Gretchen Mead founded the Victory Garden Initiative in Milwaukee with an incredible vision: “a harvestable city where everyone has access to fresh fruits and vegetables.” In an age where, sadly, some children don’t realize that stores don’t make the food, that’s an honorable and welcome goal.
Earlier this year, Mead entered the national Mayors Challenge, a contest that awards anywhere from $1 million to $5 million to the top innovative solutions to problems faced by cities around the U.S. She’s been chosen as Milwaukee’s representative for her solution to the growing foreclosure problem.
Mead proposes that foreclosed properties—rampant across the U.S. and still growing—be rededicated to growing food. Families can become real homesteaders and make good use of the property.
“The idea is to pair foreclosed homes with empty urban land, and after someone farms the land for five years, the home becomes theirs,” Mead says of her idea. “The prize money would go toward rehabbing those homes and the infrastructure for the farms so they wouldn’t have to do this all by themselves.”
With so many empty lots and abandoned homes across the U.S., her solution not only helps struggling families, but also makes good use of that land while making us more sustainable as a nation. What’s not to love?
Mead will find out by the end of this year whether or not she’s in the top 20. Following that, winners will be announced in 2013. Many hope that, even if she doesn’t win, some money will still be dedicated to testing her plan. “The city has a mess on their hands, and they need a way to deal with it,” she said.
Her hope is that grass lawns will slowly be transformed into gardens full of food and life, connecting residents once more with the earth. Eventually, Mead wants to see more gardening in schools, parks, and on public boulevards.
“This is a grassroots movement,” says the Victory Garden Initiative’s motto. “Move grass. Grow food.”