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

Preparing for Next Year

Friends,

Today it hit.  Winter is finally here and the growing season has come to an end.  Not even the spinach likes it this cold. For the next few months, our farming activities will mostly subside,  except those that prepare us for next season.

20992892_10155641658269451_5738995368619896517_nBut, for the VGI team, there is no decrease in activities.  We are planning and preparing for next year’s programs, events, and successes. This preparation includes funding our activities. Much like we are banking up on compost at the farm for next season, we need to bank up on financial resources right now for next season. We need the financial resources that it takes to teach people how to grow food, give families gardens, offer deeply discounted vegetables to our neighbors, and train others to lead their own version of grassroots change.

shovel-squad-blitz-2017_34206791023_oWe need you to support this preparation.  While economic disparity increases in our country, the social issues that our community is vulnerable to, exacerbate.  We can’t let up. We must continue to support grassroots efforts that change the over-corporatized food system from the ground up.  Help us remove the Milwaukee’s food system from the speculative Wall Street economy by buying local everything, and supporting LOCAL food production. Right here in our own city.

Next year we have plans to launch a CSA farm and to expand the micro-local restaurant sales.  Help us get over the financial hump so we can make it all work.

We are counting on YOUR perseverance, every single one of you, to ensure that the Victory Garden Urban Farm can continue to do its good work in Milwaukee.

Consider giving generously.  We need you.

~Gretchen

 

 

P.S. Wisconsin Foodie and Edible Milwaukee are offering a FREE subscription to anyone who donates to VGI.

ediblemke

Calling All Future Food Leaders

2018 Food Leader Certificate Program Registration Now Open

The Food Leader Certificate Program is a unique and exciting intensive retreat program that trains up the next food leader. We are thrilled to have Erica Wolf join us again this year to share her vast knowledge of Community Organizing. We are also welcoming back Sean Laessig, Chief Mission Integration Officer from Cardinal Stritch University to inspire us to be Servant Leaders.

Delaney 2This unique experience includes three-weekend retreats that provide learning in the areas of Food system realities, team leadership, project management, connection through storytelling, gardening tips, and much more. Connect with fellow food leaders – plan your very own food system project – grow as a leader.

Hosted at the beautiful Wellspring Education Center and Organic Farm, located in West Bend, the vibrant setting offers the space to revitalize, reconnect, and inspire.

The 2018 Food Leader Certificate Program registration is now open. Come join this exciting and unique experience. The program is open to high school and adults alike.

For more information, click here

What are the past food leaders saying:

Grow Your Own Food, Abram Games, 1942, IWM PST 2893

The most valuable thing I learned in VGI’s Food Leader Certificate Program is that the support is there to be the change you want to see. The whole of us is more(stronger) than the sum of our parts. ~Colleen Patterson 

I absolutely loved connecting with like-minded, passionate individuals that inspired me to do better in my own life. As a new member of the Green Bay Area, I found a small community that welcomed me with open arms. ~Alex Smith

My favorite thing about the Food Leader program is the retreats and the new family you gain. After three retreat weekends together, I felt surrounded with love and support from my new community of food leader family members from all over the state. During the retreats, I felt energized by our shared passions and the progress each of us was making on our community projects. I know I’ve made some lifelong connections and sometimes you never know where those sparks will take you or how they will change your life. ~Mary Joy Hickey

Delaney 3Read other food leaders stories:

Featured Food Leader- Bradley Seibel

Featured Food Leader- Delaney Hutchinson

A Full Circle

During this year’s Victory Garden Initiative BLITZ, many garden stories touched our hearts. This particular story emboldens the importance of why we do what we do and reminds us of the power of people coming together, transcending all borders, to create a sovereign food system that directly serves the people in our community.

It began with a generous donor who sponsored the BLITZ gardens for refugee families in our community. A musician by profession, the donor said he was touched by the conversation with a refugee at a recent performance and he wanted to do something for the refugees in our community. Refugees face the challenges of having to completely readapt to their new host city, which includes where they will find their food from and how they will afford their food. What better solution than their own backyard and for free?

IMG_1725We then reached out to community partners Sheila Badwan and Kai Gardner Mishlove. Sheila advocates for and works with several refugee families, and connected us with families looking to grow their own food. Kai is co-founder of grassroots projects: Open Arms MKE and Team Refugee and has over 25 years of experience in social services working with vulnerable communities. She enjoys mobilizing community support to welcome refugee families in MKE. Over the last 3 years, Kai has assisted several refugee families with their acclimation in the US. She acts as a cultural mentor through her community volunteer work with various organizations including SEA Literacy MKE and the Aurora Walkers Point Community Clinic. She celebrates holidays with families, assists in their children’s education and assists with all the day to day necessary (and fun) activities that you would do with your family and close friends.

