2 staff and 3 youth stand behind table full of produce

Free Farmstand & Tool Library

Friday Free Farmstand 

2021 Dates

Fridays, 3-6pm
June 18th – October 29th
(The tool library/seed & compost giveaway will start June 4th)
249 E Concordia Avenue

Each growing season we offer a free Roadside Farmstand outside of our Farmhouse at 249 E. Concordia Avenue featuring freshly harvested produce from our urban farm across the street. In an effort to make food affordable and get more nutritious produce to the Harambee neighborhood, this stand is run on a pay-what-you-can model. We happily give away most of the food for free! If you have some extra cash, your generous donation helps us keep giving away more produce to those in need.


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U-Pick and Farm Volunteering

The Victory Garden Urban Farm is meant to be a community-owned resource. We want to infuse Harambee with nutritious, locally-grown produce that is free for all people. Nearly all the produce grown on the farm is either used within our own educational programs and events or given away freely. Every once in awhile we will sell produce to local restaurants, but this is always the excess. Our main purpose is not to turn a profit, but to feed the people. Everyone is allowed to come for u-pick….you pick the produce and you get to take it home, free of charge!

 

 

 

 

 


In order for this food to remain free, we have a few things that we ask of you:

  1. Please check in with somebody! Mon-Sat from around 10-5 you can pretty much always find someone from VGI hanging out at the farm! Sometimes earlier or later or on a rare Sunday. If not there, we might be across the street at out Farmhouse (the building with the big, beautiful mural) and you can come ring one of the doorbells.
  2. If no one is around, find the check-in register area (COMING SOON!) and just sign in. You don’t have to give us all your details! We just want to do a little tracking so that we understand how much food we are growing and giving away. Just a name and what you took will do. You can always leave your contact info, sign up to volunteer, leave comments and a bunch of other stuff too if you wish!
  3. Give back to the garden! Pick up some trash around the farm, street, or alley. Help Farmer Aaron pull some weeds or lay down some mulch. Pick up a watering can and give some droopy plants a drink. Do something to help nurture the land and show your love and respect for this communal the space!

VOLUNTEERING

If you are interested in working more regularly in the garden, we would love to have you by as a regular volunteer! Simply fill out this waiver form below and someone will be in touch with you to get you started! You can also show up at the farm during regular business hours during the growing season and someone will put you to work!

If you want to schedule a volunteer group for your workplace, youth club, or group of friends please reach out to us directly at helpusgrow@victorygardeninitiative.org so we can make sure we have a project lined up for your group to work on!

 

Farm Volunteer Waiver

Contact Information

Volunteer Info

What kind of volunteering are you most interested in?
What is your availability?

Emergency Contact

Are you allergic to bees? *

Volunteer Waivers

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Media Release

 

large basket of freshly harvested carrots, cabbage, broccoli, and fennel

Healing a Food System on the Verge of Collapse

by Christine Kuhn, Co-Executive Director 

     Here at Victory Garden Initiative, we’ve been working on a vision for a community-led, environmentally sustainable, socially just, and nutritious food system right here in Milwaukee since 2008. At our new organizational headquarters in the Harambee neighborhood we run a 1.5 acre urban farm and just finished construction on our community kitchen and classroom space in February! On this “Urban Farm Campus” we envision a community coming together around the garden and table with neighbors to grow and cook food together, children learning about biology in the pollinator gardens in their own backyards, chefs cooking up local produce at local restaurants, and neighborhood stores stocking products created by their neighbors. This food system is as beautiful as it is strong! It provides not only nutritious food for the body, but for the mind as well. Our staff have been passionately working to build the programs and local infrastructure to make this vision a reality.

Like many other organizations, we are feeling the strain of Coronavirus. We’ve had to pause our community events and classes and, aside from our Farm Manager, our staff is currently working from home. But Wisconsin’s Safer at Home orders only confirm what I know to be true in the fiber of my being: that food production is and always shall be an “essential activity.” 

