About Us

Our Team

Growing Hope’s strength is in our team.

Whether it’s our volunteers, seasonal employees, interns, or our full-time staff, we depend on people. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen on this page and find out how you can get involved yourself here. (Get Involved)

Board of Directors

Pete Schermerhorn, President

Pete has been past Co-President of People’s Food Co-op Board of Directors in Ann Arbor, where he served as Director for 4 years. He has also served as Volunteer Coordinator for Legacy Land Conservancy, and has been involved in progressive politics for more than a decade. An avid gardener and home food-raiser, he wants to see more and more people taking food security into their own hands.

Kerry Kafafian, Co-Vice President
Aimee Jones, Treasurer

Aimee has earned Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Public Administration from the University of Michigan.  She came to Growing Hope through UM’s Nonprofit and Public Management Center and her interest in nonprofit operations.  She has since developed a deep appreciation for the importance of healthy food access and healthy communities and has been a full, voting board member since May, 2013.  Aimee currently cares for her toddler and endeavors to raise him with healthy habits in a healthy community.

Jan BenDor, Director

Jan joined the GH Board in December, 2011. She has been an environmental activist and local food/agricultural preservationist since 1978, when as a Township Trustee, she published the Superior Township Agricultural Lands Committee Preservation Plan. Currently a Michigan-accredited election administrator and election worker trainer, with experience as a Deputy Township Clerk, she volunteers as the State Coordinator of the Michigan Election Reform Alliance.org, which she co-founded in 2005 in response to the debacle of the Ohio Presidential election. The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advocates for voter protection, audits of the vote count, and election security. Jan has a Certificate in Digital Video Production from Washtenaw Community College and is producer at QED Video, where she makes documentaries, educational programs, web PSAs and fundraising appeals. Jan holds a Master’s Social Worker License, and was a practitioner and university administrator for many years. While an adjunct instructor in the EMU School of Social Work, she has taught courses in Public Policy, Group Dynamics, Community Organizing, and Issues in Social Services for Women. Jan was elected to the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1991 for her achievements in preventing violence against women.

Kate Rosenberger, Director

Kate works for Success Measures at NeighborWorks America in Washington, DC.  Success Measures helps organizations in the community development field measure the impact of their work.  Before joining NeighborWorks America in 2011, Kate worked as the Colorado Communications Director for the AFL-CIO’s 2008 and 2010 national campaigns and as legal associate at the Conservation Law Center at Indiana University. Kate holds a B.S. in Public Affairs and a J.D., both from Indiana University, and is licensed to practice law in Colorado. Growing up on Main Street in New Albany, Indiana, Kate has always been an advocate of creating healthy communities, which makes Growing Hope and great fit for her.  In her free time, she loves running, canoeing, traveling, cooking, and playing ball with her dog, POTUS.

Shevaughn Watson, Director

Bio coming soon!

Cedric Whitney, Director

Cedric is an MBA student at Eastern Michigan University. He holds a bachelors degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan. He has worked in the engineering industry for over 15 years including Motorla Inc. and the University of Michigan.

Bob Field, Director

Bio coming soon!

Jeffrey McKelvey, Director

Bio coming soon!

Our Staff

Growing Hope depends on individuals to help make it a success. Whether it’s our volunteers or our full-time staff, we depend on people. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen on this page and find out how you can get involved yourself here.

Amanda Maria Edmonds, Executive Director

With a background in environmental justice, environmental education, and social activism, Amanda Edmonds wears many hats as as community organizer, educator, mentor, and leader. She is the founder and executive director of Growing Hope. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, she has lived in Michigan since the mid 1990s, and is an active member of the Ypsilanti community.  A twice alum of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment, she brings a grounding in social and environmental issues to her professional world with intersects most commonly with public health, food justice, and community-based social change.  Amanda travels extensively to visit other organizations and to swing dance, and has a part-time creative endeavor of making and selling her photographs, buttons, & jewelry called AMEPIX. She currently serves as  Chair of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, is an appointee to the Michigan Food Policy Council, where she chairs the Healthy Food Access Task Force, and is a vice-chair of the Washtenaw Food Policy Council.  She also served for six years on the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission, six years on the board of directors of the American Community Gardening Association, was a founding leadership team member of Slow Food Huron Valley, and was formerly chair of the MSU-Extension Advisory Council in Washtenaw County.  She speaks and trains nationally in the areas of community change through gardens, farmers markets, food access, and many other topics.

Maria Brummel, Assistant Director

Maria Brummel is a Michigan native with over ten years of experience working with families and communities through Head Start, Community Mental Health and Allen Neighborhood Center, a nonprofit community development center in Lansing. Maria studied Family Community Services at MSU, and recently completed a Master of Public Administration degree at CMU, after working in the public sector and seeing the potential for greater efficiency and effectiveness. Maria believes in equity and justice, including food access and security, and is committed to work that advocates for these things, as well as helps people and communities learn to advocate for themselves. Maria lives in Ypsilanti with her partner, and enjoys camping and being outdoors, traveling, live music and tasty food.

