The Spirit of Collaboration
by Gretchen Mead
Have you ever made plans for your life, only for them to fall through because of things beyond your control?
You. Will. Never. Miss. A Packer game. Until you have a couple kiddos and realize that you are going to have to skip your own kid’s birthday party to make it to the playoff match.
You. Will. Go on vacation. Every February. To Someplace Warm. Except that February is your husband’s busiest time at work and there is no way he can escape.
You. Will. Become an Urban Homesteader Extraordinaire. But it’s so overwhelming. And you don’t have much land. And your neighbors hate chickens.
What do these three scenarios have in common? They don’t have a collaborative master plan. We have arrived at a moment in time, when we have been so thoroughly coached to have our own independent destiny that we simply haven’t even conceived of a collaborative master plan that best meets everyone’s needs as a whole. In fact, if we HAD a collaborative plan, it would surely undermine our competitive nature (she writes with a snarky grin).
In the Milwaukee’s food movement, we have yet to clearly articulate a grand master plan for our community. Individual organizations imagine their visions; homeowners gather around the seed catalogue each February to re-create their front yards; young farmers with angsty need for uprising talk revolution; health clinic employees plot ways to influence the system with better preventive care; ecologists fight for the survival of bees; politicians consider policy change that won’t undermine their tax base; churches offer emergency food to the starving. Meanwhile, time goes by and change is incremental and in silos.
The good news is folks are catching on and recognizing that change will be made with greater collaboration.
This is where YOU come in. How can WE develop a MASTER PLAN that unites our efforts for once and for all toward a better food system?
Tell me ten things that need to happen in order for Milwaukee to have an ecologically sustainable, socially equitable, nutritious food system. Send them to me in an email or post them on our Facebook page.
While you are at it, send me ten markers of an ecologically sustainable, socially equitable, nutritious food system. In other words, how will we know that we have arrived to the place we want?
This year, Victory Garden Initiative has a resolution. We are committed to citywide, all-hands-on-deck, everyone-at-the-table kind of year, mission, and vision. We want to be part of the whole. We want to engage in the bigger picture to the best of our ability.
Already underway are the following efforts:
In the Spirit of Collaboration: THE BLITZ
Milwaukee is increasingly known for its advancement of urban agriculture. The BLITZ is the largest citywide collaboration and celebration of urban agriculture in Milwaukee, and we are just getting started. Victory Garden Initiative organizes hundreds of volunteers, resources, and partners to install 500 gardens every May. People from all over the state and even the country have been in contact with us, wondering how we ‘pull it off’. As we head into our 6th annual, the BLITZ is becoming as Milwaukee as the Film Fest, Bradford Beach, and the Fonz.
New this year: We are so excited to announce that Bartolotta Restaurant Group’s philanthropic arm, Care-A-Lotta, will support the BLITZ with 1000-plus employees, fundraising, outreach, and even our very own spotlight at Northpoint Custard by the lake! This is in addition to our many long-term partners, such as CASE Industrial, Habitat for Humanity, Purple Cow Organics, Green Man Tree & Landscape Services, Washington Park Partners, Baird, Layton Boulevard West Neighbors, and…well, to be honest, the partners just keep rolling in.
Do you think your place of employment, church, school, neighborhood, or other affiliation may want to participate in the BLITZ this year? Email Jazz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and join us for our upcoming BLITZ Q&A Session.
Opportunity rewards a prepared organization, so next week, we will be training several dozen Green Bay organizations to collaborate for their very own Victory Garden BLITZ!
In the Spirit of Collaboration: The Milwaukee Food Council
I have been working with the steering committee of the Milwaukee Food Council (MFC) in some capacity for the past several years and watched its efficacy grow. The MFC has existed for seven years, serving as a forum to bring Milwaukeeans together to create an ecologically sustainable, socially just, economically vibrant, culturally relevant, and healthful food system. These meetings draw over 50 people from all over the city, a wide array of disciplines, and all walks of life, who give a strong show of support for a new way of eating, of living.
This is the place where the dietician shows up because he wants to figure out how to help his clients grows more food, and he finds some folks who can help. This is where the “guy from the city” gets to hear firsthand the kinds of challenges young farmers are encountering in relationship to land-use issues for urban agriculture. Collaboration is a constant.
In the Spirit of Collaboration: The Institute for Urban Agriculture and Nutrition
Haven’t heard of this yet? That’s because it’s in its nascent form, not yet an official entity, but moving toward it everyday. The IUAN is a multi-organization institution bringing together UWM, UW, UW Extension, Growing Power, MCW, MSOE, Marquette, City of Milwaukee Office of Environmental Sustainability, and you guessed it, The Milwaukee Food Council. Imagine what happens when a citywide consortium of people changing the food system bump brains with the top academic institutions in the state of Wisconsin! Do you see it? Academic support to study anything ranging from soil health to food security factors, needed policy changes to anything else that creates a socially just, ecologically sustainable, nutritious food system.
This year, Victory Garden Initiative brings in a seven new board members. We will hire our 4th full-time staff person. Our events, projects, programs, and fundraising efforts are populated and growing.
With great purpose and a full heart, we reach towards greatness and collaboration in 2014.