In the time of Coronavirus, we all know that toilet paper has bempty store shelves during coronavirus pandemicecome a hot commodity, but other store shelves are emptying too. Bread, meat, canned goods, dried beans, eggs, milk, and the list goes on.  Meanwhile, I keep seeing news stories and updates from major grocery stores and politicians assuring us that the supply chain remains strong and that shelves are only empty because of panic buying. All will be back to normal soon, they say. We just have to ride it out, they assure.

Personally, I’m not reassured.

The reality is, our food system has been broken for a very long time and it is only now, during an international crisis, that we can truly see the unfortunate ramifications of this.  While some families can afford to stock up for months of social distancing, others are on food assistance and can barely afford a weeks’ worth of food at any time. While videos are cropping up encouraging people to bake their own artisan bread, there are people living in apartments where access to a working stove and refrigerator is not even a reality. And while supply chain experts are telling us that shelves will be restocked soon, one has to wonder how they can be so certain of this, when our food is being shipped from across the country and across the globe? Whole countries are on lock down right now and 30+ states have enacted versions of Stay at Home orders. Yes, food production, manufacturing, and agriculture are all “essential activities,” and life goes on. But how can you ever be certain about the stability of a system which relies on a complex network of moving parts, far-flung across the globe? All it takes is for one piece to buckle under the pressure and the entire system collapses.

What if too many truckers get sick and shipping routes falter? What if too many of the migrant workers and seasonal farm crews can’t work the large farms in California, Florida, and the Corn Belt in the Midwest that supply most of our country’s grain and produce? What if there are outbreaks at grocery stores and they don’t have the staff to stay open? What if all air traffic is grounded? 

Maybe it won’t happen this time. Maybe COVID19 is not the straw that breaks the food chain’s back. But what about next time? What about the next virus? The next world war? The next drought? The next recession? The depletion of oil reserves? Are we certain we will have enough food to feed our families?

Infographic by Tim Norton of Oxfam Australia

I don’t ask these questions to scare you, ignite panic, or bring more dreariness to an already stressful situation. Instead, I ask these questions because I believe there is a better way and that it is not too late for us all to do something right now to build a better food system for today and tomorrow. The answer is for us to stop relying on a global food system and to start building a stronger, more resilient local one, in all places at all times. I’m not saying we can’t have Costa Rican coffee, California almonds, Atlantic Cod, or even Oreo’s ever again. But we can and should produce enough food locally to supply our own communities. Global food products should be a welcome addition to our own food supply, not a necessity.

While we can’t all be full-time farmers, we can all grow some of our own food. We can grow it in our yards, on our WWI poster that reads "Your Victory Garden Counts More Than Ever" with produce and garden in backgroundbalconies, at our schools, in our windowsills, and on our rooftops. We can grow it in our basements with the right lights. So many people have wide open grassy lawns which could be turned into productive growing space, not to mention the number of vacant, overgrown lots scattered across our cities. Now is the time to seriously consider transforming these spaces, and our lives, to build our capacity for self-reliance down the line.

This, my friends, is where Victory Gardens come in. Victory Garden Initiative has been on the front lines of this work in Milwaukee for 12 years now, building infrastructure in Southeast Wisconsin for growing local food. Each year, we install 500+ raised garden beds across Milwaukee. In 2020, we had hoped to finally breach the 5000 mark but with the current state of the world, we probably won’t make that milestone this year. But we also won’t be closing up shop either. Now more than ever we are determined to forge ahead and install as many gardens as we can to increase Milwaukee’s capacity for local food production. As of writing this, we’ve already sold 120+ gardens so far and, barring any drastic changes in the pandemic situation and recommendations from health officials, we are committed to installing each and every one of them! Not only that, but we are hopeful to sell even more, particularly in our organization’s home neighborhood of Harambee, a neighborhood that already faces food insecurity and economic disparities. These will only be heightened after Coronavirus sweeps through our nation.