Erica Bloom, Program Director

Erica comes to Growing Hope from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters where she managed Michigan’s environmental legislative priority process and lobbied on behalf of Michigan’s natural resources in Lansing. As Program Director at Growing Hope she oversees the strategic direction of the youth, garden and nutrition programs. While her roots are firmly in Michigan, Erica has strong ties to the West where she received her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana. There she studied environmental health and environmental non-fiction writing and has been published in Camas: The Nature of the West and Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. Erica is a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Network. She loves discovering new places in Michigan, but returns to the dunes as much as possible.

Carolyn Gehrke, Finance Manager

Carolyn loves figuring out how things work and thinking about how they might work better. She is currently using her skills to help manage Growing Hope’s finances. She has previous experience with retail bookkeeping, inventory management, photography, layout design, and spent a few years teaching physics, design, and photography. She has a degree in Physics from Lawrence University and an MFA from University of Arizona. Carolyn has lived in Ypsilanti since 2001 with her husband and now has two children.

Robert Nisley, Farmers Market Coordinator

Bio coming soon!

Dayna Sprentall, Farmers Market Manager
Serena Padilla, Youth & Schools Manager

Serena grew up near the ocean in California and attended UC Santa Cruz where she studied Latin American and Latin@ studies and minored in Education. After graduating with her BA, she moved to Oakland, CA where she worked with a non-profit called Oakland Based Urban Gardens as a teaching assistant for their after school garden education classes. She then went on to work with a community based non-profit called CommunityGrows and taught kid’s cooking classes and ran an elementary school garden program at a public school in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco.  While at CommunityGrows, she also worked with the BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) program which focused on job training skills and empowerment through gardening and stewardship for teens. She is a firm believer in food justice and health activism and also firmly believes in the power of gardening, cooking, spending time outdoors, and eating as a community. She also enjoys hiking, spending time in the woods, and crafting in her spare time.

MaryAnn Nielsen-Nisley, Economic Development Manager

MaryAnn knows the value of Growing Hope by experience as Growing Gardens member and as a graduate of the Garden Leadership Training along with her husband. She is an Ann Arbor native, growing up at Nielsen’s Flowers and Greenhouses, a landmark Ann Arbor business started in 1935 and sold in 1999. She has a wealth of retail management and business financial management experience gained as a entrepreneur and by working in the floral and grocery industry. She has worked at Whole Foods Market in Ann Arbor as Marketing and Community Relations Specialist, networking frequently area non-profit organizations. She had been the Whole Foods Market Ann Arbor conduit for supporting the local food system. She brings with her a passion for assisting local food entrepreneurs achieve success and began the collaboration that brought us the first Building Blocks for Local Food Entrepreneurs series. MaryAnn loves gardening and cooking, is the co-founder of the Ypsilanti Township’s Gault Village Yard and Garden Club, a Gault Village Neighborhood Watch volunteer, and is a founding member of Ypsilanti Township Bee City Committee. She is active with the Washtenaw Local Food Summit volunteers.

Tanya Andrews, Development & Marketing Manager

Tanya loves vegetables and believes in them wholeheartedly. She had the delight of sharing her passion for sustainability, green living and veggie-empowered cooking through her online show for several years. After that she worked for Washtenaw Community College, a boutique patent law office, restaurants, and a tech startup. Her eclectic career has built a diverse skill set, from spreadsheets and social media, to gardening, foraging, and explaining how antioxidants work. Bringing her experience from the business world into the realm of non-profits is profoundly exciting. She is the proud owner of an assortment of backyard chickens, and loves cooking, taking pictures of her food, and enjoying the unique local culture of Ypsilanti.

Laura Gillis, Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace Development Manager

Bio coming soon!

Michael Anthony, Volunteer Coordinator
Emily Pfleiderer, Administrative & Finance Assistant

BIO COMING SOON!

Bee Ayer, Farm & Garden Manager

Elizabeth Bee Ayer is an organic farmer, floral designer, teacher and consultant. Bee started her career in the food system at Growing Hope in 2006, and is delighted to be back! She specializes in small farm and garden-based education program planning and design. She has a certificate in Ecological Horticulture from the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz and a B.A. from the University of Michigan. Bee has started and managed various school/community gardens, urban and rural farms in New York and Michigan. In 2009 She founded The Youth Farm, a one-acre production and education farm in Crown Heights Brooklyn, as well as providing urban chicken keeping training through Fort Hen, as well as the city’s first egg CSA. As an educator she has developed curriculum and taught pre-school students through adults on topics ranging from worm composting dances to planning long-term farm budgets. She co-founded and taught Small Farm Planning for Farm School NYC. In addition to her horticulture work, she owns Get Down Farm in Dexter MI. When not farming or teaching she rides her bike, shares meals with her friends and family, and travels the world visiting organic farms and intentional communities.

Find out more about Farmer Bee.

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