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.


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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!


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.


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.


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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Fruity Nutty Nifty Thrifty

Apologies for the mixed-up link! If you’d like to order a BLITZ garden bed, please click here!


It’s been seven years since we first began a program to help people grow fruit trees in the city.  It started with a few people who wanted to plant 350 fruit or nut trees in Milwaukee, as part of a worldwide campaign to bring awareness to the carbon parts per million in the atmosphere that we, as a concerned people, should aspire to stay below – 350 (though we have now surpassed 400). “Fruity Nutty Nifty Thrifty, won’t you help us plant three-fifty?”, we asked people from behind a small table with some information about why and how planting fruit and nut trees in the city was beneficial on many levels.12620431973_e21dfd6785_o

That year more than 350 people agreed to plant fruit and nut trees in their yards, in empty lots, and on school grounds all over the city.

The next November we raised money at the first ever Fruity Nutty Affair to buy 1111 (it was the year 2011, 11/11) yearling hazelnut trees that were dispersed all over the Milwaukee area, to be guerrilla planted wherever people could find an empty space.  

These were great creative efforts of a then-nascent movement to help people grow their own food in the city, but the following year we found that we had very little information about the success of these trees.  We immediately went back to the drawing board trying to find a better way to inspire people to plant fruit and nut trees in the city and launched our first Fruity Nutty Campaign, a contest in which neighborhoods and community groups could apply to win an orchard (we are currently accepting applications until Feb. 12).

Since then, we have planted 23 orchards and developed educational programs to ensure that the people who win the orchards can care for them, and the trees are beginning to bear fruit. We can see the results of this sustained effort all over the city, on Locust Street, in Harambee, in the Garden District, and in dozens of other places. The Fruity Nutty Five Contest has inspired the actions of many groups, including the City of Milwaukee itself, to launch their own orchard programs, creating food forests at institutions around town.25326415460_13475e5a65_o

But, the work has really only begun. It’s time to ensure the lasting legacy of these trees, by continuing to support those groups who are caring for orchards all over the city. To do this, we need your support.

Our 7th annual
Fruity Nutty Affair is just around the corner, on February 23rd, and will be held at the Mitchell Park Domes Greenhouse Annex. It will be amusing, beautiful, and will help us sustain our program goals for the entire year. We are asking all of you – each and everyone one of our supporters – to ensure that this event is the most successful that we have ever had.  It takes a village to support an organization, and you are our village.

Be there.


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VGI Is Everywhere

Dear Friends of VGI,

our-mission-is-everywhereOn behalf of the board of directors, committed staff and all the dedicated volunteers, we want to THANK YOU all for helping us reach our Annual Giving goal of over $30,000 for 2016!! We are all deeply grateful for your generosity and continued belief in the impact we make in our community.  For all the people….children, parents, schools, churches that will benefit from these generous financial contributions…..we say THANK YOU!

I am so excited to be starting another year as the Chairman of the Board.  It is such a gift to me to be able to serve in this capacity for an amazing organization. I am continuously reminded of the all the ways VGI weaves its mission into our lives. So often, while going about my regular day, I meet people that talk about their experience with VGI.  One day it was the mother of one of the children on my son’s soccer team who shared with me how much her family LOVED their new garden. One day it was someone dancing next to me at CORE El Centro, who told me how their children were learning more about growing foods from their Mexican heritiage. I have had teachers from my children’s elementary school ask how they can bring their students to VGI’s Urban Farm. I once heard someone in line while grocery shopping describe a VGI Fundraising event they attended. And, perfect strangers have approached me at Colectivo Coffee to ask me about the meeting I was just having, “I’m sorry to listen in, but I couldn’t help but hear what you were talking about. Is there any way that I can get involved in the work you are doing?” “Yes! Yes, there is!,” I proudly respond.

Victory Garden Initiative’s mission to help people grow their own food seems to permeate the community in every corner of Milwaukee.  When I learn of people’s interest and their passion to help the world become a better place through growing their own food, I understand, even more deeply, how important the work we are doing is to this community. I can see that VGI’s mission is everywhere.

In 2017, our goal is to move all of these people who are ‘talking’ about VGI, into living VGI’s mission. To growing their own food in their own space.   The ability for Victory Garden Initiative to grow its mission is dependent upon your level of engagement.