“Every activity and workshop that I’ve attended at Victory Garden Initiative has been awe-inspiring and confirmation of the positive aspects and potential of the community that exists in Milwaukee.  Victory Garden Initiative is definitely a Milwaukee gem.” -Kai Gardner-Mishlove

Through Kai, we were introduced to a family from the East African country of Eritrea among few other refugees. The 3 adult and 5 child family arrived in the United States in November 2016.

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Bun brewing with Kai (on right)

On a beautiful May afternoon in the late-Spring of 2017, our team of marvelous volunteers set out to install the gardens for the families who benefitted from this generous donation. They spent the day building garden beds, shoveling, moving dirt, pounding yard signs, and then capped it off by sipping freshly brewed “bun” made by the family.  Traditional coffee made from an elaborate ceremonial home roasting and brewing process. Kai is a big fan of Bun/Buna now.

The family takes pleasure in the garden for its aesthetic appeal and bountiful fresh harvests. Their garden favorites thus far are the variety of lettuces, tomatoes, and okra. Like many immigrants, the act of growing food connects these refugees to their home. It brings back many fond memories they made sharing meals with their family and friends that are left behind. A true sense of community can only be experienced when many agents come together to make it a better place. That is one of the many reasons why BLITZ has been a backbone of our mission.

The Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ is the NATION’S LARGEST GARDEN-BUILDING EVENT! Each year, over 300 Victory Garden Initiative volunteers install hundreds of raised bed gardens in backyards, front yards, schools, community centers, and places of worship – just about anywhere you can imagine! Gardens can be donated for to either build a garden for your backyard or gardens can be gifted to someone else’s backyard. So far, we’ve built over 4,000 gardens in the Milwaukee area since the program’s inception! To buy a BLITZ garden for a family in need, visit https://victorygardeninitiative.org/donate

DONATE NOW!

Special thanks to Kai-Gardner Mishlove, Kevin vieau and all the BLITZ volunteer for this story!

Keep It Simple — What’s in your meal?

The seed of introduction:

“The interesting thing I learned was that if you’re really concerned about your health, the best decisions for your health turn out to be the best decisions for the farm and the best decisions for the environment – and that there is no contradiction there.”

~Michael Pollan

 

Celebrated author Michael Pollan once said that if food came from a plant, eat it and if it was made in a plant, do not. Although humorous, this phrase sums up the current state of our food industry. Pollan’s advice actually has widespread implications and examines the very question: What is food? A strong argument could be made that even though processed foods may begin as whole food, it is altered in such as way that the end results does not even resemble food.

Advances in science have allowed the food industry to evolve – making food easier and cheaper to grow and with more desirable characteristics in terms of shelf life and freshness. These advances sometimes cost you as well. Consider the average cracker on the market today. It has an average of eight or more ingredients, several of which are additives for taste, color or shelf life. Additionally, the cracker is most likely made with

ingredientsrefined non-whole grains and will cause a rapid rise in blood sugar and insulin followed by a rapid fall. This rise and fall may cause you to be hungry again soon and overall less satisfied. Is also may contribute to inflammation if foods such as the cracker are typical in your diet.

Finally, that cracker may be loaded with saturated fats, trans fats (hydrogenated oil) and a whopping amount of sodium. All of these put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, and hypertension. Think about it, that’s just your cracker – what else are you eating throughout the day that has numerous ingredients, many of which you don’t have a clue even what they are?

~Excerpt from What is Food and Where is it Coming From; Menu for the Future, Page 66.

http://www.sustainabletable.org/873/eating-sustainably

Let the conversation germinate and grow:

Do you currently use labels to make food purchasing decisions? Is the labeling understandable? How might it be improved?

Think about your health. What might changing your diet do to improve it?

Do you ask questions at the store about your food’s origin? How can you find out more about where your food comes from?

Practical Exercise:

Find out more about food labels and what they mean at http://greenerchoices.org/labels/

For one week, list everything you eat. Notice how much fresh food you eat and how much prepared food you eat. Think about Michael Pollan’s statement – if food comes from a plant eat it, and if it comes from a plant, do not. What changes might you make and how would that affect your health?
Processed-vs-Unprocessed-Foods

Are you still gardening? If so, what are your planting? If not, are you thinking about gardening next year? What would you want to plant?