesn’t need all that H2O.

The different styles of vertical gardens are endless! These adorable gardens are a great way to utilize your green thumb even when you don’t have much space.

 

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