Growing Hope’s strength is in our team.

Whether it’s our volunteers, seasonal employees, interns, board members, or our full-time staff, we depend on people to grow our food, maintain our facilities, share our work with the larger community and run our programs. Learn more about the people making Growing Hope happen.

Board of Directors

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Jessica Krueger-Koupal, Secretary

Jess has worked for Ypsilanti Community Schools for 10 years, first as a math teacher and now as an Instructional Coach. She first got involved with Growing Hope when her school started a garden on campus. She now works with teachers as an Instructional Coach with a focus on math and science at Ypsilanti Community High School. In this role, she supports teachers in developing projects, working with community partners and getting students outside on field trips and around the campus. In her free time she enjoys hiking, kayaking and working in her garden.
Harley Sherman, Treasurer

Harley M. Sherman is the sole shareholder of Harley M. Sherman, CPA, Inc. He has over 25 years of
experience in accounting and income tax. He services individual and small business clients in the medical,
food service, not-for-profit, cannabis, real estate, governmental, and construction industries.  Harley is a
retired Adjunct Professor of Accounting and Income Tax at Oakland Community College.  In his spare time,
Harley enjoys cooking, reading about military history, and refinishing wood furniture.  A life-long resident of
Southeast Michigan, he lives in Oak Park with his family, including One dog and a cat.


Germaine Smith, President

Germaine is proud to be a 2nd generation Korean- American. At an early age, she understood the meaning of justice and has carried that closely in her life, values and work – she protested, disrupted, and never took the easy route to get where she wanted to go. This drive and calling evolved into advocacy and activism and dedicating her life to mission driven work and serving the community.

Germaine currently serves as the Assistant Director for the Dispute Resolution Center. In her role at the DRC, she leads the organization’s development priorities, donor cultivation, and marketing and communications strategies. Prior to joining the DRC team, Germaine was already deeply involved in non-profit mission driven work originating at Growing Hope in program development. In that time, she also developed her skills in policy advocacy and campaign development work in sustainable agriculture and pollinator initiatives. She transferred these skills to another local non-profit, the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, helping to build and strengthen capacity for the organization. There she gained a lot of experience in organizational development and trained in non-violent communication practices, as well as helping develop the Bystander Intervention Training Program. Germaine currently serves as the Chair for the Community Advisory Board for Law Enforcement (CABLE)
of the Washtenaw County Sheriff”s Office and the 21st Century Policing Commission – Policy and Oversight Committee. She is an alumni of Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University and in her spare time enjoys playing the cello, loves all dogs, hiking, beekeeping, growing food, cooking, and feeding people.

Stefanie Stauffer PhD, Director
Stefanie brings her multifaceted experience with food, farms, markets, and movements to the Growing Hope Board of Directors. As a 13 season veteran vendor of the Ypsilanti Farmers Markets and former resident of Ypsilanti, she is deeply rooted in the local food community. As an activist, Sociology Professor, and farmer who has been feeding this community heirloom, organic produce and farm products since 2010, she is uniquely situated to help move forward Growing Hope’s food justice goals. As former Program Manager of the Tilian Farm Development Center incubator and current Ann Arbor Farmers Market Manager, she works closely with farmers, food producers, and other local entrepreneurs, to increase the vibrancy of our local food economies and regional food system. Stefanie is thrilled to have the opportunity to get involved more directly with Growing Hope’s mission.
Erinn Williamson, Director

Erinn Williamson is a Ypsilanti Native, currently employed as a school social worker at a local academy. She is a mother of fraternal twins and an avid reader and researcher. She has a passion for finding innovative ways that children and their families can become self-sustaining and flourish within their community. Erinn is District Director for Senator Jeff Irwin.


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Claire Austin, Farmers Market Manager

Claire’s connection to Ypsilanti runs deep, having grown up in this close-knit Michigan community. She furthered her education at Eastern Michigan University, where her passion for sustainability and environmental advocacy took root.

Claire’s journey led her to advocate for green living and equitable food systems. Alongside her sister, she manages her own Sustainable Agriculture Design Firm and Urban Farm in Detroit, where she cultivates a diverse range of greens and promotes sustainable practices and community-driven solutions for improved food access.

Now, Claire is taking on a new role as the Farmers Market Co-Manager at Growing Hope. She’s excited to join a network of food advocates and work toward creating fair food access across Michigan. When she does have free time, Claire enjoys tending her garden and reading her never-ending booklist.

Esha Biswas, Youth Programs Manager
Esha comes to Growing Hope with a passion for infusing traditional ecological knowledge and the arts into environmental education. She has an academic background in Conservation Ecology, having completed a B.S. and an M.S. in progress from the University of Michigan, but her interests span various disciplines, from Indian classical dance to photography. Her professional experience has included wild songbird rehabilitation and higher education student affairs, and she is currently working on her Master’s thesis– a combination of prairie restoration, education, and the arts– in collaboration with the Freeman Environmental Education Center in Ann Arbor. In her spare time, Esha enjoys art journaling, foraging, leading birding field trips with Detroit Audubon, writing poems, making soup / music / pies, imagining a more just world, tending to her indoor jungle, and nurturing her inner child.
Julius Buzzard, Executive Director
A native Michigander, Julius found his home in Ypsilanti in 2013, and never looked back. He spent the formative years of his career within the local nonprofit and education sectors and always created ways to tie his passion for growing and environmental justice into each context. Developing meaningful and intentional relationships with the community is at the core of everything Julius does—knowing that together, we can foster a safe, caring and just food system and community as a whole.

