Meet the Staff
Ashley Atkinson, Co-Director at Keep Growing Detroit, has worked in the field of community gardening, urban greening, and vacant land reuse for 20 years. Her career began in her hometown, Flint, Michigan, where she co-founded the Flint Urban Gardening and Land Use Corporation and developed the Clean and Green program for the Gennesee County Land Bank. In 2001 she moved to the City of Detroit to work with Detroit Summer, a program of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership and the Detroit Agriculture Network to develop urban agriculture opportunities for Detroiters of all ages. In 2003 she helped design and launch Detroit’s Garden Resource Program and the rest is history! Ashley is a graduate of both Michigan State University and The University of Michigan where she studied International Development, Community Organization, and Environmental/Land Use Planning.
Nikolette Raquel Barnes is a Detroit native with a passion for food, youth, sustainable living and nutrition education. She began her love affair with growing food in 2008 while volunteering at D-Town Farm. Since then, Nikolette has worked to expose Detroit youth to the Food Justice Movement locally and globally. Nikolette also advocates for youth and adult consumers to reclaim their spending power and make better food choices. She has worked for the Eastern Market Corporation and DPS’ Office of School Nutrition, Detroit Food Policy Council as well as countless Detroit schools. In addition to her local community involvement, Nikolette co-presented “Green Is the New Black: Advocating for Healthy African-American Communities through Market and Garden Education” at Growing Power’s National and International Urban and Small Farms Conference in November of 2016. Currently, Nikolette serves on the Board of Directors for Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Her most important work is raising her 8-year-old indigo child who is ecstatic about cooking!
Rick Blanchard is a Garden Development Specialist focusing on resources for family, school and community gardens with Keep Growing Detroit. Rick began gardening and farming in Northwest Washington at the Candlelight Coyote organic farm in Skagit Valley and the Pilchuck Tree Farm in the foothills of the Cascades. He moved back to Michigan in the late 80s and has gardened since then. Rick lives in North Corktown and is a co-founder of the North Corktown Neighborhood Association, where he now serves on the neighborhood loan committee. He manages two community gardens, one for Heritage Works and the other for Freedom House Detroit, where he is a board member and serves on the finance committee. Rick has a geography and film studies degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s in accounting from the University of Phoenix. He is a former business editor for The Detroit News. Rick has four lovely daughters, three amazing grandchildren and one crazy dog named Rambo.
Imani S. Foster is the Farmers’ Market Coordinator at KGD. She has been on the fringes of outdoor education, conservation service, and vacant lot reclamation for the last 7 years. Her life took a wonderful turn, as this native Detroiter took a leap of faith that landed her a position as Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association. Most recently, Imani worked as a sales associate at Detroit Farm and Garden, a retail store that provides communities with quality farming, gardening, and landscaping resources. In 2012, Imani also worked as support staff for Grown In Detroit, adding to the growers’ successful market sales season while coordinating the Community Supported Agriculture distribution site. Imani now is in her ‘dream position’ as the Farmers’ Market Coordinator, where she coordinates the Grown In Detroit cooperative at three weekly farmers’ markets. “Purpose, produce, and profit will work” is Imani’s motto.
Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She became a member of the Garden Resource Program when she graduated from KGD’s Urban Roots Program in 2015. Born and raised in northwest Detroit, Lola is a proud alum of The Roeper School. Her interest in growing food was sparked at Harvest of Joy Farm as a senior at Kalamazoo College. After graduating from K with a BA in Human Development and Social Relations Lola returned to Detroit. Through Cap Corps Midwest she supported the creation of a school garden and facilitated conversations about race and racism at Detroit Cristo Rey High School. She was reintroduced to her ancestral foodways and family tradition of baking at Rose’s Fine Food as a baker and event planner. In addition to working at KGD, Lola supports distribution and event planning at Riverwise Magazine, a community-based magazine working to reflect local activism and the profound new work being done in and around Detroit neighborhoods. Lola loves Buddy’s Pizza and going to the beach.