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In addition to building more beds for individuals to grow food, we’re also ramping up production at our own urban farm. The Victory Garden Urban Farm in Harambee has always been a community farm, serving as a greenspace for the neighborhood to gather and a hub for educational activities to teach youth and adults how to grow their own food. In the wake of Coronavirus, it is even more important to provide these services. Our new Farm Manager, Aaron, is already hard at work planting the crops for this season and plans are underway for expanding our Pay-What-You-Can Roadside Farmstand, free Community U-Pick area, and on-site Community Gardens! We urge everyone who is growing food to consider sharing the bounty of your harvest with your neighbors or local food pantry!

If you can’t grow food (we’ll dispel those myths later), you can still do your part by supporting local producers. Unless you are reading this from Antarctica or the International Space Station (please drop me a line if you are, that newly prepared beds ready for plantingwould be incredible!) I guarantee that you have a local farmer within ~100 miles of you. Someone, somewhere, is growing and selling food. Support them. Buy from your local farmer’s market. Visit your local co-op. Look for products from your own region at the grocery store, or talk to the store manager about getting those local products in. Visit roadside farm stands and eat at restaurants that source local ingredients. Finally, be sure to talk them up on social media and leave a positive review so others can find and support them them too!

 

We will eventually beat Coronavirus and the world will return to some semblance of normal. But it will have a lasting impact on our society and it is up to all of us to make sure that we learn from this experience and make the world a better place because of it. We can’t return to the status quo. Now is the time to Move Grass and Grow Food!



For information and updates about the Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz, please check out our website here or reach out to Montana, our Community Programs Manager at montana@victorygardeninitiative.org.

Christine can be reached at christine.kuhn@victorygardeninitiative.org

 

woman holding sign that reads "I pledge to grow more food"
Montana Morris, Community Programs Manager
woman laying down in a newly constructed raised garden bed
Christine Kuhn, Co-Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

summer programs at the farm for a local food system

Summer Programs & Building a Local Food System in Harambee!

After a whole year of keeping our programs small and reserved, we’re excited to be announcing a robust line-up of programs this summer at our Urban Farm Campus! We will of course still be maintaining social distancing, practicing masking, and keeping group sizes small in order to keep our staff and community safe. But with the warm weather upon us and an increase in vaccination rate, we know we can offer safe outdoor activities again! So, we hope you will join us at the farm as we work alongside our Harambee residents to create a nutritious and socially just local food system. Here’s a quick overview of all the programs we will be offering as we work to create a local food system here in Harambee! Click the links for more information!


Harambee residents lining up to get dinner at the Cultivate Harambee eventCultivate Harambee

Once a month we will be offering our dinner series that was borne out of the pandemic. Stop by our farm to pick up a delicious meal prepared in our community kitchen using produce from the farm! Head across the street to sit and eat (socially distanced, of course!) with community and enjoy some free entertainment and kids activities!

Second Saturdays from 4-7pm
249 E Concordia Avenue

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!


EarthSeed: Nourishing Your Roots

This is our new twist on our Food Leader Certificate program! In partnership with Loveland Acres Farm and Diverse & Resilient we will be offering a food justice & leadership training program for marginalized young people in our community.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!

 


Friday Farmstand & Tool Library

Every Friday during the growing season we offer a Free Farmstand! Yep, FREE! If you choose to leave a donation, we will put that money right back into our farm so we can grow more nutritious food for the community! This year, we are also offering a tool library where you can either donate you lightly used tools so they don’t end up in a landfill or you can pick up a garden tool you may need.

 

Farmstand: June 18 – October 29th
Tool Library: same dates, but with extra events on June 4th & 11th

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!


chef demonstrating in the gardenMove Grass Classes

Throughout the year we will be offering culinary and gardening workshops that explore the framework of living farm-to-table, sustainably. Most classes will be taught by our own staff with guest educators appearing for special programs. Exact class dates are still pending.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!


 

Pantry

In partnership with Village Group, Westcare, and Feeding America we have been offering a free pantry on Tuesdays with delivery to Harambee residents. This is a free program, but registration is required! Reach out to Joya directly if you are interested in signing up or volunteering at the pantry. joya@victorygardeninitiative.org.


