Monday, August 22, 2011

Speed dating at the crop swap

On Sunday, August 21, Victory Garden Foundation and Transition Berkeley saw about 30 people during an hour of meeting neighbors and swapping backyard produce at the historical Lorin Station (corner of Alcatraz and Adeline). This was the first of a monthly event happening every 3rd Sunday; 1 -2 pm through October. 

There were herbs, vegetables, fruit, flowers, services traded and exchanges of ideas happening at a fast pace in just one hour that seemed like 2 hours. If the food could talk, I imagine they were saying, “Wow, speed dating taken to another level,” because the food was interviewed, discussed, and explained like the orĂ©gano brujo, the mullein leaves, Lovage, and pineapple sage. And, this inspired people to try new fruits, vegetables, and herbs by coming to the crop swap. Many visitors thought that setting of this event amidst the native plant garden at Loren Station was ideal. Karen White found that “… watching medicinal herbs draw people to them to aid with what ails them was interesting.”

People from near and far neighborhoods shared the excitement and food. Some people just walking by; were able to receive some of the backyard crops. It is amazing how many different types of produce are being grown by neighboring backyard gardeners. Victory Garden Foundation and other gardeners provided vegetable seeds, six-pack planters and compost to start growing food at home or add to the backyard collection.

The really fun part of the day was the meet up. The conversations were robust and you could just tell that friendships were budding. Under cloudy skies, the area was beaming with excitement. Good, healthy food has a way of brightening a day. And just as we were leaving; the sun came out to let us know that our gardeners are waiting for us to tend to and plant more crop to share with others.

This will truly be the beginning of a tradition at the historic Lorin Station site and the celebration of last October’s transformation of native and drought tolerate plants officially establishes this park space a community meeting place coming alive once a month with food for the community and by the community . Go here to see what happened at this corner last October.

We look forward to growing this event. Volunteers are needed to help spread the word about the crop swap, setup/take down and greet visitors. If you have crops to swap but cannot attend; arrangements may be made to pick up. Both Carole Bennett-Simmons, Transition Berkeley along with Victory V Lee, Victory Garden Foundation thank the many volunteers that contributed to launching this event.

For more information about the monthly Lorin Station Crop Swap, contact Victory Garden Foundation at or call 800.971.3006. To learn more about the sponsoring organizations, please visit and
Victory V Lee, Founder, Victory Garden Foundation
Laurel (L) and Carole (R), Transition Berkeley

Sunday, August 21, 2011

We Threw Down for Community Seeds

Last Saturday, August 13th, volunteers gathered around the city of Oakland to Throw Down for the Town. It was an amazing gathering. Volunteers worked at all points on the Oakland compass to help beautify, prepare for, and maintain edible gardens.

Victory Garden Foundation teamed up with People's Grocery at the California Hotel urban farm to plant vegetable seeds. The resulting seedlings will be distributed throughout the community to backyard gardeners around the East Bay. This was truly a labor of love by just a few volunteers that did amazing work.

More than 900 planter cells and 2700 seeds were planted by 5 volunteers working on shifts of 1 to 4 hours. Special thanks to volunteers, Bonnie, Emily, George, Karen, and Melody joining me to plant the seeds. And, thanks to George for lending his muscle to helping with the urban farms maintenance work.

Our seeds are now at their foster home at the California Hotel where urban farm volunteers and workers will keep an attentive eye on their needs to help them grow for distribution to community adoptive homes to serve as nourishment.

Special thanks to the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights for organizing and sponsoring this very special community event that benefited so many people. We look forward to his being an annual event that grows - literally. And the after party celebration of accomplishments and volunteers rocked!!

Thanks Everyone!!

                      Stay Connected =

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Jazzy Crop Swap

I had a fun day at the North Oakland Farmers' Market swapping, trading, and bartering fresh produce and eggs. It was a great pleasure chatting with the market's patrons. I'm between engagements; but I just had to stop for a moment to tell you all about it.

At 10 am this morning; I arrived to Max and Mickey setting up the Crop Swap space and already there were collard greens, parsley, onions, Swiss chard, purple mustard greens, cactus, dried dill herb and more. I added herbs from the Victory Garden Foundation's garden: lovage, rosemary, pineapple sage, chicory, basil, and more.