Molly Hubbell is the Plum Street Market Garden Field and Farm Operations Coordinator for Keep Growing Detroit. Prior to moving to Detroit in 2012, she lived and worked in Vermont where she studied plant & soil science and received a B.A. from The University of Vermont (UVM). Over the past twelve years, she has developed her farming skills—working in different capacities on organic farms, community gardens, and nurseries in both her native New York, Vermont, and now Detroit. At KGD, Molly coordinates field production at Plum St. is all too excited to share her love for farming with others. In her spare time, she enjoys eating everything she grows(!) and playing in the dirt on her own farm in the northend neighborhood of Detroit.
Akello Karamoko is a farmer at the Plum St Market Garden for Keep Growing Detroit. He is a native Detroiter that has always had a green thumb. He planted his first apple tree at 11 years old and sold peppermint and sage at his church when he was thirteen. Farming as a career path is hardly on the minds of other youth growing up in Detroit, but he sought out programs to learn how to grow, plan, harvest, and sell his own organic crops. He’s trained in programs like 4H Gardens with Dr. Wesley Godfrey, KGD’s Urban Agriculture Youth Apprenticeship program, and MSU’s Organic Farmer Training Program. He has worked for the Food Warrior Program with Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and City Food’s Good Food Ambassador program. His purpose is to provide similar opportunities for others. He also wants to inform others about their rights to healthy and culturally appropriate foods. He recognizes that while America’s agricultural sector is shrinking, exposure has always inspired innovation. He plans to provide the next generation with the spark to partake in organic agriculture.
Lindsay Pielack is a Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit. Lindsay has worked with the urban agriculture community in the City of Detroit for nine years, instrumental as an organizer in developing and expanding the Garden Resource Program, which grew from 70 gardens in 2004 to 1,416 gardens in 2012. In her past role as the Urban Garden Program Manager at the Greening of Detroit and now as the co-director of basic programs at Keep Growing Detroit, Lindsay manages new garden development, facilitating resource distribution, and working with community members to build connection, leadership, and capacity within Detroit’s urban agriculture community. Lindsay is proud to be a life-long resident of the City of Detroit, serving the community in which she lives. Lindsay graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Science in Resource Ecology and Management.
Kido Pielack is the Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. Kido is a native Detroiter who has been working in the field of Urban Agriculture for the past 6 years. His passion for plants and people led him from a career in organic landscaping to an apprenticeship in Urban Agriculture and studies with the MSU Student Organic Farmer Training Program. This training set the foundation for his current position coordinating and teaching adult agriculture education programming with Keep Growing Detroit. He loves sharing his skills with others and believes that in the classroom everyone has something to share and there is always something new to learn.
Tepfirah Rushdan, known affectionately as Tee, is a Co-Director at Keep Growing Detroit. Tee is a native Detroiter that is passionate about serving community. She has combined her love for people and nature through various environmental projects here in the city including developing conservation skills in youth, vacant land remediation, youth and adult farmer training programs, wild edible walks, community gardening and climate change and resiliency research. She has also worked hard to provide resources and technical assistance to hundreds of gardens in the city over the years through her work with the Garden Resource Program. A few of her accomplishments include graduating from the Urban Roots class of 2010, holding a seat on The Detroit Food Policy Council, and helping to guide the work of the Uprooting Racism Planting Justice Initiative. Other notable projects have included helping to complete the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey in 2009, which helped to map the vacant land in Detroit and make this information available to community members.
Anita Singh is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. At KGD she teaches and runs a farm education program, supports youth serving gardens across Detroit and is developing an integrated food justice curriculum for secondary students. She is an educator and farmer with nine years of experience as a high school science teacher and farm educator. She has developed and taught youth programs in Wisconsin, Brooklyn and Cartegena, Colombia and is now happy to be back in the midwest building community, developing youth programing at KGD and keeping her chickens at Get Down Farm. She uses farming as a medium to connect food to justice and leadership.