Summer AgriCorps

The Summer Agricorp program offers youth in the Harambee/Riverwest neighborhoods and beyond an extended summer experience on the farm. This program is open to Harambee/Riverwest youth ages 8-14. The program begins in June and is free for families! Registration is required and enrollment is limited, prioritizing Harambee youth.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!


U-Pick & Farm Volunteering

Join us at the Victory Garden Urban Farm daily from Mon-Saturday during regular business hours to pick your own fresh produce for free! All we ask is that you give something back to help nourish the farm by doing a little volunteer work (weeding, harvesting, watering, etc — as in-depth or easy as you are able!) or picking up trash around the streets/alleys of the farm campus!

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO!

2020: A Year in Pictures

 

by Christine Noelle, Director of Operations & Development

Hello Foodies, Gardeners, and Friends!

As we finally approach the end of this historic year, I am seeing a lot of people who cannot wait to forget 2020 and start fresh in the New Year. While I too am looking forward with hope for a better year, I don’t want to forget the lessons this past year taught me and I want to take a moment to acknowledge the amazing things that happened along the way. There were so many bright points amidst the chaos and uncertainty and I think it is important that we remember both the good and the bad. The things that gave us hope in times of darkness are powerful and we should remember to intentionally incorporate these things into our lives so that we are more resilient in the next hard season we face. So, I wanted to take a moment to look back at the amazing moments that VGI shared among staff and community.

The age old mantra that a picture is worth a thousand words is still true, so enjoy a Year in Pictures with minimal interruption from me! Happy New Year! Stay safe, healthy, happy, and wiser than yesterday!


Victory Garden Blitz

Despite having to drastically cut back on volunteer shifts and rising supply costs as well as many other unique challenges, we managed to pull off the Blitz once again, building another 500 raised garden beds across the city this spring!

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Victory Garden Urban Farm

We leaned in very hard to our 1.5 acre farm in Harambee this year. This plot of land not only helped us grow so much food for the community but was also a safe, outdoor greenspace in the middle of the city that helped us gather our thoughts and maintain some social aspects of our org in a safe, responsible way.

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Farmstand

We still ran our Free Roadside Farmstand this year and with our new kitchen we were able to preserve much of the harvest!

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Farmhouse

After two years, we finally finished up the major renovations on our Farmhouse early in 2020 and were able to have an Open House to show off the classroom and kitchen space just before Covid. Throughout the year, this space has allowed us to preserve food and even host community dinners by serving out the windows of the kitchen and eating socially-distanced style at the farm!

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If you loved seeing all the incredible local food and community building happening in these pictures, please consider an end-of-year donation to VGI! Every dollar donated helps to fund more food grown and given away, more gardens built, more mentoring opportunities, and more grassroots community work in Harambee!

Donate!

 

close up shot of seedlings with farmer pulling tiny weeds

Coronavirus Updates

8/27/2020

Hello Again to our Community!

As the Covid19 Pandemic has progressed, we have found ourselves continually shifting gears to keep our staff and community safe while still striving to meet the needs of community. We just wanted to send a quick update on what you can expect from VGI.

Community Programs

  • We are offering a Free Farmstand on Fridays from 2-6pm to distribute fresh produce to all those in need. Everything is free, but donations are always appreciated!
  • We are offering small, socially-distanced group classes in our indoor center and on our farm on cooking, nutrition, and well-being. Events are planned with quick turn-around so that we can stay abreast of safety concerns, so we don’t have a calendar of events and are not doing wide marketing to keep numbers low. Please reach out to Montana if you are interested in participating.
  • We’re happy to report that the 2020 Blitz was a success! Throughout April and May we were able to install over 500 garden beds!
  • Stay tuned for information on our new Mentorship program, replacing our Food Leader Certificate Program during Covid!