Here are some ways you can ‘get your hands in the dirt’:

  • Volunteer: We have group volunteer days, on-going office opportunities, internships, farming positions, composting operations, and higher-level committee work.
  • Take our Food Leader Certificate Program. This program is a life-changing experience for its participants.
  • Bring yourself and all your friends to our upcoming Fruity Nutty Affair.  This event helps us plant orchards all over Milwaukee County.
  • Get or give a garden – or do both! – during our annual Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ. It is an inspiring way to begin growing your own food.

2017 is going to be a year filled with building gardens, growing food, and fostering community. Don’t miss it!

With regard,

Susie Ralston, Chairwoman of the Board, Victory Garden Initiative



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Letter from the Director: We Are STILL the Ones We’ve Been Waiting for

Dear Friends,

By now, you have probably simmered down your post-election emotions, for better or worse.  Maybe you celebrated. Maybe you cried.  But, you certainly cared about the outcome. This time around, it seems that everyone wanted change… maybe you thought it was coming from a Washington outsider, or a woman, or the separation of big business and government.  Maybe you mixed it up and said, ‘This is crap. I refuse to vote.’ (I know you are out there.  At least ten people told me this.)

Why am I bringing up this angst-ridden election again, you ask?  Well, because, guess what? Nothing has changed, yet again, as far as I can tell. We still have the same food system as we did on November 8th. Glyphosate is still found in unsafe quantities in far too many foods. Obesity is still on the rise. Corn syrup is still the cheapest high-calorie poison you can buy, sealing the fate of the health of many low-income families. Some of the most magically productive soil on the planet is still washing down the Mississippi in the fall rains.  Need I go on?

Victory Garden Initiative was founded on this truth “We are the ones that we are waiting for” to make the changes we wish to see in this world. Now, more than ever, this resonates deep into the core of who we are.  There is no politician that will, once voted in, make the policies needed to create a community-based, socially just, ecologically sustainable, and nutritious food system for all.  Grassroots heroes like Aldo Leopold, who fostered private landowner conservation programs in our great state, and Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer who independently fought Monsanto for decades and finally won, knew in their gut, just like we do, that change is truly up to us.  Each and every one of us. It can be accomplished by growing our own food, through our day-to-day activities and through the ‘voting’ power of every dollar we spend.

This year, we need you more than ever. We need your financial support to ensure the success of the powerful grassroots programs that we run.  Our programs affect direct change in the food system. We don’t protest the world we don’t want, rather, we BUILD the world that we DO want, row by row. Garden by garden. Yard by yard.

Please consider supporting our cause this year. Know it in your soul, that you are doing the right thing, by making a contribution towards a community that grows its own food.

Grow food where we live. Donate so others can do the same.


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Cultural Exchange: A Letter from VGI’s Community Solutions Fellow, Freeman Ahegbebu

freeman-ahegbebu-1My name is Freeman Ahegbebu, and I am an innovative young Ghanaian with a deep passion for community development, promoting education, and assisting disadvantaged children. Growing up, my father worked as a corporate driver while my mother traded palm oil to support the family.  While we were far from rich, food was on the table, and my siblings and I knew it was expected of us to complete our education.  

After graduating high school, I became a student teacher in the science department of a junior high school.  During my tenure there, two students who were siblings lit the fire I have for community development, especially in education.  I could tell that their parents struggled every term to pay the school fees, as they were always late in payment and the children rarely had food for lunch.  Many times I forfeited my own lunch for them and developed a close relationship while we talked over our special shared meals. At the same time, my father lost his job, which left my three younger siblings without financial assistance for their education.  My elder sister and I were thrust into the family “breadwinner” roles as we were both employed.  While my father was struggling for steady employment again, I was exposed to the hardships and challenges many Ghanaian families face in accessing education for their children.  It was as if my own siblings were the two students who I shared lunch with everyday.

After four years, my father found employment and things in my own family started to return to normal.  The two students I had been working with graduated with distinction and continued onto high school with support from their extended family.  This experience showed me first-hand the determination and challenges faced by a family in sending their children/siblings to school.  It also strengthened my belief in the power of education.

Through the past few years I have watched countless students flourish when given the opportunity to learn without having the constraint of school fees looming over them and their families.  I know that development is a slow process, which will take many years, and even generations to unfold.  That being said, I also know that in other places development initiatives exist that significantly increase access to education.  I am motivated by the prospect of ending this struggle for a basic education, and firmly believe that it is possible in my community and throughout Ghana.

