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
Nuola Akinde, Director
Jessica Krueger-Koupal, Secretary
Ferial Rewoldt, Director
I grew up in Lebanon, where I studied nursing at the American University of Beirut before immigrating to the United States in 1976. I earned my Masters from Wayne State and an “All-But-Dissertation” from the University of Michigan School of Public Health 1981. In Ann Arbor, I married my husband, raised two sons, and spent 30 years working as an ICU Nurse at the University of Michigan. After a few years of retirement, I got bored. I wanted to try my lifelong dream of selling Mediterranean food at the farmers market, so I started HumusFalafil, and eight years later, with the help of Growing Hope’s Incubator Kitchen, I accomplished my mission! I am excited to join the board of Growing Hope and see if I can give something back to the community that has helped me so much. Thank you!
Tess Rian, Director
Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Tess (she/her) moved to Ypsilanti five years ago with her family. On one of her first visits to Ypsi, Tess went to Growing Hope’s Tuesday Farmers Market, where she found a vibrant community and delicious, nutritious food. It was a wonderful introduction to her new home and to Growing Hope’s work!
Tess’s life experiences have given her the opportunity and privilege to know people from many different countries, cultures, and walks of life. She believes that equity and justice should be foundational in the systems that influence and shape human lives, and knows there is work to be done to make this a reality. With a background in acupuncture and a career as a full time parent who also homeschooled her children, Tess now works at Argus Farm Stop, whose mission it is to grow the local food economy.
Tess finds great joy in collaborating with others and has served on boards and volunteered for various organizations. She is excited to join the Growing Hope Board of Directors, both to become more involved in its mission and to engage more deeply in the community of Ypsilanti as a whole.
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.
Stefanie Stauffer PhD, Director
Kelsey Watson, Director
Kelsey (she/her) is currently based in Washington, D.C., but was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She studied Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems at Michigan State University and has spent more than a decade doing work rooted in food and agriculture. Most recently, Kelsey held the role of Grassroots Co-Director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, where she worked closely with nationwide organizations to build grassroots power for federal policy change. Kelsey spends her free time cooking for herself and others, tending to her small backyard garden, and teaching people about beer.
Claire Austin, Farmers Market Co-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
Julius Buzzard, Executive Director
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
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!
Alannah Hofmann, Development Director
Alannah was born with the commitment to creating positive change locally and globally. A passion for environmental stewardship and equitable, sustainable food systems, Alannah finds joy in spreading Growing Hope’s mission. With experience in nonprofit work and a degree in Public Relations, she understands the work begins in our community. Believing in the power of coming together and taking action, Alannah prioritizes the community as a whole so everyone can benefit.
In her personal pursuits, Alannah’s love for storytelling finds expression through her camera. Hoping to inspire change, she captures the beauty of nature to communicate the connection to our environment and sustainable living.
Katt Hodges, Community Food Educator
Vivi Nguyen, Farmers Market Co-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
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!