Youth Programs

  • Our Summer AgriCorps program was cancelled and replaced with drop-in activities for neighborhood youth and virtual kits.
  • We will begin After School Chef-in-Training programs at our two local schools as scheduled, but with many safety modification.
  • We will likely continue to offer monthly virtual kits to families beginning in October. Stay tuned!

Urban Farm

  • Our farm has been an urban oasis for us during this pandemic, serving up nutritious produce and a safe, outdoor space to socialize. We will continue growing food on this lot until the weather shifts and are welcoming the community to drop by, pick some produce, and say ‘hi.’
  • Our official volunteer program was discontinued this year. However, you are welcome to drop by the farm for individual volunteering. Our Farmer, Aaron, is generally out working between 11-5pm Mon-Fri and odd hours during the day on Saturdays.

Office

  • Our staff are operating on a flexible telecommuting work schedule. While some staff are generally around the office or farm each day, most of us are working from home several times throughout the week. Feel free to drop by during normal business hours to see if someone is around. Otherwise if you need to contact us, the quickest route will be to email us directly or leave a voicemail on our main line. You can find our contact information here.

Stay Safe Everyone!


4/6/2020

Hello VGI Family,

In the wake of Coronavirus and the State of Emergency that we find ourselves in, we have had to make several changes to our daily operations in order to keep our staff and community safe.

Our office is currently closed and our staff is currently working from home. We have currently cancelled all farm volunteer groups, field trips, and upcoming community events. However, we are still working on ways that we can move forward with the Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz. We here at Victory Garden Initiative are committed, now more than ever, to building communities that grow their own food and the Blitz is a large part of our efforts. Under the current Safer at Home orders, agriculture and food production is still defined as an essential activity and we couldn’t agree more. We believe that it is critical for our communities to grow food.

We will be releasing updated information very soon on how we intend to handle the Blitz this year. We have been reaching out to the local health department and our many partners to inform our plans for the Blitz in order to keep our staff, volunteers, partners, and Blitz recipients safe.  In addition, we are still working on getting our urban farm ready for the upcoming season and will once again be offering our Pay-What-You-Can Roadside Farmstand, Free Harambee U-Pick produce, and Community Garden bed rental programs. Our other community programs including Youth Education Programs, Move Grass Classes, and Food Leader Certificate Program are currently on pause while we watch the situation unfold. We are looking into various ways of providing virtual resources in these areas for our community.

At this time, we are still taking additional orders for Blitz garden beds. You can find more information here. If you or someone you know is currently experiencing food insecurity, please see this interactive map of Emergency Food locations compiled by Hunger Task Force for where you can find resources. We hope that everyone stays safe and healthy during these troubled times.

Letter from the Board Chair

February 5, 2020

Dear Friends of VGI,

On 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 2019!! 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 Chairwoman 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. From across Milwaukee and especially in Harambee I hear how people appreciate being a part of   VGI’s growing community of neighbors, children and volunteers.

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 build community. VGI’s mission to improve our health and our food system is so important and the passion for our mission is spreading quickly. A good thing for us all!

If you too want to be more involved, 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.
  • Enroll in our Food Leader Program. This program is a life-changing experience for its participants and will soon be offered free to Harambee residents.  More information on this program is coming soon.
  • Bring yourself and all your friends to our upcoming Open House for our new community kitchen/room on Friday, March 6 from 4-7 pm.
  • Get or give a garden – or do both! – during our 12th Annual Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ. It is an inspiring way to begin growing your own food.

2020 is going to be a year filled with building gardens, growing food, and fostering community. Don’t miss it!

Susie Ralston, Chairwoman of the Board, Victory Garden Initiative

Wish List

Donation Drop Dates:

Thursday, March 18th: 1-4pm
Thursday, March 25th: 2-5pm
Friday, March 26th: 10-12pm
Thursday, April 1st: 1-4pm

Come to our Farmhouse (249 E. Concordia Avenue) and ring the bell. Christine will greet you!