I began volunteering with Cheerful Hearts Foundation during its inception and have continuously worked to improve and expand our role in the community. One of the three villages we target is Senya Beraku, a poor fishing community of about fifty thousand people. Many children are forced to work in the fishing industry, foregoing an education. Tragically, we discovered that Senya Beraku is a place where many children are being sold or trafficked to other fishing communities for exploitation or slavery. By collaborating with our community liaisons and stakeholders, we developed a community sensitization and education program aimed towards both children and adults. This was a great start but we felt as though we could accomplish much more.

Currently, we have rescued, sponsored and placed over 40 children in school. There are plans to begin rescuing children from Lake Volta and construct a rehabilitation center to address the mental health concerns of these victims. Throughout this experience, there have been many doubts in the organization and the project’s ability to effect change in the community. It has now been 7 years and the signs of our accomplishments are spread throughout the community, especially on the children’s faces. I have learned that many things seem daunting at the beginning but that shouldn’t dissuade you.

I am currently here in the USA through the State Department’s Fellowship program called the Community Solutions Program for four months, doing my Professional Development Internship with the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI). Personally, I learned that one could lead others to accomplish great feats with skilled minds and minimal resources. During my internship I have learned more about innovating sustainable farming while honing my gardening  skills and leadership capacity in a setting that promotes establishing honest and trusting relationships between the community and local development organizations which focus on child-welfare and lucrative use of farming land.

I have learned from the hands-on experience VGI provided me that it is not enough to simply have the skills and knowledge. This makes me feel very confident in my ability to convey the  knowledge gained to create a positive, forward-thinking and empowered community back home.

Currently there is a two-fold problem in Senya Beraku, Ghana, where communities are not utilizing cultivable land and instead depend on fishing as a sole source of income, as well as children not focusing on education and instead fishing to support their families. Upon returning from the Community Solutions Program, I plan on implementing a project focused on innovation and alternative income generation through use of cultivable land in order to alleviate dependency on fishing and allow children the opportunity to focus on their education.

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Transition to Fall

Fall is the best time of year in Milwaukee. The weather is pleasant, lacking both the extreme humidity of August and the biting cold of December. The air is cool and crisp in the morning, but warm and light in the afternoon. The leaves are starting to change from their vibrant greens to glowing golds, earthy browns, and eye-catching crimsons.


A pumpkin at Concordia Gardens

Fall is also a joyful time for the farmer – when most of the crops are ready to harvest, ending the summer season with a bounty of greens, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and more. However, it is far from the end of the growing season; there’s still plenty of time to harvest giant, rotund pumpkins (for cooking or for carving), hardy root vegetables, and cool-weather kales and cabbages.


Savoy Cabbage The farmer sees the change in seasons not simply as decreasing temperatures and sunlight, but as the earth’s sign  ready to produce different kinds of crops.

The signature fall crops are long-anticipated and well worth the wait. Pumpkins and squash, for example, are usually planted in late May and can grow through October. There is no greater sense of pride in a garden than going out to find a baby pumpkin growing from what used to be a flower on a vine. You check your pumpkin often, watching the progress of its growth, until one day it is orange and jack-o-lantern sized.

Fall crops are often sweeter than their summer cousins as well. There’s scientific proof behind this: as the weather gets colder, plants convert starches into sugars as a natural cold protectant. Sometimes, these cold-conditioned vegetables are different colors because of different growing conditions, like the crisp, “Red Russian” kale, a favorite kale variety that originates from Siberia. At a time when many locals are saddened by the cooler weather and fewer daylight hours, the vegetable selection actually becomes more exciting.


Lacinato Kale

The unsuspecting champions of the fall growing season are root vegetables. These plants are so tough in their design because most of their mass is still in the ground. Root vegetables have an extremely smart growing technique, as soil is highly insulating and can keep the plant warm even into into November and early December, depending on the region. That means you can still grow radishes, carrots, turnips, and beets while the leaves are falling.


These radishes at Concordia Gardens still have some time until harvest!

Technically, the growing season doesn’t have to end until the true end of fall, around November. We gardeners just have to change our mindset: the crops we grow, our growing techniques, and the kinds of meals we cook with the vegetables from our gardens.

