LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
Holy Big Deals Batman
I sometimes suggest that the small Midwestern town where I grew up has a deep-seated forced humilityintertwined in its culture that allows people to rise barely above mild depression. One cannot get too proud nor excited about the good things in one's life for fear of being “eye-rolled”. Then, ironically, we trek to the nearest bookstore to purchase self-affirmation books; we hang inspiration calendars, we joke, “I’m smart enough. I’m strong enough. I’m pretty enough. And doggoned people like me,” after the famous Saturday Night Live, Stuart Smalley skit.
The other day I walked in on my little guy, Wolfe Otto, and caught him jumping on his trampoline, saying to an imaginary audience, “That jump was awesome.” “Otto is amazing.” “He is a superhero!” “Incredible!” “Otto can fly!” In his mind, he is nothing short of a super hero. After having two girls, I now understand that boys have an innate tendency to believe they are superheros. It’s rather fascinating, and the social cultural implications are many, but for now, we’ll keep it narrow and hope he grows up to be a super hero in the food movement.
This week's newsletter is a shout out to 1) my four year-old Wolfe Otto (not that he needs it) for his dedication to unfiltered self-affirmation. Hopefully one day Wolfe Otto will use his super hero powers for the food movement too. And 2) several superheros that are dedicated to the food movement. Where your Midwestern sensibilities won't stop feeding you humble pie, let VGI give you an ego boost.
Super Nuts: Johnson's Nursery has been a super supporter of this year’s Fruity Nutty Campaign. With help from their brilliant staff person, and our dedicated volunteer, Michaela Molter, they have sourced all our trees for the Fruity Nutty Five Neighborhood orchard giveaway. They have also donated their OWN hazelnut trees. As we have come to know Johnson’s we have learned that their staff is SUPER knowledgeable, and very much in support of sustainable food systems in Milwaukee. Thank you to Johnson’s Nursery. And join us at the Fruity Nutty Affair to see who wins the Five Neighborhood orchards we are giving away this year during our Fruity Nutty Campaign. See you on February 16th at Turner Hall Ballroom!
Super Supporters: Three years ago, I received an email from Ken Leinbach, Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center (UEC) that simply said, “I heard about the good work you are doing. Let’s talk about it sometime.” Thus began the relationship that would take Victory Garden Initiative from its formative radical stages to now - we have 5 staff and a rotating group of interns that... drum roll please... operates under our own 501(c)3 non-profit status! That’s right folks, after three years of operating under the wing of the UEC, Victory Garden Initiative is now official!”
VGI is one of the dozens of ecology-based efforts that have been incubated under the UEC’s auspices. Our deepest heartfelt thank you to the UEC for their support, leadership, wisdom, partnering and friendship. Ginger Duiven, Beth Heller, Judy Krause, Ken Leinbach, Jamie Fershinger, Lindy Meer, Willie Karidis, and so many other UEC staff - THANK YOU! We will miss you UEC, but, can we still get together for the occasional potluck?
Super Donor: Faster than a speeding bullet. Strong enough to spearhead the multi-institution Institute of Urban Agriculture and Nutrition. Able to write MOU’s with a single pen. AND Victory Garden Initiative’s top donor for 2013. Thank you to everyone who contributed to our 2012 Annual Campaign, but special thanks to Stan Stojkovic, Dean of my alma mater, the UWM Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, for putting us over the top with our first Annual Appeal. We reached our $10,000 goal because of you!”
Super Undertaking: For those of you who have been around since the beginnings of VGI, you know that it has taken an enormous amount of blood, sweat, and tears from the original handful of people, especially myself, and our founding board president, Erik Lindberg. From this original vision, we are now seeing the signs of a very healthy, structured, smoothly operating non-profit organization. We have our new board president, Becky Grandone, to thank for much of this infrastructure. Becky is a nonprofit management expert of sorts, and, thankfully, she is leading this organization from “Woah” to “WOW!” From creating contracts, to developing board committees, to strategic planning, to writing budgets, to geez, pretty much anything that makes an organization fly, Becky is involved. We are so lucky to have her as our new Board President.
Super Promotion: A little more than a year ago, we brought Jazz Glastra on as an unpaid intern. Soon, she became a paid BLITZ coordinator, then, a program coordinator, and now, just a little more than a year later, Jazz is our program manager. She has made herself critical to the functioning of VGI, by being a steady, thoughtful, creative, and driven Super Hero of the food system.
Let me give you a little insight into the leap of faith Jazz took to get here. Two years ago, I found Jazz online while emailing to a national food related list-serve. I learned she was looking for a job as she moved from Washington state to Milwaukee, and though I could not offer her a paid position, I could offer her a flexible internship so she could work a different job for money. We set up an interview. On the day of the interview, I went for a run, then quickly came home, changed clothes and got on Skype. We talked. I liked her. She thought it would work for her. Yay! She was on her way to Milwaukee and would intern with VGI!
Months later, as our confidence in working together has settled in, she told our small staff a story:
“Remember that day you interviewed me on Skype? You had just come home from a run and you were running late. Well, apparently, you changed your clothes, and didn’t put on any pants, because during the interview, you moved around to adjust your computer and flashed me your underwear.” Ummm... Un...com...fort...able. During the next five second pause, which seemed like 5 minutes, I turned fifty shades of red. Holy Under Blunders Batgirl! Only could a modern day Skype interview allow for such a colossal super-goof. Even without my superwoman funderwear on, Jazz showed up to intern with us. And, she has been moving up every since.
Thanks to all our Super Food Heros! We will see you all at the Fruity Nutty Affair on February 16th. Sign up to win a neighborhood orchard. Sign up for our Edible Gardening for Sustainability Series.