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Victory Garden Initiative/Community Stories Summer 2012

Victory Garden Initiative is all about empowering communities to grow food and reawaken the relationship to human and food ecology. The initiative does this through a variety of ways…through classes, programs, initiatives, special projects, etc. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting some VGI volunteers and staff during the 2012 Great Milwaukee Blitz Week.

What’s Blitz Week? Let’s just say it’s a whole lot of work…but every minute of work pays off. Here’s a recap of ‘ The Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz 2012.’

"Eight long days, 170-plus volunteers, 280 yards of soil, and 260 gardens later, the 2012 BLITZ has finally come to a close! Many months of planning culminated on May 26th with the final installation of gardens all across the Milwaukee area, from Whitefish Bay to Bay View and Washington Heights to the East Side. Every year, the Victory Garden BLITZ brings dozens of new gardeners to the good food movement by providing them with brand new raised-bed gardens perfect for growing food. When over 100 volunteers turned out in the pouring rain at the Washington Park Urban Ecology Center for our last big day, we stood in awe of the power of the BLITZ to bring together volunteers and gardeners from every corner of the city with a common goal: Move grass. Grow Food.

This year, we had more opportunities than ever before to reach beyond our networks and bring gardens into Westside and Center City neighborhoods. Through a partnership with the West Allis Health Department, we installed 24 gardens for low-income mothers with young children to grow their own food. A generous partnership with the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation funded the installation of 50 gardens in Targeted Improvement Neighborhoods, or TINs. Washington Park Partners generously donated 24 garden beds.

This year’s BLITZalso saw a notable increase in the number of social service organizations who want to provide garden space to their clients—from food pantries that feed the hungry to places of worship and youth service agencies. At Victory Garden Initiative, we believe this trend is just the beginning of a full-blown paradigm shift. Across the country, people are beginning to understand the role that a healthy food system must play in creating positive change in our communities.

Last year, 130 gardens were installed during the BLITZ. We’ve doubled that number to 260 this year, and are hoping to double it again next year with 500 new food producing gardens! While it’s easy to get excited about these big numbers, the most rewarding part of this project for us is getting to know the individuals who nurture the gardens our volunteers build. One woman we met is using some of the extra soil from her bed to create a small space in her yard for her young neighbor to grow his own food. Stories like this are what we love to hear about, and they also help us spread the word about growing food in the city."

Get the idea? It’s pretty amazing when you think about it. So I met with Executive Director Gretchen Mead and Program Coordinator Jazz Glastra to find out more about the importance of Blitz Week and how VGI is changing Milwaukee neighborhoods and residents for the better. To hear from them, click the podcast below.

To get involved with the Victory Garden Initiative, click here.