About Us

Our Mission & Vision

Our mission is to empower our neighbors to grow food in and for our community. Our vision is to build a just food system that honors the land and provides abundant access to fresh food for all.

We believe that all people deserve food choices that offer nutrition and delight, joy and good memories. We work for a food system that integrates food sovereignty and self determination at the neighborhood level, where people who are historically excluded from control over their lives and well-being are empowered to garden. Our strategic focus is supporting home and community gardens materially through essential garden supplies (seeds, transplants, soil, raised bed materials), classes and networks of social support. We believe in the power of gardens to transform our neighborhoods and food values.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners, past and present, of the land on which we garden and live. Our demonstration garden and City is on the Land of the three Alqonquian Nations: the Ojibwa, Ottawa, and the Potawatami. We affirm the transformative impact indigenous land management knowledge has on our contemporary landscape, food culture and food growing practices. We thank all the land protectors who came before, and those who must come after.

Our Team & Board

President

Jill Robinson currently works for Oakland County managing Treasurer-owned properties. She started Growing Pontiac as a way to connect Pontiac gardeners and to ensure that vacant land is seen as an asset in the city. Throughout various jobs and volunteer projects, Jill has seen the difference it makes when residents of a city own and utilize vacant land around them for gardens, playgrounds and community gathering space. Jill holds degrees from Wayne State in Urban Planning and Parks and Recreation Management and enjoys building relationships that help connect people and community.

Vice President

Nicolette Jenaras is a passionate networker, gardener, educator and artist. Born in Grand Rapids, she spent many years as a Montessori elementary school educator in both Germany and Ann Arbor. She is currently a realtor and has been a leader of the Oakland Hills Community Garden in Oakland, Michigan since 2008. Oakland Hills Community Garden is an expansive, all volunteer farming operation that includes an apiary, lavender farm, and annual vegetable production. Nicolette is both a dreamer and a doer who believes in the power of gardens, the magic of beekeeping and sharing good food with our communities.

Treasurer and Executive Director

Emily Cunningham is a Pontiac resident and lifelong gardener who is currently volunteering as Growing Pontiac’s Executive Director. She owes a great debt to Keep Growing Detroit for her experience as a community garden organizer and urban agriculture volunteer. She is an illustrator and trained chef who is moved by the power of sustainable food to connect neighbors and change food values. Emily holds a certification in Horticulture Therapy from the Chicago Botanic Garden, a degree in Women and Gender Studies from Oakland University and has been employed as an organic farmer for the HAVEN Garden Project. She thanks the gardeners who have come before, and those who will come after.

Secretary

Ashleigh has a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies. After many years working with ecommerce businesses, she is now teaching photography and color theory at a homeschool co-op, the Director of Youth and Family Ministry at St. John Lutheran Church in Farmington Hills, and is a co-owner of Plain and Fancy Food. Ashleigh enjoys making art accessible to others. Each year she has led a free interactive art experience at the Pontiac Arts Crawl. She is a competitive costume maker and has been awarded Best Costume many times over. Ashleigh’s start with her own garden began after she bought her house in Pontiac and wanted to see her small yard produce something besides grass. 

Officer of the Board

Mary Hogan has spent the majority of her life locally being raised and educated in Pontiac, graduating from Pontiac Northern High School. She continued studies at Oakland Community College and has a Masters of Science in Administration degree from Central Michigan University. After retiring from Michigan Bell (Ameritech) and from Michigan State University she remains in the work force and is currently the Director of the Pontiac SUN TimeBank. Being very involved in her church she teaches classes, assists with care ministry and offers assistance in many other areas. She is the mother of three, grandmother of six and great grandmother of thirteen so far.

Staff: Program Coordinator

Sylvia Campbell is a lifelong Pontiac resident. She is an Oakland University student majoring in Wellness and Health Promotion with a minor in Holistic Health. She has volunteered extensively with non-profit service organizations in the city, including Healthy Pontiac, We Can!, Sheriff PAL and Lighthouse. Sylivia started her first garden at thirteen with the help of her dad, a lifelong gardener. She enjoys the calm atmosphere of an early morning in the garden, and makes soaps and infused oils from her home-grown vegetables and herbs.

Officer of the Board

Josh Gordon is the Giving Gardens Manager at Yad Ezra, a kosher food pantry serving the Metro Detroit area.  He has a Bachelor’s of Science from Michigan State University in Environmental Biology/Zoology and a minor in Horticulture, as well as being a master composter.  Josh’s loves include spreading knowledge about gardening, the ecosystem, edible, and medicinal plants. He is highly interested in endorsing the many benefits of gardening including bringing nutrient dense, culturally appropriate produce to the community while also providing Horticultural Therapy and a sense of empowerment.

Officer of the Board

Samad Ansari is a Pontiac resident and recent graduate in Classical Guitar Performance from Oakland University. Awaiting the prospect of joining the Peace Corps, he has pursued many different paths of non-profit work and volunteerism. Samad has interned at local farms as well, gaining insight into permaculture, sustainable living, and urban farming. He thinks watching plants grow and interact with nature in a symbiotic way can be life-changing.

Officer of the Board

Ciaran McQusiton is currently a professional artist and elementary school teacher, and has gardened since the age of 8. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Affairs from Indiana University, Bloomington, with a focus on Nonprofit Management and a minor in printmaking (art). She has taught and focused on administration in arts organizations, volunteering, non-profit management and fundraising since graduating from Cranbrook Academy of Art with a Master’s of Fine Arts. In her own words: “I love the excitement of sprouts coming out of the dirt for the first time against all my fears, the healing and meditative qualities of thinning, weeding, and maintaining, and the joy of providing nutrition for myself and my family.”

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