Gretchen began by describing 4 “stories”: Self story, Food story, Collective Story, and Now story. She began by discussing her personal background and growing up near Galena IL. She talked about the shift in jobs in the food industry and how things have changed as food moved away from local and towards large conglomerates. She talked about her experience working on an organic farm in central Wisconsin and then her move to Milwaukee.
She discussed her studies about various aspects of the food system including food waste (40%), research of cost of food vs fossil fuels and how the current system makes our food system more insecure, does not promote ecological sustainability (reliance on distant water systems, average bite of food travels 1500 miles before we eat it, etc). She touched on how local food growers promote better health, social justice (cost and quality of food), food synergies (GMO and labeling), food security issues and supporting healthy communities.
She then addressed solutions. These include political policies such as state and federal laws (ie land access in cities), the marketplace and how we use our dollars and the impact/empowerment it can create, and the impact of growing our own food.
All the above led her to start the Victory Gardens Initiative (VGI) in 2008. Their first day they installed 40 gardens in front yards in Shorewood. It garnered national attention on NPR. This past May they installed over 500 gardens.
VGI gets funding from many sources including grants, program revenues, sponsorships and product donations. They offer gardening classes and mentoring programs. They install 5 urban orchards a year, run the Concordia gardens and offer a Food Leaders Certification program.
These are the reasons Gretchen shared for “growing your own”
1. Connects to the environment
2. gardening is the new front porch, connecting us to our neighbors
3. our food is immediately accessible
4. promotes the idea of self sufficiency
5. provides food security-we know what we are getting
6. reduces energy consumption (carbon footprint of transportation)
7. creates community bonding
8. provides fresh air and vitamin D
9. reduces crime in areas-people are out and about and know their neighbors
10. kids want to eat what they grow
11. it is a visible manifestation-gives people an example of a future
12. growing food is a direct action that creates change to what we are aiming for
13. fosters a barter economy
14. improves the urban eco system
15. provides physical activity
16. It is a spiritual and therapeutic act for people- puts our universe in perspective.
For a comprehensive list of local farmers and farmers markets in Southeastern Wisconsin, please visit www.farmfreshsewi.org.