We switch from tomatoes and peppers to pumpkins and turnips. We find clever ways to protect our precious plants, like blanketing them with freshly fallen leaves or building cold frames. We learn how to make new fall recipes, like squash soups and roasted beets. This is not the end of homegrown produce for the year; it’s simply a time of transition.

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In Food We Trust

Nearly all of us have been in a situation in which we have been severely betrayed and we learned that someone we love is not who we thought they were.  Our belief in the reliability, truth or strength of a person is forever diminished.  At best, a breach in trust can trigger our own personal growth, resilience, autonomy of spirit, and a more solid foundation for relationships moving ahead. But, depending on the violation, our own personal tendencies, and so many other factors, this lack of trust can forever shake the foundation of who we are. Sometimes the anger, sadness, and even apathy can consume people for the rest of their lives.  

As you seek support you will be counseled that forgiveness is the key to moving forward, that keeping the anguish in your heart will only harm you.

But what if the betrayal keeps happening? What if the impact of repeated betrayals causes irreparable damage and on-going trauma to the person who has been injured? What if one cannot escape the betrayal because it is out of one’s control? Is the act of forgiveness truly an adequate response to a person who will harm others for the duration of his life? Forgiveness, it seems, is an overly simplistic response to harmful behaviors that ought be stopped.  

I’m going to make a leap here, and suggest that this feeling of betrayal is happening all around us right now. Every institution, law, corporation, politician, every cornerstone that holds the foundation of this country is under scrutiny, and is the chosen perpetrator of some group’s betrayal, weaving a web of suspicion, outrage and rage so complex, its source is no longer identifiable. A lack of trust has consumed the national psyche, and we walk around holding post-trauma emotions and hyper-vigilance, our heart-racing, ready to pounce on anyone who reminds us of (?) the betrayer…. whomever or whatever that betrayer may be.  Hands

So, what does one do in a time when corporations are selling us out for larger profits overseas? When the banking regulators are in cahoots with the mortgage lenders? When the DNR gets defunded to protect big money-interests rather than environmental, our church institutions fail to protect children, and the FDA has lost control over the industries they manage? When it seems that we have been betrayed by every layer of civilized society, what does one do?  

Well, I for one, suggest forgiveness.

Just kidding. I don’t suggest forgiveness.

Forgiveness simply isn’t enough when you are dealing with repeat offenses. At some point, we must decide that we are going to act in our own best interest to no longer be in a position to be subject to betrayal… in other words, we must change the power dynamic so that the untrustworthy do not have control.

Food has been at the center of this conversation about institutional trust and betrayal.  We have been subject to an industry that wants control over the world’s genetic code, that over produces corn syrup, that raises animals in cruel and unnatural ways and suppresses good food science that could save lives. We have found shoe rubber chemicals in our bread and our kids have gotten sick because of the food they eat in school. Our money supports the workers of the global agricultural industry who are modern day slaves. It’s time to know exactly what we are eating, it’s time to stop being the victims of institutional betrayal and take back our food system.

Thinkers like Michael Pollan and Vandana Shiva have allowed us to see through the malignant behaviors of the food industry, and have triggered us to go back to the roots of food… quite literally.  We, all of us, as agricultural beings, are becoming ever more determined to remove ourselves from a relationship with the industrial food system that moved beyond a few incidents of betrayal to an abusive relationship, leaving us sick and vulnerable.  

We seem to be saying, “No More.”  We have grabbed fiercely ahold of our internal locus of control, and said, “We aren’t going to interact with that untrustworthy, hornswaggling food system again, unless it is on our own terms.”

So here we are homesteading, making our own yogurt, going to farmer’s markets in droves, heading to restaurants that support our local food producers.  We are purchasing foods with our conscience.  We are growing our own food, in our own space and saying to those that can no longer be trusted, “We won’t take it any more.”

Join us, all of you, this month, today, in taking our power back into our own hands, where we can rely on the source.  Come help the kids in Harambee know that their work is valuable to this community by purchasing the vegetables they helped grow.  Decide to make change in your own community by registering for our year long Food Leader Certification Program. Join us at the FarmRaiser in September, or host a Five Mile Meal, in order to expand this rich network of people who are demanding change.  
Action is the pathway towards healing ourselves.

