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.


  • Education BA from Clark College and a Master of Social Work from UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. Awarded the 2012 GOLD (Graduate of the Last Decade) Award from UW-Milwaukee.
  • Experience 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.
  • Skills 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.”
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