Rolling Into 2021 with Awe, Thankfulness, and Gratitude

Dear VGI Community,

On behalf of myself and the entire board of directors, I would like to first acknowledge with awe, thankfulness and gratitude how we not only ‘weathered’ 2020 but how VGI went above and beyond difficult times.

With AWE:  At the staff and VGI leaders who got creative to continue to make the greatest impact

With Thankfulness: We are truly thankful to be a part of a community that is committed to social and food justice,

With Gratitude:  Reminds me of just how fortunate we are!

As we move forward in 2021 and on the journey of another year of MORE of what we do best! We are very excited, energized and ready to hit the earth/soil/ground running! We have new leadership in place with our Executive Director, Michelle Dobbs. She and the staff are certainly not in hibernation this time of year. They are busy with planning programming, coming up with creative ways to engage the Harambee Neighborhood, bring Chef Joya’s great food to more people, get more BLITZ garden beds installed and thinking of all we can do with the children we serve.

On the board level, I am again humbled, committed to our mission and enthusiastic to be the board chair for this year. Also, we have a new Vice-Chair who is an emerging/strong leader for VGI plus the community! Chelsea Cross wanted to take a moment to share her excitement on joining the board and her new leadership position:

“We live in a nation that perpetuates unhealthy eating with capitalistic ads for bad food, alcohol, and tobacco on our TVs and highways. These ads appease the companies with no care for our environment that mass produce our ‘food.’ As a repercussion and quid pro quo for Big Pharma, our medical system would rather treat instead of prevent. Armed with my education and health background, as Vice-Chair, ending these ramifications that reverberate across mostly low-income, minority communities is my dedication. It is an honor to carry the work started by Gretchen Mead so many years ago and I am incredibly grateful to learn from Susie and the rest of the VGI community. – Chelsea”

If you are looking to safely get involved with VGI here are few ways to do that now:

  • Mark your calendars for our Cultivate Harambee dinner series! These outdoor, socially distanced dinners will take place the first Saturday of the month from May-October. From 4-7pm you can drop by our Farm and Farmhouse in Harambee for a delicious meal prepared by Chef Joya using VGI produce. Stay tuned for more announcements on our website, newsletter, and social media as we’ll update as each event gets closer with what fun entertainment will be happening as well as volunteer opportunities!
  • Get ready for the 13th Annual Great Milwaukee Blitz! We’re still working on finalizing plans for a 2nd pandemic Blitz, so while our registration forms aren’t fully live yet, you can still sign up to get on the volunteer list here or onto the list for purchasing a bed here. Once the official forms are live, we’ll send you and email so you can sign up.
  • As always, we greatly appreciate your support through a financial donation here or helping out with our wish list here.


Thank you to all our friends, supporters and community members!

Susie Ralston, Chairperson of the Board of Directors

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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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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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!



A Message from our New Executive Director!

by Michelle Dobbs, Executive Director

Every shut eye ain’t asleep. Every goodbye ain’t gone. – Grandma proverb

Fall is funny; maybe because hibernation looks a lot like sleep. The thing we often forget is that hibernation is a vital part of life. Every living thing needs periods of rest to ensure their survival, and
prepare for the next phase of growth.

Victory Garden Initiative looks a lot like it’s asleep these days. The farm is tucked in: winter gardens planted, compost shared, fully staffed, we’re gearing up for the last Cultivate Harambee event of the summer… seems pretty groggy from the outside. It’s different. Quieter.

What is important to remember is that we ain’t sleep. Mother Earth and her employees at Victory Garden Initiative are hard at work connecting with our neighbors through the darkness of winter. We’re outfitting our new building’s community room and kitchen to hold smaller, more intimate gatherings and classes. We’re managing our systems and operations to sustain ourselves and our neighbors in virtual formats by making tutorials and videos and sharing them widely. We’re completing our annual reports and appeals so that as people approach that End of The Year Giving part of their household budgeting, they will consider VGI. We are here, as we have been for the last ten years. Teaching, learning, sharing, graciously accepting the gifts that our neighbors offer.

The thing about this season is that we’re participating in our civic responsibilities of managing an urban farm from a distance now, so that we can all be safe when the winter passes over Harambee.

What’s also funny is that when the weather breaks again, we’ll be ready! We’re growing inside so that we can install garden beds through our annual (now No Contact) Garden Blitz, put volunteers and interns back to work on our farm, host learning events for our children, and certify another cohort of Food Mentors who will be prepared to teach those who never knew, or who want to remember, how to live in harmony with the earth in the middle of a food desert in the middle of the city. We’re working on fortifying relationships with past partners, and creating new ones.

I’m kind of looking forward to starting off by spending the winter with VGI. This undercover moment to gather ourselves is vital to our growth 2021. We ain’t asleep. We ain’t gone. We just getting ready for the next phase.