First, I needed a cup of the wonderful dripped coffee from Chris and his coffee partner. 

Throughout the morning, many people stopped by; and I grabbed a bag of dehydrated, seasoned kale. Oh, how yummy.

By 1 pm, we swapped, bartered, traded Asian pears (Thanks Marcy), peppermint, trade to volunteer to forage, a trade to give a chicken to a new home (Let me know if you have a home for a chicken that needs a little love), a trade to create a recipe from some of the ingredients on the table, and just sharing time together sharing stories.
We provided packages of Swiss chard, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, and broccoli seeds while Phat Beets provided six packs of Asian purple mustard greens to grow right at home.

The tamale cooking class kicked off at just about 11 am and everyone at the class received a hardy plate of tamales. People's Grocery had a great selection of vegetable and herb plants for sale including tree collards and lavender.
Before the crowd and the live jazz band arrived at this unique farmers' market; I got a chance to snap a few photos to share with you.

And I couldn't leave without purchasing a Beet Box or two. I gave one of the Beet Boxes away for a family in need. The cukes, squash, corn, broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, watermelon, nectarines, carrots, onions, and more are just wonderful. (I didn't get a chance to take photos of everything - besides I ate half the watermelon already.) I'm looking forward to dinner this weekend.

Every 1st Saturday of the month - Come on out to 57th and Market to the North Oakland Farmers' Market to swap, barter, and trade your home grown food. If you missed it today; please come out in September. Some people actually traded their contact information for food. And, I look forward to sharing with you the Crop Swap Veggie-Herb recipe that we'll receive from Kenner.

By next month, we should have plums, Asian Pears foraged by Pilar, Becca, Linci, and Sophia. I'm also looking forward to the lemons, zucchini, and tomatoes from Glory, apples from Victoria, and the many surprises from your backyard gardens.

Please be sure to spread the word about this fantastic Monthly Crop Swap at the North Oakland Farmers' Market. Make this a weekly stop on Saturdays to Order your Beet Box for pickup;  to purchase your organic fruits and vegetables from our local farmers along with edible plants from People's Grocery. Let's support our local farmers and backyard gardens.

Gotta go ... but will see you soon .. V!

Victory V Lee, Founder
Victory Garden Foundation (sign up for our newsletter)

Follow up on Twitter and Facebook!
Visit our fun Family website: Barretts World for activities you can do with your children in the garden.
Need some edible gardening information? Visit The Victory Patch

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Journey of Challenges

For the second year the Victory Garden Foundation launched a campaign to encourage, support, and inspire the installation and maintenance of edible gardens on a single weekend. Our goal was to catalyze 350 gardens and/or gardeners to engage themselves first and foremost as well as their friends, family and neighbors to garden together on one single weekend ~ May 14th and 15th

Congratulations to YOU for being one of thousands around the nation supporting the homegrown food movement by participating in the Transition US 350 Home and Garden Challenge. As a courageous 350 Victory Garden Challenger, you made a collective statement about sustainability and the importance of growing your own food at home through your support, gardening work, photos, educational information and events. Many of you began your challenge journey as early as March transforming your winter garden space. 

This was a journey initiated primarily in cyberspace to connect with new and experienced gardeners everywhere. Along the way, lasting acquaintances were made; we learned about your very special community service;  your passion for growing your own food and spreading the word about the benefits of healthy homegrown foods and all the components that make for great organic meals.

As a bonus, you were offered heirloom vegetable seeds from and residents of the East Bay area in Northern California were offered compost and mulch for your gardens provided by Victory Garden Foundation. 

This unforgettable journey marked the beginning of a growing season that may experience even more challenges. The climate in many locations may be a bit different than last year causing gardeners to adjust plantings and gardening techniques. We may see fewer bees and other pollinators in our areas causing us to do more to attract them to our gardens. And other challenges may cause us to plant a little extra to share with others because of rising transportation and food prices. It all counts and we are very appreciative of your willingness to stand up and be counted for the 350 Victory Garden Challenge.