Whether it was gardening with his grandparents, participating in community gardens, teaching students how to grow and harvest, or tending his own garden; Julius has lived a life with his hands in the dirt. These experiences shape the way he enters into the work of Growing Hope, leaving him three basic principles: relationships matter, food is for everyone and the land will be our liberator.

Julius has a deep spirit of curiosity, hopes to listen and learn daily, and believes in the art of storytelling. Julius recharges by spending time with his wife and daughter, running, bicycling, writing and volunteering within the community.

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.
Christopher Hallett, Farm Manager

With a heart full of love and dirty hands, Christopher could not be happier to get his hands back in the dirt at Growing Hope! During the last three years, he started a micro farm of his own that mostly generated food for himself and loved ones, and some of the best radishes around town.  Around that time, he dove into mushroom log cultivation to give people the experience of watching them grow. After deciding it was time to travel, Christopher, his climbing partner and her dog jumped in a van and traveled all over the country in search of the raddest places to climb. It wasn’t too long, before the dirt seemed to be calling them back. This season he has been starting up a small-ish operation of watermelon at Dancing Willow Farm, and volunteering at Blue Spring Farm. Christopher’s farming super power is working with a smile no matter the task or conditions. He is enamored with multifunctional farm implements, and his favorite tool is the wheel hoe.  One day he might just come out with his own line of dedicated farm tools!

Katt Hodges, Community Food Educator

Vivi Nguyen, Farmers Market Manager

Vivi is a born and raised Michigander with a deep perspective on the culture at large. As a daughter of war refugees and a first generation American, she is always processing the meaning of goodness, connection, and metamorphosis. Her interest in these pulse-points led her to the food sovereignty movement and ecological-cultural systems-thinking. Vivi is a passionate student of agroecology, permaculture, and the human condition. At Growing Hope, she is working with the farmers markets to create a vibrant community space for food-earth-people lovers. In her free time, she is reading, thinking, writing, cooking, playing instruments, and loving people.

Jenny Pritchett, Teen & School Manager

Jennifer Pritchett wearing a pink Growing Hope Shirt in a hoop house with many plants behind her. Jenny comes to Growing Hope with a passion for empowering young people to become leaders of the next generation! Jenny grew up in Ann Arbor and spent their childhood acting in plays just down the way at Riverside Art Center. Jenny graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Global Studies in Arts and Humanities and a minor in Spanish. They started their career in the education sector working as an English teacher and cultural exchange partner in Ourense, Spain. Most recently, Jenny worked as the Student Engagement Coordinator at Denver Language School, where they were able to combine their passions for social justice and teaching and mentoring young people. While living in Denver, Jenny volunteered with Joy’s Kitchen, a mutual aid food rescue that provided free food to the community. Jenny is thrilled to join the Growing Hope team and further her work in food justice in partnership with young people. Jenny believes that social change begins with fostering strong relationships centered in the community. In her free time, Jenny enjoys hiking, traveling, tending to an abundance of house plants, and spending time with her partner and dog! 

Dayna Popkey, Program Director

Dayna grew up in Ypsilanti just blocks from the downtown farmers market and has been involved in food systems work since her first job at the Ypsilanti Food Co-op. Over the years, she has worked in local kitchens, volunteered on local farms, became a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, completed a master’s degree in Human Nutrition at EMU, and worked for Growing Hope as a nutrition educator, Farmers Market Assistant, and Farmers Market and Nutrition Manager. She now serves as the Program Director supporting Growing Hope through grant writing and strategic development of our programs, partnerships, and staff. As a dietitian, Dayna practices an anti-diet, weight-neutral approach to food justice and health activism, and also believes in the transformative power of gardening, cooking, and eating as a community. At home, she enjoys canning and food preservation, camping and hiking with her husband, and singing around a campfire with her friends.
Cristi Rodriguez-Alfaro, Garden Manager
Cristi has lived in Ypsilanti for the majority of her life. They speak Spanish and are a first generation Salvadoran-American. Her parents fled El Salvador during a civil war and preserving the culture, history, and ways of life of her Salvadoran family make up a large part of her identity. Their passion for nature, subsistence, and community-based farming was established through storytelling and demonstration at a young age. She studied sociology at Eastern Michigan University, and enjoys discussing the interconnectedness of human relationships with plants and wildlife and how they depend on one another for survival. Cristi looks forward to approaching work at Growing Hope in their own community through a global and systemic lens. Outside of work, she loves to hike, go camping, paint, take care of houseplants, and play rugby.