Please contact Christine w/ questions or to potentially arrange other drop off hours.
christine@victorygardeninitiative.org
414-431-0888

Keep your eyes open for our Farmstand and Garden Giveaway dates! We will be posting info to the website and our social media soon, it generally occurs on Friday afternoons from June-October but we need to finalize details yet. This is where you can get free or pay-what-you-can produce from our farm and all these lovely donated seeds, seedlings, and tools! Reduce Reuse Recycle! Let’s keep these tools outta the landfill and into the hands of people who need them!


We welcome your used items if they are in good condition. We cannot accept broken or overly worn in items, or items that are not on the list at this time.


We also encourage you to purchase items on our Amazon Wish List using smile.amazon.com!
AmazonSmile is a 501(c)(3) private foundation created by Amazon to donate to charitable organizations. When first visiting AmazonSmile, you will be prompted to choose which organization you would like to support. In purchasing eligible items, AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to VGI! This way, you will not only be donating a much-needed item but also a small financial contribution, which adds up quickly for us! Please include your name and contact information when purchasing so we can acknowledge your donation!


Garden Supplies: Last year we gave away tons of seeds and garden supplies to low-income families so they could start their own gardens and would like to provide even more supplies in 2021!

  • Vegetable Seed Packets –> HIGH DEMAND ITEM!!! (Seed packets can be dated from 2017 – 2020 and still be viable!) 
  • Vegetable/Herb Seedlings  (if you started a few too many, we will gladly give them away to new gardeners!)
  • Hand Tools (trowels, cultivators, clippers etc)
  • Full Size Shovels (round point preferred)
  • Watering Cans
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Rakes
  • Tomato Cages
  • Clean 10 Gallon Plastic Buckets w/ Handles

Sorry, but we CANNOT accept plastic plant pots at this time! We have a large back stock to get through first and no space to store extras! However, we will take nice houseplant pots such as ceramic or terracotta pots or hanging baskets.

 

Farmhouse – Office Supplies: We can always use support of supplies for our office! We are a small nonprofit and all our staff share the responsibilities of an office manager/facilities manager to keep the place running! 

  • Standard Print Paper
  • Printer Ink (HP 952XL Black, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow)
  • We’ll always accept eco-friendly cleaning supplies, first aid supplies, and feminine hygiene products
  • Trash Bags

 

Miscellaneous

  • Unworn White T-Shirts, all sizes but prefer SM – XL and youth sizes. We like to screen print or tie dye shirts for volunteer events and youth programs.
  • Clear plastic storage containers, all sizes. We’re finally able to organize our supplies in the Farmhouse basement now that renovation is done!
  • Mason Jars w/ Unused Lids (any size!)
  • Reusable Cloth Bags — we have them available at the Farmstand and Garden Giveaways so people can carry their items home

 

Gift Cards: Either to purchase supplies for programs or as give-a-way items for low-income families and program participants

  • Garden Supply Stores (Weber’s Greenhouse, Steins, Plant Land, Kellner Greenhouse, etc)
  • Outpost Natural Foods Co-Op/Beans & Barley/Fresh Thyme/Whole Foods
  • Home Depot/Lowe’s/Menard’s
  • Local Restaurants & Black Owned Businesses

 

 

 

 

 

 

VGI, Urban Agriculture, and Climate Change

Hello Friends of VGI! 

My name is Will, and I’m a grant writing intern for Victory Garden Initiative this summer. It’s been a fantastic experience so far, as I’ve gotten to know many of the passionate gardeners and volunteers who make VGI’s impactful work possible.

Like many of you, I often experience anxiety and personal inadequacy in confronting the existential threat of climate change. The popular literature and news coverage on climate change frequently focuses on the pressing need to quickly transition to renewable energies and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels–policy and market solutions that can feel out of our control. Although the clean energy transition is important, agriculture, and its related food system components–processing, packaging, distributing, consumption–are often overlooked in the climate conversation. 

I wrote this blog post with the goal of understanding the links between climate change and VGI’s work in building communities that grow their own food. I hope it provides you with solace and a sense of purpose as you go about cultivating your own food garden. 

