Victory Garden Initiative consists of a team of dedicated staff and volunteers. We are professionals who bring years of experience in not-for-profit work, environmental justice, and food security and sovereignty.
Gretchen founded Victory Garden Initiative in 2008. Throughout her career as a social worker she witnessed firsthand the negative impact that the current industrialized food system has on vulnerable populations. She observed that the poorest were the most susceptible to diet-related illnesses, especially where cheap processed foods are plentiful but fresh vegetables are all but inaccessible.
Gretchen’s outlook was shaped by her upbringing in rural Illinois, where her family harvested the bounty of nearby forests in addition to cultivating a family garden. Her approach to urban agriculture is informed by the principles of permaculture, a theory of ecological design that aims to work with nature instead of against it. Gretchen’s aspiration is to reintegrate our food ecology and our human ecology together in one system. She points out, “Our current agriculture system happens away from where people live; our goal is to reintegrate those systems.”
Gretchen received her BA from Clark College and a Master of Social Work from UWM’s Helen Bader School of Social Welfare. She has been awarded the 2012 GOLD (Graduate of the Last Decade) Award from UW-Milwaukee.
kelly moore brands
community programs manager
Kelly grew up with a love of the outdoors cultivated by her father, a natural environmentalist, and her mother, a natural traveler. Numerous road trips to National Parks around the country gave her a sense of the beauty in the natural world. After receiving a B.A. in Biological Aspects of Conservation from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Kelly worked at the University of California-Santa Barbara as a Research Assistant, often traveling to Belize to work with traditional Maya farmers. They taught her the value of knowing your food and how to grow and care for it, using the forest as a garden.
After graduating with an M.A. in International Environmental Policy from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Kelly consulted for Conservation International, the American Forest Foundation, and the Ecosystem Marketplace on Payments for Ecosystem Services. She joined the Peace Corps with her husband in Panama to learn and teach concepts of sustainable agriculture within a community of indigenous Panamanians. She also learned how to hike for miles in a dress and rubber boots, grind corn into an alcoholic drink, and make a stove out of horse dung.
Education Programs Manager
Beverly joined VGI in July 2016 as our Education Programs Manager, focusing on adult and youth gardening education programs. She joins us with 20+ years of training and management experience in the healthcare sector, most recently as a clinic manager for 14 years with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. In addition to operational acumen, Beverly brings her experience and passion of working with youth, which has been displayed as a Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Girl Scout leader as well as a pediatric clinic manager to VGI and the youth program at the Victory Garden Urban Farm.
Coming from Alaska, Beverly, grew up camping and fishing in one of the most beautiful states. Part of growing up was learning to “put away” food for those long winter months, finding fresh fruits and vegetables expensive and hard to come by. Moving to Wisconsin, she learned to love gardening and growing her own food. Beverly now landscapes her home with fruits, vegetables, and herbs, sharing this passion with her family and enjoying the bounty almost year-round.
As a personal side note: you can often find her embroidering small thread balls called Temari balls, reading books, cooking, or finding new recipes for her food smoker. Beverly would love to meet you and is best found leading the Food Leader Certificate Program, acting as the Volunteer Coordinator, sharing the mission of VGI through the Membership program, and guiding the Youth Education and FarmStand Program.
Mission Advancement Coordinator
Native to India, Meenal came to United States with a dream to be a leader in the corporate world. However, her calling was for a non-profit organization. Meenal volunteered at various organizations while completing her MBA and during her corporate career. In 2013, she decided to follow her true passion for fundraising and became a volunteer fundraising director for a national non-profit organization.
Meenal grew up surrounded with fruit trees and vegetable gardens. Her backyard was a tropical fruit forest. Her father taught her how to care for the garden and share the harvest with your neighbors, teachings Meenal follows til date. This is her connection to her father’s memory.
MEENAL came to Victory Garden Initiative in March 2017 to work with the fund development team, marketing and Fruity Nutty Affair. She brings extensive experience in fundraising and marketing to the organization. She has served on various committee including Elmbrook Humane Society’s Emerging Leaders Board, The Family Club and has been serving on the Village of Shorewood Conservation committee since 2016. Meenal has a BLITZ garden in her backyard! She lived in Shorewood with her husband, son and two fur-babies (a dog and a cat). She spends her free time gardening, working on environmental projects and making crafts from recycled materials.
Community events and Volunteer coordinator
Thanks to MIAD student Laura Kelly for the beautiful staff photos!