Meet Our Team!

Erica Kempter

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Erica was first introduced to home grown food as a child. Always an eager helper in the garden, she always looked forward to biting into a cool, juicy, home grown tomato. These profound experiences would have a lifelong impact on Erica’s interests and passions. As a University of Michigan student and activist in the early 1990s Erica studied African-American Studies, Native American Studies, Women's Studies, Social Justice and Environmental Studies but was looking for something intersectional that could combine them all. Erica “discovered” sustainable agriculture and food justice and became passionate about their ability to create tangible, enduring, positive change. In Michigan in the early 90’s, Erica found few outlets for her passion, so in 1994 she moved to California. And in 1996 she transferred to the University of California, Santa Cruz, which at the time was the only large university in the U.S. with an organic farm on campus as well as a History of Consciousness Department. She graduated from UCSC with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies/Sustainable Agriculture and then completed UCSC’s Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture, an internationally recognized organic farmer training program which has been a leader in the sustainable agriculture movement. Since then, Erica has filled many roles related to organic agriculture and food justice, including as an Americorps member working with school gardens and the Homeless Garden Project in Santa Cruz. In 1998, she was Youth Coordinator for the Detroit Agriculture Network.

In 2001 Erica, along with Mike Levine, founded Nature and Nurture LLC. They have been providing organic garden consultation, design, installation and maintenance full-time ever since. In 2004, Erica and Mike met John Navazio, an organic plant breeder who encouraged them to get into seeds and plant breeding. Erica was immediately struck by this new and amazing world filled with possibilities, and began several plant breeding projects of her own. In 2006, she developed and taught the Organic Gardener Certificate Program at Washtenaw Community College. In 2008, Erica founded the Homegrown Festival, an Ann Arbor, community-based event which educates about and celebrates local and sustainable food. She participated in the development of the Local Food Summit and has been an active member of the Leadership Team of Slow Food Huron Valley. Her involvement with Slow Food exposed Erica to RAFT's (Renewing America’s Food Traditions) “Place-Based Foods at Risk in the Great Lakes” after which she became obsessed with researching, preserving, and breeding new Great Lakes regionally-adapted foods. With Slow Food, Erica has been involved in the Heirloom Seed Project and Slow Food’s Ark of Taste.

Mike Levine

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Mike Levine has been obsessed with edible plants for his entire adult life. He has worked in the gardening, farming and ecological restoration fields since 1992. His first job, after graduating from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan, was to work for the Natural Area Preservation Division of Ann Arbor Parks and Recreation doing ecological restoration in city parks. The next season, he co-directed Project Grow Community Gardens and worked at several Ann Arbor area organic farms. Interested in sustainability, he studied the Fundamentals of Permaculture, a course in sustainable living at The Farm in Summertown, TN, where he first glimpsed shiitake mushrooms being grown at Mushroompeople by Frank Michael. In 1999, Mike worked at and managed Saguaro Plant Nursery (a rare and unusual plant nursery in the Ann Arbor area).

After extensive travels and a return to Michigan, Mike met Erica. Together, In 2001, they founded Nature and Nurture, LLC first as a provider of organic landscape maintenance, installation, consulting, design, and other related tasks in the Ann Arbor area. Mike runs a fruit nursery and organic orchard at Nature and Nurture Farm with many interesting and edible plants. He taught Easy Organic Fruit Growing, a class that was part of the Organic Gardener Certificate Program at Washtenaw Community College. Additionally, Mike has been studying taxonomy and field identification of mushrooms since 1996 in the Ann Arbor area and is an Approved Mushroom Identification Expert in the State of Michigan. In 2011, he studied Gourmet and Medicinal Mushroom Cultivation with Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti in Olympia, Washington, and he has been growing and selling shiitake mushrooms since 2001. He has aspirations to producing edible gourmet mushroom spawn to sell on the Nature and Nurture Seeds website.

Grace Pernecky

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Grace has been working for Nature & Nurture since 2017, when she graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in Environmental Studies. Through U of M's Program in the Environment, she learned about the vital role that farming and local food can play in sustainability. She also loves to eat, especially really good food, so this was welcome news to her. She has always been passionate about the environment and our natural world, and holds a boundless curiosity and love of learning more about all its flora and fauna. She is the face behind Nature & Nurture's social media pages and monthly newsletters, and is currently undertaking the Seeds of Our Ancestors project for Nature & Nurture.

Grace has brought many talents and skills to our crew, among which are her passions for photography, writing, content creation, design, and communications. She is also a poet and freelance writer; you can view her work at www.vitamingingerbread.com.

Alex Belhaj

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Alex has been working for Nature & Nurture since the summer of 2020. He is a musician, lover of nature and getting his hands in the dirt, and a curious and gentle soul. He's the frontman on seed order fulfillment and other office-related tasks in the winter, and on our landscaping crew or on the farm helping the interns in the warmer months.

Alex worked as a musician in New Orleans from 2015-2020, playing guitar with a variety of groups. His music is deeply inspired by New Orleans traditional music. His favorite radio program is arwulf arwulf's Face The Music on WCBN FM Ann Arbor. You can check out Alex's music and performance schedule here.

Andy Lewis

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Meet Andy Lewis, Organic Land Care Manager, and our newest addition to the N&N team. Andy brings a host of knowledge and years of experience in Organic Land Care and we are excited to introduce you to him and to our new program!

Andy grew up in the Ann Arbor/Jackson area where he developed a love of nature and learned about ecology. Andy spent over 8 years in Chicago where he worked as the organic turf manager for an organic lawn care company serving the wider Chicago area.

Get Involved!

We often have opportunities to get involved at Nature and Nurture and we are always looking for good people to add to our team. We offer:

• Employment

• Internships

• Volunteer work

We're Hiring!

See all previous N&N crews below