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Farewell from Alysse

by Alysse Gear
Program Support Specialist

A few weeks ago, our FarmStand opened for the season. In between weeding, planning, talking responsibilities, and eating salads fresh from the garden, I told two of our main youth staff (self-proclaimed managers Alex and Ivan—see section above) that I would be leaving a little early this year. Their response: “I know you’ll still be here, Alysse.”


This is my favorite photo from our first summer of the FarmStand. Pictured are Imani, Alex, Davion and one of Alex’s little brothers.

In nearly three years of growing up alongside each other—them quite literally, me in a whole slew of nonprofit skills—they know me too well to expect me to stop coming to Concordia Gardens. After all, helping with the FarmStand has never been an official part of my job, but I find myself there on Thursdays more weeks than I don’t. Watching the kids funnel their creativity, thoughtfulness and energy into the FarmStand, turning into the sharpest little entrepreneurs in the process, gives me so much hope for our future. And it is exactly the kind of thing I want to be part of every single day.

After years of writing grants (with a special place in my heart for our youth education), marketing our programs and empowering volunteers to help make them happen, doing much of the administrative dirty work to keep this beautiful organization afloat, crunching numbers and running events, it is time for my bittersweet departure.

My time at Victory Garden Initiative has challenged me to think bigger, empowered me to turn my ideas into reality, and showed me just how powerful a group of people can be with a common vision. July 21 will be my last day on staff, but it will certainly not be my last as part of this movement.


I hope to see you at the FarmRaiser on Sat., Sept. 10!

So now it’s up to all of us—the volunteers, the donors, the supporters, the cheerleaders, the community. It’s up to us to keep digging up our lawns and replacing them with gardens, sharing peas and conversations with passersby. It’s up to us to take a little bit of money we save from growing our own food to donate a garden for a family in need. It’s up to us to lend a hand, turning the desires of our hearts into the actual, tangible world we wish to see.

Looking back on the 2013 Victory Garden Initiative that I joined—not even 1,500 gardens yet, three staff, Concordia Gardens’ production area just a sparkle in Gretchen’s eye—I am so proud to see how far we have come. We’re DOING this!

As I move on to pursue a career in teaching elementary school, I know our beloved VGI is in excellent, incredibly resourceful, capable and creative hands. And I don’t just mean Kelly’s and Alex’s, Gretchen’s and Quinn’s—I mean all of ours. Since that very first little BLITZ in 2009 that started it all, this has been a community effort, an incredibly resilient vehicle for all of us to pour our hopes and dreams into, yielding delicious food and stronger community.


Eric, Yaa, Ahmed and I with the last soil delivery of the 2015 BLITZ. Volunteers (and Public Allies!) like these three are what keep this mission moving.

So before I depart, I want to use my one last newsletter for a few personal requests to ensure our momentum continues forever and ever until VGI is no longer needed; “When fruit trees fill our parks and nut trees are harvested by our neighbors, when food pantries house vegetable gardens and school children participate in growing their lunches, we will have a secure, sovereign, socially just and sustainable food system”—this is VGI’s vision.

  • Visit the FarmStand! It’s open 2-6 every Thursday, and Concordia Gardens’ produce is divine.
  • Join the Food Leader Certificate Program! My “unofficial” project as a 2013 Food Leader was to make a leap into the gardening and environmental education world—and it’s safe to say I succeeded. This is your chance to invest in yourself, and I hope you take it.
  • Sign up for a volunteer orientation in July! These are the last I will be leading, and I’d really like to see you.

I am forever thankful for my time with all of you.

Until we meet again,

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Our Attitude of Gratitude

by Gretchen Mead
Executive Director


With deep thanks we wind down this year’s BLITZ, our 8th.  We take the gifts that you have given us to heart, and always, always utilize them to help more people grow their own food.  Though we will be challenged to thank every single person who helped us build 555 gardens this year, we are going to give it our best shot.

BLITZ photo for Blog


Deep thanks to all of our gardeners, the hundreds of you who purchased gardens, yes, even for the smallest amount of money. It is your desire to make this world a little bit better by growing your own food that makes it all real. Real gardens. Real food. Real people. Stacking up by the hundred every year, there are now thousands of you in Milwaukee. Thank you.

And to the volunteers. The hundreds of you as well. You worked SO hard, through inclement weather, when you could have been relaxing on your patio, when you could have chosen not to care; you built gardens for people all over Milwaukee and supported a mission that you believe in.

Thank you to the hundreds of individuals who signed up all on your own.

