How One Gardener is Changing Milwaukee’s Landscape


By Maria Duryee

Like the WWII movement of the same name, Gretchen Mead’s Victory Garden Initiative fights for a cause; her battle is the poor diet of people living in poverty. She has rallied hundreds of volunteers to build 2,500 vegetable beds in low-income Milwaukee neighborhoods during seven annual blitzes. Now she wants to help other towns to do the same. We chatted with Gretchen about the roots of her movement and how her vision continues to grow.

How did the Victory Garden Initiative get started?

I grew up in the country. We grew a lot of our own food and lived off the land. That was just our way of life. When I moved to the city to get my master's in social work, I still felt a need to grow food, even though there wasn’t a lot of space. I started growing food in my front yard, recognizing how important it was for my own wellness. I also started a career as a social worker and couldn’t help but notice the horrible diet people in poverty had access to. There was a missing conversation in urban environments about the benefits of growing your own food, so I organized an event called the Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz. It was an effort to create gardens for a whole bunch of people. We built about 40 gardens during our first blitz and that was seven years ago. Since then, we’ve built around 2,500 gardens in the Milwaukee area.

Read the rest of the interview on Midwest Living at the link below:

Victory Garden Initiative builds communities that grow their own food, creating a community-based, socially just, environmentally sustainable, nutritious food system for all.