FLCP Mentors: Karin Conway, Tony Farrell, Beth Fehlauer, Amber Daugs, Gretchen Mead & Alysse Gear



Food Leader Certificate Program

lead     connect   learn   grow

The Food Leader Certificate Program teaches emerging food leaders to grow their own food, learn about the food system, and lead food projects in their communities. Food Leaders who complete the full program will graduate with a formal certificate.

"I have a Master's in Education - Professional Development. In one weekend The Food Leader Certificate Program achieved greater success than I experienced in two years pursuing this degree. They know where they want to go, know how to get you there, and most importantly, know how to win emotional commitment of the individuals to a common vision with complete freedom of individual projects. If you have a heart for connecting with food and community, I would say, do not miss this retreat and leadership program."                                                                                                                                                                                            -Valerie Vervoort, Stoughton, 2014-15 Food Leader

The Program


Food Leaders learn leadership and community organizing skills on three weekend-long retreats, forming the core of the program. Our kickoff retreat brings the group together for the first time to build community and learn the basics of what it takes to organize a community food project.

Food Leader retreats are a time for students to refine their skills, share experiences, and check in with our instructors about their ongoing projects. 

Each participant implements a Food Leader Project in his or her community over the course of the year. Projects range from helping to start a workplace compost system, to organizing the planting of a neighborhood orchard, to starting a microgreens business that supports fighting hunger internationally.

Food Leaders will also have an opportunity to participate in future Food Leader Programs to continue to share the program's culture, offer on-going support to new leaders, and help hold Food Leaders accountable to their goals in hopes of building a better food system. In this mentor role, Food Leaders will have the opportunity to facilitate programs, tell their food stories, and develop greater leadership skills.


One of the most important aspects of the Food Leader Program is the connection you will make with your fellow Food Leaders. The FLCP encourages community building from the outset that flows throughout the program. 

You'll also build community through regular potlucks (organized by Food Leaders), attendance at Move Grass classes, and a spring weekend retreat. In between events, Food Leaders stay connected with each other and their instructors through an email listserv. 

We believe that individuals can make change, but that individuals acting in community are much more likely to succeed. Community is the key to effective action and we will support you as your take your Food Leader journey towards a healthier, more sustainable future. 


The Food Leader Certificate Program places a strong emphasis on understanding our current food system and how it impacts our bodies and our environment. 

Victory Garden Initiative believes that our food system does not feed everyone equally. During the Food Leader Retreats, program participants will work with our instructors and in small groups to understand the challenges and injustices of the food system. Here are just a few of the problems we'll discuss:
  • Many of the tomatoes found at grocery stores were picked by modern day slaves or workers who receive wages well below the legal minimum. 
  • The average bite of food travels 1,500 miles before arriving on your plate
  • 20% of our nation's greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to agriculture


Food Leaders learn to grow their own food by attending our gardening class series, Move Grass Class. The full class schedule can be found here.

The Move Grass Class series takes students from the very basics of starting seeds and planning the garden, to caring for fruit and nut trees, to extending the harvest into the fall season. Each class is 1.5 - 2 hours long and includes community building activities and interactive activities or discussions. 
Food leaders should plan to attend at least 5 classes over the course of the year. After signing up, each student will have one full year of free classes (beginning with your first class). 

Class Topic examples:

  • Community Organizing 101
  • Introduction to Permaculture
  • Soil Rehab

food stories

Every Food Leader is required to articulate his or her own food story as part of the graduation ceremony at the end of the year. Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in a community organizer's toolbox. Stories help us build bonds of community, they heighten emotional response, and are an effective, memorable means of communicating. That's why we spend so much time encouraging our Food Leaders to develop a compelling narrative of their own journeys towards more sustainable, healthy, and just relationships with food. 

program details



The FLCP is a 10-month long program that builds students' skills and bolsters their resumes. The program requires a significant time commitment which must be taken into account before signing up for the program. Each retreat takes place over two days and participants are expected to stay overnight at the retreat location. Space is limited to 20 participants. 

2016-17 Food Leader Certificate Program Schedule (Dates and Locations are being finalized) 

Kickoff Retreat: FOOD systems

Dates:  January 2017, location TBD   

  • Big Picture: The Food System
  • Food Policy (Local, Regional, National)
  • Identifying Resources
  • Developing Your Mission
  • Project Planning & Design

getting in deep Retreat: developing your project plan

Dates:  February/March 2017, location TBD
  • Creating an Action Plan
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Budgeting
  • How to Present Your Project
  • Funding Resources - Inside and Outside Your Community

the finishing touches retreat: putting it all together

Dates:  April/May 2017, location TBD   

  • Servant Leadership
  • Project Management and Resources
  • Nutrition
  • Celebration!

Move Grass Class - Food Leaders should plan to attend at least 5 classes over the course of the year. 

Here's what people are saying about the FLCP!

Participating in the VGI Food Leadership program was a dream come true for me. Spending time with this network of optimistic leaders in our state was inspiring, uplifting, and energizing. Gave me hope for our future. I LOVE YOU GUYS & GALS!!!”                         - Kim Diaz, 2016 Food Leader

I dream of having the time to help my friends develop a 150-acre permaculture farm on the outskirts of Chicago… My wonderful experience with the Victory Garden Initiative has given me the confidence and skills to pursue this.
                                   -Laura Herzog, Glendale, 2012 Food Leader

One of the best parts of the food leader program are the retreats. The retreats are uplifting, personal, educational with a very down to earth approach. The program encouraged me to be a better leader by living a more authentic life. A unique experience with amazing people. - Lori Everson, 2016 Food Leader

This program has given me the knowledge and confidence to take the ideas I have around the Food Movement and bring them to life.                                                -Katie Felten, Milwaukee, 2013 Food Leader

The Food Leader Certification Program changed my life! Learning and growing with an eclectic group of like-minded people was the ideal environment for me to flourish and turn my dreams into reality. And the resources offered to us were invaluable as well. Who needs grad school? Now I'm connected to my community and have support I can count on as I join the VGI in changing our food system.
                          -Alysse Gear, Milwaukee, 2013 Food Leader

 Looking back on a year in the Victory Garden Initiative's Food Leader Certificate Program I am filled with gratitude. I have learned a lot and made many new friends. This program has been truly transformational for me. It has empowered me to think more grandly about my goals. It has inspired me to do more. Thanks VGI for providing such an amazing environment for us to incubate our inner leaders!                                                                      -Will Martens, Vertical Techniques, 2013 Food Leader

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