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 Program Manager. Originally from a small town in the Seattle area, she graduated in 2011 from Kenyon College after studying food, environment, religion and society. In 2012, she received her Permaculture Design Certification through Victory Garden Initiative. In 2013 she co-taught and coordinated the Permaculture certification course. Jazz initially became interested in urban and gardening through her passions for environmental conservation and economic justice. After working on three organic farms in three different states, she settled in Milwaukee and has devoted herself to building community and helping others discover the joy of growing food. Her role at Victory Garden Initiative is to implement the mission, and she strives to build strong, healthy, sustainable communities in everything she does.
Jazz’s interests include growing food, cooking food, and eating food. She draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources and traditions, including the Amish, permaculture, Woody Guthrie, and the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Wendell Berry.
Alysse Gear - Administrative Coordinator
This fall, Alysse joins the Victory Garden Initiative as Administrative Coordinator. She's also currently working toward her Food Leader Certification through the VGIundefinedand working on her first urban garden.
Previously, Alysse spent much of her career in the magazine world after receiving degrees in Magazine Journalism and English from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She's beyond thrilled to have taken a huge leap and joined a team that shares her values and is working toward a sustainable, healthy food system in her beloved hometown. Alysse firmly believes that we all make a difference every dayundefinedbut it's up to us whether that difference is positive or negative. That's where growing food comes in. We all have the power to change our bodies, environment and communities through what we eat! Especially tomatoes. Those things have magical powers. #movegrassgrowfood
In her spare time, Alysse writes a blog about women following their dreams, picks recyclables out of trash cans and tries really really hard not to fall over during every pose in yoga class.
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 Sustainability Manager at Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative and earning her MBA with an emphasis on sustainable business management from Alverno College.
Jessy is passionate about building healthy relationships. She trusts that each of us can live happier and healthier lives if we believe in ourselves deeply, living connected to nature and in alignment with our passions and our purpose.