Gretchen Mead, Executive Director
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.
Beverly Tyree, Programs and Operations Director
Beverly joined VGI in July 2016 as our Education Programs Manager and is now the Program and Operations Director, focusing on adult and youth gardening education programs. She joins us with 20+ years of training and management experience in the healthcare sector, most recently as a clinic manager for 14 years with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In addition to operational acumen, Beverly brings her experience and passion of working with youth, which has been displayed as a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Scout leader as well as a pediatric clinic manager to VGI and the youth program at the Victory Garden Urban Farm.
Coming from Alaska, Beverly, grew up camping and fishing in one of the most beautiful states. Part of growing up was learning to “put away” food for those long winter months, finding fresh fruits and vegetables expensive and hard to come by. Moving to Wisconsin, she learned to love gardening and growing her own food. Beverly now landscapes her home with fruits, vegetables, and herbs, sharing this passion with her family and enjoying the bounty almost year-round.
As a personal side note: you can often find her embroidering small thread balls called Temari balls, reading books, cooking, or finding new recipes for her food smoker. Beverly would love to meet you and is best found leading the Food Leader Certificate Program, acting as the Volunteer Coordinator, sharing the mission of VGI through the Membership program, and guiding the Youth Education and FarmStand Program.
Eric Anderson, Community Events / Volunteer Coordinator
Milwaukee native, Eric joined the VGI team in April 2017 in the midst of BLITZ planning and worked alongside Kelly to coordinate his first BLITZ. He comes to Victory Garden Initiative a recent graduate of Notre Dame with experience in both farming and marketing at Growing Power. As Community Events Coordinator Eric leads the BLITZ, Garden Mentor Program, Fruity Nutty Five Contest, and other events. The VGI team is excited to see Eric expand these programs to give even more individuals and communities access to healthy food. Eric’s favorite vegetable is asparagus.
Christine Kuhn, Youth Educator
A naturalist by training, a gardener by happy accident, and a home cook by tremendous trial and error, Christine joined VGI in May 2018 as the Youth Educator where she is in charge of planning and implementing the Youth Education Program (YEP!).
Having grown up in central Wisconsin potato country, she was surrounded by food production from a young age. But like many kids, she wanted nothing to do with small-town life so pursued adventure in college, trekking across the world to study global environmental issues in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Costa Rica. Throughout that time, she kept finding food to be a central issue. Food not being available, too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and mismanagement of food production were all central issues that affected the health of the environment and the lives of the people she was trying to inform. She stumbled into garden and farm education as a way to connect people with the environment through fostering a love of delicious, healthy food.
Christine received her Bachelor’s in Environmental Education/Interpretation from UW-Stevens Point in 2013 and has been slowly pursuing a Master’s in Sustainable & Resilient Food Systems, also through UW-SP. Over the last several years she has been involved with Farm to School programs, farms, and food insecurity organizations and is thrilled to be a part of the VGI team! When not in the garden with kids you can usually find her hiking on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, browsing the stacks at the library, prepping some meals at home or, when in doubt, check the local ice cream shops!
Ian Powell, Agriculturalist
Preferring not to use the title “Farmer”, Ian considers himself first a soil-builder and then an agriculturist.
He began his agricultural adventure in his own backyard. There he first practiced composting and experimented with soil-building techniques. After experiencing the difficulty of growing underneath a black walnut tree, he expanded into a neighboring lot. His pursuits finally led him to work on a small CSA in the Milwaukee area. Here he gained mastery of the shovel and increased his knowledge of plants. With a can-do attitude and flair for building things out of garbage, Ian now coordinates efforts at the Victory Garden Urban Farm.
Born and raised in Platteville, Wisconsin, Logan moved to Milwaukee to be “one of the city folk” and complete his degree in Liberal Arts at UWM. Starting his career as a volunteer service learner in 2013 and slowly growing each season to his role now with Special Operations on the Victory Garden Urban Farm. Logan is a firm believer in urban agriculture and the merits of sweat equity, always aiming to keep his thumbs green and his heart in the community.
Julia Brucklacher, Program and Events Coordinator
Julia joined us in August as a Program and Events Coordinator. She just graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, where she studied Global Environmental Studies, Religion, and Interfaith Studies. Julia will be with us throughout the next year as she carries out her service year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps (LVC). LVC is a nonprofit volunteer organization that focuses on three core values: sustainability and simple living, intentional community, and social justice. At VGI, Julia looks forward to living out these values while getting her hands dirty in compost, as well as creatively inspiring the next generation to both grow and eat fruits and veggies.
Julia enjoys hiking, biking, painting, cooking, and music in her free time, and she is very excited about exploring Milwaukee this coming year. The way to her heart is through sweet potatoes, avocados, bell peppers, and hummus.
Allie Furru, Program & Events Coordinator
The summer harvest of 2018 brought Victory Garden Initiative more than just delicious fruits and vegetables, it also gave us our new Programs and Events Coordinator, Allie Furru. As part of the Victory Garden Initiative team, she will help deliver some of our most impactful programs, such as the Victory Garden BLITZ, while creating and developing new programs and events to be held at our growing Urban Farm Campus.
Allie got her first taste of working with a nonprofit while attending the University of Minnesota where she felt a stir of social justice. Years later, she remains passionate about serving the Milwaukee community through the nonprofit realm. She is excited to build stronger, healthier communities through sharing delicious, local, and responsibly grown food.
When Allie isn’t bopping around at an event, she enjoys tending to her raised garden beds, camping, practicing yoga, making recipes out of the Thug Cookbook, and hanging out with her cat and dog. In the future, Allie is looking forward to adding some feathered friends to her home by raising chickens.