Knuckle-deep in the soil of a garden bed, Kathy Kingcaid pulls out weeds with the help of her coworkers. Parents watch as children dip their hands in paint to decorate the new mural on the corner of 31st and Glendale. A small speaker fills the air with music from a local radio station.
As passersby congregate nearby, Kathy lifts her head from the garden to direct volunteers.
“I wanted to live my life so when I am 67 years old, sitting in a rocking chair somewhere, I don’t regret anything,” she says. “I can tell you that I don’t regret anything.”
Kingcaid was introduced to gardening at a young age, first by her grandmother.
“My mother was one out of 13 kids, so you can’t feed 13 kids out of the store,” Kathy explains. “She had bought the lot next to her and she grew our vegetables and stuff like that.
“So I grew up really young, going to the garden and eating out of it.”
First, it was passed down to her and now Kathy is teaching her 13-year-old son.
“He eats up all the green beans and everything else,” she laughs. “Whatever there is out there he will eat it all up and that’s what I like. No processed, no chemicals, no colors, just straight from the garden.”
Kathy grew up in the 53206 ZIP code, known in Milwaukee for its poverty and crime. Because of this, she learned to always watch her back. That approach served her well through college — where she got her accounting degree — and during a stint in corporate America.
But, after a while, the stress became too much. Kingcaid returned to gardening as a way to relax and give back.
“Watching something grow, getting your hands in the dirt, it’s very stress relieving for me,” she says. “I converted my entire property to gardening. You can’t even get through my front door because of the corn … I love it.”
Now, she serves as treasurer for Uniting Garden Homes, a nonprofit that acts as a convener and helps teach people to grow their own food. She even decided to go back to school, graduating with a degree in horticulture. Kingcaid now runs her own landscaping business.
“I have done everything I ever wanted to do,” Kingcaid says smiling, as she surveys the garden and the people who have gathered. “I just really enjoy this.”
“So if there’s something else I want to do, or my goal in life, it is to see my son take over the business and be done, and trust him to do it right.”⬩
Did you find value in this story? If so, please subscribe to our weekly email.
Milwaukee Stories is a nonprofit organization that brings you the real stories of regular people. This work is supported by small, individual monthly contributions from people just like you; we need your help.