Gretchen founded Victory Garden Initiative in 2008. Throughout her career as a social worker she witnessed firsthand the negative impact that the current industrialized food system has on vulnerable populations. She observed that the poorest were the most susceptible to diet-related illnesses, especially where cheap processed foods are plentiful but fresh vegetables are all but inaccessible.
Gretchen’s outlook was shaped by her upbringing in rural Illinois, where her family harvested the bounty of nearby forests in addition to cultivating a family garden. Her approach to urban agriculture is informed by the principles of permaculture, a theory of ecological design that aims to work with nature instead of against it. Gretchen’s aspiration is to reintegrate our food ecology and our human ecology together in one system. She points out, “Our current agriculture system happens away from where people live; our goal is to reintegrate those systems.”
Gretchen received her BA from Clark College and a Master of Social Work from UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. She has been awarded the 2012 GOLD (Graduate of the Last Decade) Award from UW-Milwaukee.
Jazz Glastra - Program Manager
Jazz is Victory Garden Initiative’s new Program Coordinator. Originally from a small town in the Seattle area, she graduated in 2011 from Kenyon College in Ohio with a major in Religious Studies and a minor in Environmental Studies. She also studied abroad for several months in Prague, Czech Republic. Jazz initially became interested in urban and sustainable gardening through her passions for environmental conservation and economic justice. After falling in love with the process of growing her own food while working on an organic farm, she decided to pursue a career in sustainable ag.
Currently, Jazz serves as the Victory Garden Initiative Program Coordinator and manages the volunteer program. After living here for nearly a year, Jazz is proud to call Milwaukee home!
Katie Hassemer - Farm & Garden Educator
Katie joins the Victory Garden Initiative team this winter as the Farmer at Concordia Gardens and a Farm & Garden Educator for our educational programming. She recently moved back to Milwaukee after graduating with a Certificate of Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Vermont's Farmer Training Program. In Vermont, Katie was involved with diversified vegetable, flower and herb production on 4 acres of University land and at various farms around the Burlington, VT area. Katie's main interest in farming stems from the desire to build community around food experiences. Her work is driven by the desire to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, local food options. She's excited to help start the new farm venture at Concordia Gardens and to work with a variety of volunteers, farmers and students!
Jessy Servi - Food Leader Certificate Course Co-leader
Jessy is co-leading the 2012 Food Leader Certificate Program. She has background in design, education, nature awareness, permaculture (ecology) & community development. She integrates her formal training in interior design (BS, Interior Design from the University of Minnesota- Twin Cities Campus) with life-enriching and community-building education from all around the globe.
Her experiences include life coaching, teaching English in Central and South America, building adobe structures on a seed saving farm in Thailand, studying spirituality and yoga in India and Guatemala, and finally, finding the solution based, whole systems design science, Permaculture!
Jessy spent three years at Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas, California, where she practiced and educated students on permaculture and environmental sustainability, on personal growth and leadership, as well as cultural mentoring and nature awareness. Jessy currently is the Vice President of her family’s business (Rawson Contractors) and earning an MBA with an emphasis on sustainable business management from Alverno College.
Jessy is passionate about building healthy relationships. She trusts that each of us could live happier and healthier lives if we believed in our selves deeply, living connected to nature and in alignment with our passions and our purpose.
Pamela Tuffley - Consultant Grant Writer
Pamela has been working with Victory Garden Initiative since the summer of 2011. Prior to her work at VGI, Pamela served as Assistant Director of Foundation Relations at China Institute in New York. She also served as Grants and Program Associate at Primary Source in Watertown, Massachusetts, where she had the opportunity to help lead study tours for K-12 teachers to China. She is a cook book junkie, an advocate of bicycling and public transportation, and a novice vermicomposter.
Charlie Uihlein - Garden Educator Fellow
Charlie is a history teacher at Messmer High School. Prior to teaching, he served at City Year in Chicago where he worked with elementary school students to improve their reading skills. You may recognize Charlie from his time interning this summer at the Urban Ecology Center where he supervised outdoor summer camp programs. In his free time Charlie coaches soccer at Messmer High School. He is also a bit of bookworm (and you know how we feel about worms) and likes to play basketball.