Through all of our efforts, initiatives and reasons we chose to grow food at home while connecting with each other we have discovered once again our resiliency through the spirit of Victory Gardens. In celebration of the journey and the challenge, stand up and applaud for you and others. Here’s what you did:

·         Registered your gardens: 207 representing about 3,175,942.3 square feet of garden space producing food. That’s almost 73 acres.
·         Placed your garden on the map: 195
·         Cities represented worldwide: 83
·         States in US represented: 30
·         Registered gardens requesting seeds: 86
·         Registered gardens receiving compost and mulch: 10
·         Total number of connections made: 665 (represents new friends on Facebook, Twitter and registered gardens). And, we’re still connecting with new friends!

This is impressive, yet we can do more. Continue to spread the word about growing your food at and near your homes. This collaborative effort shows what we can do together. Special thanks to Transition US for spearheading the challenge this year and to all of our sponsors, supporters, friends and especially to our communication specialist, Kristie Nackord who was extremely instrumental with getting the word out.
Closing out our 350 Victory Garden Challenge for this year here are just a few of the great efforts, information, and stories we learned through our journey:

Compost Cab: located in Washington DC this is a venture that picks up compost ingredients and delivers finished compost to the community. How cool is that! Compost Cab inspired and received the Victory Garden Foundation’s Best New Garden Biz Award.

Rays of Hope: celebrating National Volunteer Week, volunteers of VGF that help others in their gardens and provide homegrown food to those in need received a Rays of Hope backpack as a way of expressing our appreciation for all they do.

Victory Gardens of yesteryear and today – we learned about the synergy of today’s Victory Gardens with those of the 1940s.

Some of our California bees were on vacation at Edmonds Community College horticulture gardens in Edmonds, Washington. Thanks Edmonds for caring for our best friends in the garden.

A city (Pink Hill, NC) will become pink with flowers this summer through the efforts of one family to ‘Bring Back the Pink.’ Thank you Tiny r(E)volution!

And, the Chesterhill Community Garden and the Broadwell Hill Community Garden in Ohio … what amazing groups. Experimenting with vermicompost; they found that vegetables grew 3 times larger and faster than those in regular soil.

We have a wonderful synergy with our Chicago Victory Garden friends.

The men and women at the Somali Bantu Refugee Garden in Utica NY embarked on installing 60 raised beds. Whew!

Friends, there are just so many stories and journeys to tell you about. I’d like to tell you more about what others are doing. There are just so many – remember 207 gardens were registered. Oh, update: We now have 210. But, what I’d really like is to ask you to post your stories and photos to our facebook page. Let’s stay connected.

Many gardeners shared their photos and inspiring stories leading up and after the challenge and are connecting with their neighbors. Instead of saying this is the end, we choose to call it the beginning of continued connections and growth. We encourage you to continue to share your photos and stories with us and all of those who will listen. Indeed you and your initiatives will inspire others to get on out in the garden at or near home for some good old homegrown food! And, most of all, we encourage you to reach out to your neighbors to garden together, share your seeds and produce and build a great community connection.

To the Victory!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Just recently, we posted "Be the Inspiration~" And, soon after, one of the challengers applauded the blog piece and let us know that we didn't say WHY? So, that challenger and that challenger's question is the 'inspiration' for this blog.

So, Let’s talk about Why?

There are so many reasons why you should register for the 350 Victory Garden challenge. Your act of registering to take the 350 Victory Garden Challenge is one of power! You are showing your commitment to eating healthy food, conserving water, saving energy, and building community. When you register your power along with others; a message of strength and commitment to sustainability is sent around the world. Even if you do not have a garden, have never grown your own food; your action of registering can put you in touch with others who are growing food at home. Helping someone else in their garden is an act of kindness.   

Standing up to be count is an act of inspiration. Perhaps our initial message has been lost along the way. Remember, “Let’s Connect? Let’s Stay Connected?” Being connected we can collectively stand up and be counted for fighting childhood and adult obesity; for rejecting pesticide-laden and genetically modified foods; for working together to improve our healthy eating circumstances; for helping others in need of healthy food; and building communities: near and far. This is the collective Why! 