 

The Need for Urban Agriculture: Feeding a Growing Population While Confronting Climate Change

The United Nations predicts that, by 2050, the world population will be 9.8 billion, increasing to 11.2 billion by 2100 (United Nations, 2017). By 2030, two-thirds of the global population will be living in urban centers (Lederer, 2016). The global food system that will need to feed this growing number of people currently produces 19-29% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, with agriculture contributing 80-86% of those emissions (Vermeulen, Campbell, and Ingram, 2012). 

Climate change will affect industrial agriculture’s ability to feed these hungry mouths due to increasing temperatures, droughts, and excessive rainfall (RUAF Foundation). Considering the large number of people to feed in metropolitan areas coupled with climate change’s ongoing threat to conventional agriculture and food chains, there is an opportunity to rebuild localized, sustainable food systems within increasingly dense cities. Populations that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and an undemocratic industrial food complex must be at the forefront of any substantial conversations around change within the food system. In developed countries like the United States this means historically marginalized communities of color suffering from injustices like food insecurity and agricultural pollution. Community-based urban agriculture constitutes an equitable solution to these issues. 

 

The Benefits of Urban Agriculture: Adapting to and Mitigating Climate Change

Producing food in urban centers provides climate resilience for cities ranging from interconnected issues such as environmental sustainability to food security. 

Urban agriculture cultivates an alternative to the environmentally unsustainable production practices used by the modern industrial food complex. Permaculture, a type of regenerative agriculture that works with nature instead of against it, is used by Victory Garden Initiative at its urban farm and through its programming. Instead of the chemical and energy intensive monoculture schemes common in modern agriculture, urban agriculture systems like permaculture promote a diverse array of crops and sustainable resource management. Victory Garden Urban Farm, for example, promotes ecological sustainability by reducing food waste–a potent source of greenhouse gases–and improving biodiversity, erosion control, soil health, and water quality–environmental qualities that are vulnerable to climate change–through the application of permaculture principles in an urban setting. 

Urban agriculture also shortens food supply chains linked to dense urban centers. In the case of a major climate disruption to rural agricultural lands such as a flood or drought, in which prices for staple foods rise, sustainable urban agriculture can provide a safety net. Communities that currently experience food insecurity and spend a large percentage of their income on food, such as Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood where VGI is located, will be disproportionately affected by an increase in price levels due to decreases in agricultural yields from climate change. When urban areas such as Harambee grow their own food, the core mission of Victory Garden Initiative’s transformative work, food price volatility from climate change is less disruptive. Food sovereign communities are not as beholden to the market forces leading to food insecurity. These communities will also experience greater availability of fresh fruits and vegetables during the growing season, as well as greater transparency over the foods they eat. Increasing the consumption of agricultural products produced in urban centers also reduces greenhouse gases emitted by the importing of these same goods from rural areas. Food sovereignty is food justice, as urban agriculture can empower communities that, due to institutional factors, have been historically discouraged from growing their own food. 

Urban agriculture helps a city achieve greater environmental sustainability in other ways, simultaneously improving public health measures. Urban agriculture increases vegetation cover, thus decreasing urban heat island intensity. Urban heat islands suffer from high air conditioning costs, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, heat-related illness and mortality (Environmental Protection Agency, 2019). The same vegetative cover that maintains cooler temperatures in urban environments also helps with stormwater management. The greening of urban areas through agriculture, such as food gardens–like the raised beds installed during the annual Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ–and urban farms like VGI’s on Concordia Ave., can act as a rain catchment system. This type of green infrastructure will become critical as cities cope with increasing annual rainfall and flash floods due to climate change, which can overwhelm the local water management system and lead to a decrease in water quality from stormwater pollution and runoff (Denchak, 2019).

This post is by no means an exhaustive list of the climate benefits provided by urban agriculture. Given climate change’s complexity, we are still trying to understand how we can best mitigate its effects through changes both big and small. Who knows how climate change will affect Victory Garden Urban Farm’s crop production in 10 or 20 years. What is clear is that encouraging people, especially in cities like Milwaukee, to grow their own food will be a powerful weapon of collective action in the climate fight. For this reason, VGI is committed to engaging with people on the connection between climate change and urban agriculture through all of our programs and community-based work.