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And thank you to the below team efforts: 

  • 88.9 Radio Milwaukee
  • Accounting Professionals
  • Blitzdkriegs Men’s Roller Derby
  • Colectivo Coffee
  • Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin
  • GMR Milwaukee
  • Green Design Center
  • Independence First
  • Johnson Controls
  • Lowe’s
  • Mandel Group
  • Milwaukee Peace Corps Association
  • Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation
  • Mount Mary Dietetics students
  • NorthShore Bank
  • Outpost Natural Foods Co-op
  • Physicians Accounting
  • Representative Evan Goyke
  • UnitedHealthcare Community Plan
  • USBank
  • Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

    BLITZ Photo for Blog 2

Thank you to all those partner organizations who supported the BLITZ and/or received gardens during the BLITZ, some whom we have worked with for years and some new.  We are honored to work with you, shoulder to shoulder, making Milwaukee a stronger community.


  • Centro Hispano Milwaukee – Head Start
  • Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative
  • CommonBond Communities
  • Company Brewing
  • Congress Public School
  • Ebenezer Church
  • Five Points Neighborhood Association
  • Fratney School
  • Garden Homes Neighborhood & 30th Street Industrial Corridor
  • Grateful Girls, Inc.
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Housing Resources Inc.
  • International Institute of Wisconsin
  • Jewish Family Services
  • Kingo Lutheran Church
  • Latinos por la Salud
  • Martin Drive Neighborhood
  • Milwaukee Riverkeeper
  • Mitchell Park Domes
  • Neu-Life Community Development
  • North Shore Montessori School
  • Pierce School
  • Reformation Angel Community Gardens
  • Renew Environmental Public Health Advocates
  • Sherman Park Neighborhood Association
  • Silver Spring Neighborhood Center
  • St. Anthony High School
  • St. Francis Children’s Center
  • Tabernacle Community Baptist Church
  • The North End (Mandel Group)
  • Trowbridge School of Discovery and Technology
  • Urban Ecology Center
  • Washington Park Partners
  • Wauwatosa Montessori School
  • West Allis Health Department
  • Wisconsin Conservatory of Lifelong Learning
  • Women Encouraging Women
  • Zablocki Elementary School

Thanks to those champions who make connections, bring people in, and otherwise go out of their way to make this event shine.  We need your advocacy and willingness to go out of your comfort zone in order to bring people to this cause and ensure the work gets done.

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  • Aaron Habeck
  • Angela Mitchell – City of Milwaukee
  • Apple Jackson – Johnson Controls
  • Barbara Richards
  • Britney Roberson – Washington Park Partners
  • Bryan Hartsook – Wisconsin DNR
  • Carl Nilssen – Riverworks
  • Celia Benton – Layton Boulevard West Neighbors
  • Corrie Mitchell – US Bank
  • Eric Fowler
  • Gail Bennett
  • George Bregar – Company Brewing
  • Grace Sherer
  • Hamptony Guridy
  • Hannah Harris – Habitat for Humanity
  • Ian Brown – City of Milwaukee
  • James Jutrzonka – Blue Ribbon Organics
  • Jane Hawes & David Shapiro
  • Janine Gasparich
  • Jeff “Dirtman” Leswing
  • Jennifer Ziegler
  • Joy Murray – Enterprise Truck Rental
  • Joyce Andrews – Stein’s Garden & Home
  • Ken Gear
  • Mary Pipito & Wild Thing
  • Nick Vannucci – Garden of Flavor
  • Ramie Camarena
  • Pete Brands
  • Sannia Green
  • Sophia Carpenter
  • Wendy Mireles – Cafe Corazon
  • Zack Brazan – Habitat for Humanity

Thanks to all of the deep generosity of our sponsors.  With your gifts, we were able to say “yes” to every single family that wanted a garden.

  • Bliffert Hardware
  • Blue Ribbon Organics
  • Brewers Family Foundation
  • City of Milwaukee Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation & Strong Neighborhoods
  • Case/CNH Industrial
  • Colectivo
  • Echelon Innovation Campus
  • Froedtert & The Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Garden of Flavor
  • Green Tree Garden Club
  • Habitat for Humanity & Lowe’s
  • Johnson Controls
  • Meijer
  • Organic Valley
  • Stein’s Garden and Home
  • The North End
  • United Healthcare
  • WE Energies
  • Zilber Family Foundation



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