Each of us will have our own personal reasons why like:

Susan in Florida who is committed to growing food in her garden space to share with those in need in her community and at the hospitals. All she needs are volunteers to take the homegrown produce to schools and hospitals.

And, there’s Stella Jane in Portland. She has so many ideas about how to reach out to women to grow food to embrace the love of our earth. 

And, there is the Victory Garden Peterson Project in Chicago. Starting with just a few neighbors growing small plots of food, this garden has become such a popular space for growth that the project is highlighted at the Smithsonian. 

What about Mom’s Garden in Kansas who simply says I grow my food for my family because then I know they are eating healthy.

Dawn on the Farm in Tennessee grows food for family and the local farmers market.

And Gary in Berkeley who only uses reclaimed materials to build his garden fixtures and has never used herbicides or pesticides in his garden.

The Oregonia TC Farm in Berkeley has unused land for growing food although a large portion of the space is used for fruit, vegetables, and herbs.

There’s the First Timers Paradise Garden in Missouri – a new gardener who has been growing in pots and is now ready to expand the love.

The Sarah & Corey's Garden grows food for their family and to donate to the local food bank.

Teaching her daughters to garden is the reason why MawMaw’s Garden is growing food in Indiana.
The Garden of Hope in Texas is growing food for anyone that needs it.

Garden Eats in Oakland has an abundance of fruit, vegetables, and herbs for neighbors.

These are just a few reasons why we are challenging everyone to grow their food at and near home. There are hundreds more reasons why. While 190 people have taken the challenge to place their gardens on the map; over 400 more people are fans on Facebook and following on Twitter showing they are taking the challenge – take the challenge by registering garden projects to be placed on the map to Connect and Stay Connected with a network of like-minded people around the globe who are not only concerned about the food we eat; but who are doing something about it!

Why Grow Food at Home

More Nutritious
The food that you grow at or near home is garden to table providing you with more nutrition that you might get from produce grown in a commercial setting thousands of miles away. Did you know that it can take up to 15 days from harvest to your grocery store? 

Less Expensive
When you calculate that a package of vegetable seeds cost about $2.00 and can yield 10 – 50 plants producing pounds of food; that’s about 20 cents to 4 cents a plant. You spend about $2.00 for a bunch of vegetables. You can continue to do the math. Save money.

When you grow your food at home; you may can, freeze, and otherwise store your abundance. But sharing your abundance with others is one of the greatest acts of kindness.

Build Community
Growing your food at home is also a way to build your community. Let your neighbors know what you are doing and you could find that you are sharing the work load and the harvest. You may plan with your neighbors what each will grow and what you’ll do with your abundance. This is just one way to build your community – one neighbor at a time. 

Organize a small or large group of neighbors to grow some of the food to give to a local food bank, school or church, to elderly and disabled, to families in need. 

Why? Because you owe it to yourself, family, neighbors and those you can connect with to share: gardening knowledge, abundance, and love. Go ahead, take a minute and register you as a supporter of growing your food at home or register your garden showing the action that you are taking.

Let's stay connected. There will be more to do after this weekend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Be the Inspiration ~

We're coming down the stretch ~
We are just days away (4 to be exact!) from the 350 Victory Garden Challenge weekend on May 14th/15th. It has been an incredible ride so far as we have been working hard preparing projects and people for the big weekend. We can hardly believe it is almost here, can you?

Currently there are 187 garden projects registered through the 350 Victory Foundation website. We are over halfway to our goal! We can do this. By registering our garden actions we are participating in a wonderful movement toward greater sustainability by growing our own food and inspiring other people to do the same. Let’s be the inspiration we all seek during a time when it is much needed.

Thinking about registering a garden project, but not sure why or what? Keep it simple. Truly, if it is one plant, one pot, one garden bed, it counts! It is one more action toward moving our world toward a healthy and sustainable climate.

Here is the scoop on the 350 Victory Garden Challenge:

YOU! And all of the other challengers across the globe working in the garden over the weekend.

