Darlene Alston is a community gardener, youth mentor, business owner, and Master Gardener through Michigan State University. She is a graduate of the 2015 class of Urban Roots, a community garden leadership program hosted by Keep Growing Detroit. She co-manages a community garden in her neighborhood in Northwest Detroit where her mission is to share where real food comes from with youth and adults alike. When she isn’t growing, Darlene operates a non-profit teashop with programming designed to educate and assist young people from middle school through post-high school years to navigate entering the workforce. In addition to delicious teas, Darlene features her garden’s fresh produce in inventive and original prepared foods at the teashop.
Chet Dunbar is a Deacon at 12th Street Baptist and works in the food pantry supplying food baskets to families in need. Chet created the community garden at 12th Street Baptist over 8 years ago to engage the youth in all aspects of agriculture and has actively engaged youth from his church for years in KGD programs, encouraging their participation in educational activities, workdays and volunteer events. Chet is also a certified DNR instructor and serves in the educational offices of The Grosse Pointe Power Squadron, where his mission is to save lives by teaching boating safety.
Naim Edwards works as the garden designer and program manager with Voices for Earth Justice and has been a participant in the GRP through his work living and growing family and community gardens in Nortwest Detroit. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of farming with an emphasis on ecological restoration. Naim holds a master’s degree from University of Michigan where he studied biodiversity in urban gardens, specializing in beneficial insects and recently completed a course in Permaculture. Naim has also worked with numerous organizations to address both political and cultural obstacles to achieve food sovereignty and is a staunch advocate for land, water, housing, and education rights.
Lauren Maloney is a member of the Garden Resource Program and market gardener with Grown In Detroit since 2013. Lauren has more than 10 years of experience in local food systems and sustainable urban agriculture, spanning Maryland, Vermont, New Jersey, Michigan, the Caribbean and West Africa. She served on the Slow Food Huron Valley’s leadership Board and managed their Homegrown Festival and the Local Food Summit while also managing an urban gardening edible landscaping company based in Ann Arbor. She currently works as the Food Safety Program Manager for a Food Safety Certification Company and is dedicated to bringing Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) to the local food system. She is passionate about supporting local urban farmers, restaurant and businesses that buy local food.
Elois Moore is a longtime GRP member who coordinates the Farwell Field Community Garden and a resident in Northeast Detroit. Elois is a graduate of both Urban Roots as well as the Rain Gardens to the Rescue Program and has supported youth in her garden participating in the Youth Growing Detroit program. Elois retired in 2012 from her role as the Vice President of the American Federation of Teachers Local 4168, AFL-CIO and previously worked with Detroit Public Schools for over 20 years. Elois currently serves her community in many leadership roles, including president of the Binder Street Block Club O & R, President of the Farwell Community Association, Vice President of the Farwell Association CB Walking Radio Patrol and member of the District Senior Task Force.
Marquita Reese comes from a long lineage of farmers, spanning generations across the US. Marquita teaches high school and is a charismatic educator, spokeswoman, and advocate for the Detroit Public School’s Office of Nutrition gardening program. She has pioneered a school garden and educational programming at Frederick Douglass Academy that has served as a model and inspiration for schools across the entire district. Marquita brings her passion for advocating for her students by working with them to grow their own food, cook nutritious meals and making nutrition PSAs. Her goal is to inspire the next generation to appreciate and embrace local, healthy, and nutritious food. Marquita is also a dedicated market gardener with Grown in Detroit since 2013 and returns her earnings back into her school’s thriving garden.
Tracey Patterson is a native Detroiter and is active in two community gardens in SW Detroit, Dulce Diamante near Cadet and Livernois, and Downriver Community Gardens in the Outer Drive and Fort St. area. She has been an active volunteer (as well as her 2 teens occasionally) in the Grown In Detroit this past the year. Outside of gardening, Tracey has spent 20 years in IT and currently consults in Web design and marketing.
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 Genesee 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.
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 been gardening since then. Rick lives in North Corktown and is a co-founder of the North Corktown Neighborhood Association, where he currently 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.
Sonali Devarajan is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. As a Washington DC native she has worked for both the EPA and the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce. She graduated from University of Michigan with degrees in Economics and Environmental Science. She falls more in love every day with the urban gardening movement and amazing people in Detroit where she can now be found living, working and playing. She is also an active member of the Global Shapers’ Detroit hub and Alumni Coordinator for the entrepreneurs of the BUILD Institute.
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 currently 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.
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 a variety of 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.
Angela Lugo-Thomas is a Garden Development Specialist at KGD. She was born in Puerto Rico but has called Detroit home for 35 years. She lives with her husband and three girls in the city of Highland Park, right in the center of Detroit. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and often wishes she knew about gardening when she first went to MSU in 1990. Angela has enjoyed almost 10 years of being out of the “rat race” when she decided to quit her position as a pharmaceutical sales representative for a major company. During these 10 years, she has raised her daughters, become involved in her community and discovered new passions. One of them is gardening. Angela had her first urban garden experience in the fall of 2007 when the Colorado Street Community Garden (CSCG) was started in her neighborhood. In 2008, after volunteering at Earthworks Urban Farm and the CSCG, she was hooked after eating a ripe tomato from the garden, after years of never liking tomatoes. In 2009, she graduated from the Urban Roots Program and started her family garden, which quickly became the Thomas Family Community Garden. She is known around her neighborhood as the garden lady. She enjoys giving tours of the gardens as well as knowing that she is making a difference in her community.
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.
Janell O’Keefe is the Evaluation Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. Janell is a native Metro Detroiter and currently a happy City of Detroit resident. She has worked in Detroit’s urban agriculture community since 2009, first beginning with a college project at Earthworks Urban Farm, where she fell in love with Detroit and the urban agriculture/food justice movement. At KGD, Janell coordinates program evaluation and provides technical assistance to growers on zoning ordinance compliance and land acquisition. Janell is a graduate of the University of Michigan, with degrees in anthropology, psychology, social work, and urban planning.
Tepfirah Rushdan, known affectionately as 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. Former Urban Roots graduate class of 2010; she has also held a seat on The Detroit Food Policy Council and helped guide the work of the Uprooting Racism Planting Justice Initiative. Other notable projects include 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 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.
Eitan Sussman is the Wholesale Produce Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. Eitan is native of Ann Arbor and a proud transplant of a decade to Detroit. He discovered a love of food and farming from his grandfather and from his first internship at Tantre Farm in Chelsea, Michigan. Eitan has worked as an educator for 15 years, designing justice-oriented curriculum for youth and adults in Michigan, the Gulf Coast, and internationally. At KGD, Eitan assists with farm operations and oversees wholesale produce sales for Grown in Detroit. Eitan has a degree in Political Science and Peace & Conflict Studies with a focus on international law from Wayne State University and completed the Organic Farming Certificate Program at the Student Organic Farm at Michigan State University in 2009.