our staff

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 mead

executive director

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.

Beverly Tyree 

Program & Operations              Director

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.

 Eric Anderson

     Community events and Volunteer       coordinator

Milwaukee native, Eric joined the VGI team in April 2017 in the midst of BLITZ planning and worked alongside Kelly to coordinate his first BLITZ. He comes to Victory Garden Initiative a recent graduate of Notre Dame with experience in both farming and marketing at Growing Power. As Community Events Coordinator Eric will be leading and planning the BLITZ, Garden Mentor Program, Fruity Nutty Five Contest, and other events. The VGI team is excited to see Eric expand these programs to give even more individuals and communities access to healthy food. Eric’s favorite vegetable is asparagus. 

rheanna smith

   Marketing & development manager

Rheanna started at VGI in December 2017 as our Marketing and Development Manager. Her role involves events, marketing and fundraising.


Rheanna received her B.A. in Communication, Management and Technology from Alverno College and earned her Masters in Nonprofit Management and Leadership from Walden University. She brings with her over ten years of experience working with non-profit organizations. Rheanna has a strong desire to positively affect the lives of others and to have an impact on the community - especially Milwaukee, where she was born and raised.

In her free time, Rheanna likes to spend time outdoors with her family and traveling. She is passionate about health, wellness and mindfulness – with a love for reading and writing. She is looking forward to applying what she learns at VGI in her gardens at home.

Ian powell


Preferring not to use the title "Farmer", Ian considers himself first a soil-builder and then an agriculturist.

He began his agricultural adventure in his own backyard. There he first practiced composting and experimented with soil-building techniques.  After experiencing the difficulty of growing underneath a black walnut tree, he expanded into a neighboring lot. His pursuits finally led him to working on a small CSA in the Milwaukee area. Here he gained mastery of the shovel and increased his knowledge of plants. With a can-do attitude and flair for building things out of garbage, Ian now coordinates efforts at the Victory Garden Urban Farm. 

Thanks to MIAD student Laura Kelly for the beautiful staff photos!
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