The 350 Victory Garden Challenge is a spin-off of the 350 Home and Garden Challenge where in one weekend folks from across the country take action. And by action we mean ANY effort in the garden or home that moves you, your community, and the earth toward greater sustainability. Every action counts no matter how big or how small it is.

This weekend! That would be May 14th/15th. Anytime this weekend. YOU choose! Can’t make it happen THIS weekend? ...Register your project anyway, it counts!

YOU decide! Keep it private at home in your own backyard, on your own balcony or porch, with your neighbors, or take it public in a community garden project or beyond. It is completely up to you!

To participate, simply register your garden action on our website. It’s simple. Answer a few questions about your project and that is it! Done.

Pick up and Deliver Compost!
Feeling at a loss for ideas? We got some!

  • Mulch a garden bed.
  • Feed your plants some organic goodness.
  • Plant an herb pot, bed or garden.
  • Do some much needed weeding.
  • Dig or turn a garden bed.
  • Sow some of your favorite veggie or herb seeds.
  • Build a raised bed.
  • Join in with a project already happening in your neighborhood or town .

Friday, May 6, 2011

Peaceful Woods Shares!

We’re dedicating this blog entry to one of our 350 Victory Garden Challengers – Peaceful Woods. Peaceful Woods is an example of the Victory Garden spirit of sharing. Send your stories to

I started out the first year, doing the containers with vegetable seedlings to hand out. All these pots (and hundreds more) came from the Landfill folks who saved them for me (in exchange for brownies!).

What I found, was that I could not fit a large number, in my vehicle. So, I wasn't helping a lot of people. But the large container IS good for the very elderly and disabled, who most likely cannot handle a garden in the ground. 

I don't know if this is right or not, but to make the pots easier for the fragile seniors to move around, I put some styrofoam peanuts in to lighten the load. Our hospital donated bags of the peanuts. 

So, I met Dawn at a Farm Seminar and she was selling the styrofoam trays at an incredible price, compared to what I had seen locally. and you have her email address.

Here is another idea..set up a long table at a Food Bank, or a Senior Center, or near the Unemployment office..ask a local charity to donate the potting soil and to buy the styrofoam trays..bring popsicle sticks like you get at the craft store..

Set it up so the people needing help can fill a tray with the potting soil, then pick out from an array of put into ONE styrofoam tray. Identify the rows of a certain vegetable with the popsicle stick. Let them take it home and float it in water till ready for planting. Make sure to give one page instructions for each vegetable.

Another idea..Wal-Mart, Target do community work..ask them for funds to buy small kiddie pools..which you give out one kiddie pool to a family (they cost $10.00) So they can take it home with the styrofoam tray and they have enough to get started with a very nice garden.

We have a large nursery that donated potting soil, but they ALSO let us have all the used potting soil we wanted. That saved us a lot of $.

This would be a good project at school..teaching the kids about growing a garden..they keep part to take home and plant..and they donate part to help others. Good Community Service. 

I missed my opportunity to do this project this spring, in time for planting. One of my cows accidentally tipped me over and I broke 3 rib, so I got a late start. At present, I am growing seedlings hydroponically, and I have transferred them to raised beds at my farm. I have talked to our Hospital Administrator at work about offering this opportunity to the employees who are not in the high income "helping our own family". I am hoping he will see it is the right thing to do, and we can do it for Fall Gardens.

I actually heard of a housekeeper who was telling me they had been foreclosed on, were now living in a rental, and the husband was missing his garden..So I went to my hydroponic table and picked out a selection of seedlings that were ready, put them in a $1.00 shoe box, and gave it to her. Enough for a garden, and it cost hardly anything. I think we should call them "Shoe Box Gardens".

My biggest challenge is figuring out WHEN to start planting the specific vegetables and herbs in my trays to start growing what grows when. I am in Central Florida. I would like to focus on vegetables that are perennials, heirlooms, and could be grown easily.

If anyone is interested in doing something similar; I believe there are funds out there that will be available. Local Foundations are very interested in making sure people have food and if a group or an individual would do a COLLABORATION with someone like the United Way; they would be more successful in being heard. Even the schools have Grant writers.

Thank you for listening. Feel free to use any of these ideas, and folks can contact me.
Susan Lancto, RN CCRN