 

Cheers,

Will

will@victorygardeninitiative.org

 

Sources:

https://onedrive.live.com/View.aspx?resid=AC95BE3DFDE921E7!3786&wdSlideId=1303&wdModeSwitchTime=1563288279529&authkey=!AFTueVEck_Zfhhc

https://apnews.com/40b530ac84ab4931874e1f7efb4f1a22

https://www.epa.gov/heat-islands

https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html

https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-environ-020411-130608

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/green-infrastructure-how-manage-water-sustainable-way#important

New Generation of Gardeners

Every year, VGI welcomes new youth and young adult interns onto our farm to learn about growing food in urban spaces. These interns come from all walks of life. Some are college students looking for credits towards their degree. Some are youth getting their first job experience. Others are dedicated volunteers hoping to learn more about growing food. Each one is unique and brings fresh life onto the farm! We love to share what we have learned on our 1.5 acre plot over the last 9 years, hoping that their experience here will spark in them a joy for growing delicious, healthy food and caring for the environment. Here are the 2019 farm interns!

 



Lamontia Powell

Hey everyone! My name is Lamontia and I’m an Earn & Learn Youth Intern working on the farm through a program called Employ Milwaukee. My brother, Emanuel, also is working at VGI along side me. In my free time I enjoy reading, taking photographs, and learning more about psychology. I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C and Chicago, but I’d love to visit London someday! I’m going into my last year of high school this fall. Afterwards, I’d like to enroll in college at MATC, and then eventually transfer to UW-Milwaukee. Working on the farm has been really enjoyable this summer and I’m happy about the experiences I’ve had so far.

 


Emanuel Powell

My name is Emmanuel and I work at Victory Garden Initiative through the Earn & Learn program. I’m 15 years old going on 20. I like to play basketball and hang out with my brother. I try different kinds of veggies like carrots and cucumbers. I love helping people on the farm. My favorite activities have been helping with the kids and harvesting veggies. During my time so far, I have learned how to plant fruits and vegetables, how to harvest vegetables and pull all of the nasty weeds. I am looking forward to starting a garden of my own.

 


Jordan Steiner

Hi, I”m Jordan! I’m a farm intern at Victory Gardens Initiative. My favorite part about working on the farm is finding and identifying new insects, as well as learning skills for a self sustaining lifestyle! In my free time I like to hike, read in my hammock and cook some good food!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Logan Klug

Hi! My name is Logan and I’m a farm intern here at the Victory Garden Initiative. I’m a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee where I study Conservation and Environmental Science and German. I am trying to find my niche in the field of my study right now; gaining more experience and trying different aspects of conservation to see what I want to do with my degree once I graduate. Sustainability and protecting the environment are fundamental aspects of my studies and personally important. I’ve found this internship to be incredibly rewarding because I see these values in action everyday on the farm. We grow organically, provide food locally, and bring these values to our community as well.

Working in the garden and seeing so many different faces, working the Farmstand on Tuesdays and seeing everyone pick up their boxes as well as neighbors in the community stop by the stand is a heartwarming experience for me. Food is such a genuine tool in bringing community closer. Even just working in the dirt and getting my hands dirty is so therapeutic. I have very fond memories of gardening with my grandma when I was young and through this internship, I’ve started to garden at my own home again. Outside of the garden I love to travel and cook with my fiancé. I’m also a passionate Game of Thrones fan, and have a long list of books I’m reading through.


Nathaniel Wurzer

My name is Nathaniel. When I’m not at the Victory Garden learning about plants or farming procedures/techniques I usually am a self-employed house painter. Here are a couple random statements about my daily life: I stoke my caffeine addiction while I wake up. Habitual teeth brushing. Gotta have freshly ground black pepper. Bible? Try Joy of Cooking. My dog takes me out for walks. That just about sums it up!