Victory Garden Initiative consists of a team of dedicated staff and volunteers. We are professionals who bring years of experience in not-for-profit work, environmental justice, and food security and sovereignty.
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.
kelly moore brands
community programs manager
Kelly grew up with a love of the outdoors cultivated by her father, a natural environmentalist, and her mother, a natural traveler. Numerous road trips to National Parks around the country gave her a sense of the beauty in the natural world. After receiving a B.A. in Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kelly worked at the University of California-Santa Barbara as a Research Assistant, often traveling to Belize to work with traditional Maya farmers. They taught her the value of knowing your food and how to grow and care for it, using the forest as a garden.
After graduating with an M.A. in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Kelly consulted for Conservation International, the American Forest Foundation, and the Ecosystem Marketplace on Payments for Ecosystem Services. She joined the Peace Corps with her husband in Panama to learn and teach concepts of sustainable agriculture within a community of indigenous Panamanians. She also learned how to hike for miles in a dress and rubber boots, grind corn into an alcoholic drink, and make a stove out of horse dung.
Quinn joined the Victory Garden Initiative Team in September 2015 while pursuing a Masters degree in Sustainable Peacebuilding at UWM.
She hopes to bridge her knowledge of science and conservation with humanities and social sciences to holistically approach complex social and environmental issues.
Quinn enjoys reading, cooking with organic, locally grown produce and spending time with her husband and two cats. She is very excited to be part of the VGI team and this grassroots movement.
Polly is our resident Brazilian nature & food lover!!! Polly grew up in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and studied permaculture in her younger days.
After working different jobs in Belo Horizonte, she had the opportunity to become a chef at Le Cordon Bleu Peru and lived in Peru for 3 years.
Now that she is in her third year of living here in Milwaukee, she has already achieved level 1 of her Master Gardener Certification. Polly is proud and happy to be a part of Victory Garden Initiative as an educator and teaches many of our Move Grass Classes.
Demetrius is Associate Professor of Youth Development at the University of Wisconsin-Extension and works with our Youth Program at three MPS schools teaching gardening education within their Community Learning Center programs.
As Youth Development Educator for UW-Ex, Demetrius is also responsible for planning, implementing and evaluating YD educational programs to meet identified needs and interests of youth throughout Milwaukee County, incorporating pertinent research findings from the social, human and behavior sciences into practical programs that address youth and family cognitive capacities.
Thanks to MIAD student Laura Kelly for the beautiful staff photos!