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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Nuola Akinde, Director

Nuola (she/they) is the eldest daughter of Bahamian and Yoruba immigrants and was raised in a  community of storytellers and culture-keepers in Miami. Throughout her adult life, Nuola has explored the legacies of decolonization, play, and (re)connection with nature as tools for liberation in marginalized communities. Nuola is the founder of Kekere Freedom School and Founder/Executive Director of Legacy Unbound. 
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.
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
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.
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.


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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
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!

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

Tema 'Ayanfe' Jamison, Garden Manager

Ayanfe (she/her/y’all) is a mother, grandmother, farmer, artist and healer. Growing up in South Carolina and East Tennessee with both parents as veterinarians, she was instilled with a deep love for Creation and all creatures, and she spent most of her childhood in the woods.

She was privileged to come from a family of self-sufficient homesteaders and farmers on both sides so she witnessed all kinds of skilled earth stewardship. She has attended four colleges (2 HBCUs) but remains an independent scholar. She finds deep inspiration from many family members who showed her many facets of sovereign living and two of her children who have transitioned to the realm of the Ancestors. “I feel so much power from being in close relationship with my Ancestors, including my son and daughter. They give me life and push me not to give up because I know they are on the other side, working hard to sustain me. I am obligated to make them proud and represent them well by leaving a meaningful impact on others and the world.”

As an activist and organizer, she has been deeply engaged in co-creating community mostly in Southern Appalachia, for some 40 years with experience and/or training in community organizing, urban & community gardening, permaculture design, herbalism, natural healing lifestyle, cooperativism, antiracism, food sovereignty, food justice, shamanic midwifery, and life-long learning through agile and radical intergenerational unschooling.

Since 1998, Ayanfe has worked on farms and gardens in 7 states from Miami to Mississippi to Michigan. She has lived and farmed in Michigan since 2017 in Idlewild, Grand Rapids and most recently moving to Detroit in 2022. Other hobbies include jewelry making, working with copper and crystals, and feeding folx.

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

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.