Growing Hope: Julius Buzzard

Julius Buzzard engages with his community through his non-profit to provide education and resources on food equity and sustainability.
Growing Hope: Julius Buzzard

Julius Buzzard grows a new crop each year. Not to sell, but for the pure joy of cultivation. This year, he grew flax for the first time in hopes of sending it to a fiber artist who will make clothing out of it.

“The process is the best part of it,” Buzzard said. “It’s most fun to see how things grow and interact with the world.”

This belief was instilled in Buzzard as a child while helping his grandparents tend to their farm. It was upheld via involvement in community gardens and educating others on composting and environmental sustainability. Now, as an adult, Buzzard has been rewarded for his gardening efforts with watermelons, chili peppers and over four quarts of tomatoes — all of which are only a fraction of what he has harvested from his nine raised beds throughout the past growing season.

He’s far more than a backyard gardener, though. Buzzard is the executive director of Growing Hope, a nonprofit organization that helps people interact with food equitably on all fronts. Their expansive reach includes a one-and-a-half acre organic urban farm; the Growing Hope Incubator Kitchen which is a commercial space for startup food businesses to scale up their operations; and the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Marketplace, home to both the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market and the pickup location for the Ypsi Area Online Market, an online platform where locally produced goods can be purchased virtually. In addition to running those three community spaces, Growing Hope has food-centric educational programs for learners of all ages and facilitates community events such as a monthly brunch out of the Incubator Kitchen. One of Growing Hope’s aims is to equip individuals with agency over what they’re cooking and eating on both an individual and a systemic level by teaching gardening fundamentals.

“We want people to be able to have access to fresh and local produce,” Buzzard said. “Which can be done obviously through things like farmers markets, but also can be done in a significantly more cost-effective way if you know how to grow your own food and have some space to do it.Through helping folks to engage with the food system more intentionally, we are working alongside a community of folks working to build food sovereignty.”

— Julius Buzzard

“We want people to be able to have access to fresh and local produce,” Buzzard said. “Which can be done obviously through things like farmers markets, but also can be done in a significantly more cost-effective way if you know how to grow your own food and have some space to do it.Through helping folks to engage with the food system more intentionally, we are working alongside a community of folks working to build food sovereignty.”

Food sovereignty is the right to define one’s own food system in a way that makes it possible to eat healthily and grow culturally appropriate food using sustainable methods.

On top of nourishing the public with fresh produce and a place to cook it, Buzzard and his organization are also fostering strong interpersonal connections. Among his favorite parts of his job are talking with community members who possess a diverse collection of perspectives and “bragging” about what Growing Hope’s team does.

“Growing Hope has been around for two decades this year, and throughout that time we’ve interacted with a lot of people throughout the county which has built a foundation of folks who are interested in the work that we’re doing,” Buzzard said. “We’ve also employed somewhere between two and 300 people over that time, not to mention volunteers and board members, and a lot of them are still in the area, so it’s rare when I’m talking to somebody about Growing Hope who lives in Ypsilanti who doesn’t have a first-hand experience of the organization.”

Overall, Buzzard believes that the organization is largely successful in executing its mission and staying true to its values and looks forward to Growing Hope’s future.

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About the Contributor
Lucia Page Sander
Lucia Page Sander, Social Media Editor-in-Chief
This is Lucia's fourth semester on staff and her first as a Social Media Editor-in-Chief. When she's not playing soccer for the Michigan Jaguars or competing for Lily Weightlifting, you can find her in the garden, watching tennis with her family, or jumping on her mini trampoline. Lucia loves surfing, doing the Wordle, climbing trees, and munching on cherry tomatoes. She is beyond excited to see what this year brings both inside and outside room 300.

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