The two-week Great Milwaukee Victory Garden BLITZ, which runs through May 27, will result in about 500 new garden beds for Milwaukee residents. This will raise the total number of gardens built by the Victory Garden Initiative to more than 3,500 beds.
“I love food, I love eating food, growing it and I love when other people are excited about food. I want to encourage more people to grow food because it’s better for you, for the earth and way tastier,” said Emily Dufford, outreach coordinator at Victory Garden Initiative.
More than 300 volunteers, both individuals and groups, are helping VGI build the raised garden beds, which are filled with organic soil from Blue Ribbon Organics; each resident is also given fruit, flower and vegetable seeds.
In Milwaukee County, a bed costs $175 and outside about $200. However, VGI offers subsidized rates for individuals who cannot afford to pay the full price; beds can cost as little as $25.
Gardens ordered for Washington Park, Clarke Square, Layton Boulevard West, Lindsay Heights, and the 53218 ZIP code are automatically included in the subsidized program. Residents who do not live in one of those neighborhoods are able to negotiate a price based on what they can afford to pay.
VGI rented or borrowed all of the equipment for building the garden beds. Sponsors for the BLITZ event include Zilber Family Foundation, Elm Grove Junior Guild and Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin.
Lorri Mason, who has lived in Milwaukee all of her life, heard about the VGI BLITZ last year but missed the deadline for ordering a bed. She said that ordering a bed early was important to her this year.
“I wanted to be able to grow my own food and also just help support the Victory Garden,” said Mason.
She plans to make meals from the fruits and vegetables she grows, and to share some of the produce with her family and friends. “I think it’s awesome that they are doing this,” said Mason. “It’s a wonderful idea to let the community be involved in growing nutritious food.”
Melissa Graham, 28, volunteered as a way to support VGI; she said that she believes in healthy eating, nutrition and giving back to her community. A Milwaukee resident for most of her life, Graham added that her favorite memory from childhood was helping her grandmother in the garden.
“[Gardening] fosters a lot of good things,” said Graham. “You’re growing good community, you’re growing good families, you’re growing good food and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
According to Kelly Moore Brands, community programs manager for VGI, because the gardens are available throughout Milwaukee, volunteers have the opportunity to learn about different areas of the city.
“It is a really powerful experience to go into every ZIP code in Milwaukee or go into neighborhoods that they might never go into,” said Brands, community programs manager for VGI.
“There is a lot of connection happening when you are a volunteer or when you get a garden,” she said. “Our volunteers always have a great time.”