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
Jessica Krueger-Koupal, Secretary
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
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.
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
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!
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
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!