Amanda Maria Edmonds is an experienced, proactive leader for positive community change, with two decades of experience serving on and leading boards and organizations from local to national levels.
Many know her as the founder and executive director of Growing Hope, an eleven-year old nonprofit rooted in Ypsilanti dedicated to helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access. While her accomplishments through Growing Hope and its impact in Ypsilanti have been significant, her leadership experience goes well beyond this role.
Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Edmonds has lived in Michigan since the mid 1990s. She earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment, where she focused on environmental justice, policy, education, and behavior. She is passionate about social justice, and her life and career are guided by her drive to help people create thriving, diverse, and sustainable communities.
Beyond roles in student council from elementary school on, her first elected board role was at age 16, when she served as the student member of the University City School District school board for one year. She is a proud product of an urban public school district. Through that role, she sat on a committee working on the difficult issue of retaining students fleeing for private schools in the area; they dealt with the difficult challenges of class, race, and reputation’s impact on our public schools.
While a senior in high school she was co-founder and co-director of a nonprofit (called Snail) entirely run by students, and including 150 members from throughout metro St. Louis, just in its first year. She learned first hand about writing by-laws, developing a board of directors, and leading peers to make a positive difference in their community. Edmonds’ first employment in local government was full time for a summer during college, working as the Assistant Environmental Coordinator for the City of University City, Missouri, a job she asked the Director of Public Works to create for her. There, she worked in community education around municipal recycling, composting, and waste reduction.
Dedicated to Ypsilanti
Amanda has been an active member of the Ypsilanti community for over a decade. She was first involved in Ypsilanti as a volunteer in 1999, and moved to the City in 2002. When she founded, then as a volunteer, the Perry Learning Garden (that led to the founding of Growing Hope) she committed to the project until it could be sustainable without her. That core belief about community work– making and keeping commitments to community– has been true throughout her career. She served for nearly a decade on the Ypsilanti Health Coalition, where she helped evolve the organizing structure to a leadership team, and served on that team until it could transition into new leadership. She served the City of Ypsilanti for six years on the Parks and Recreation Commission. She was a strong voice for Eastern Washtenaw County through her service on the MSU-Extension Advisory Council for several years, including serving as vice-chair and then chair of that body. Currently, she serves as chair of the Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority after two years as vice chair.
An Emerging Policy Leader
As a result of her commitment to the passage of the MI Cottage Food Law– a win-win for small business and local food access– Governor Granholm (who came to Ypsilanti to sign the bill into law) appointed Edmonds to the Michigan Food Policy Council, where she now chairs its Healthy Food Access Task Force for the state. In collaboration with many partners, Edmonds helped develop the Washtenaw Food Policy Council, and now serves as Vice-Chair, providing leadership in particular around how to turn ideas into policy action plans.
A Respected Ambassador For Our Community
Edmonds travels nationally as a speaker and trainer in community organizing and organizational development. She has facilitated city-wide workshops in these areas in places including New York City, Chicago, Minneapolis, and DesMoines. Edmonds regularly speaks throughout the region for small and large audiences, always spreading the good word about Ypsilanti as she’s talking about Growing Hope or other topics.
Her leadership in Growing Hope’s Ypsilanti Farmers Markets (and their roles in economic development and food access) was featured, along with Mayor Schreiber and City Planner Gillotti, on the cover of the Michigan Municipal League Review magazine. She’s presented to MML’s summer meetings of MI mayors on this work as well.
Edmonds recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women Business Owners of SE Michigan. She’s also been honored with a Twilight Foundation award, and a Brotherhood Award from Brown Chapel AME. She was featured in the book “Practical Idealists: Changing the World and Getting Paid” and has been highlighted in Organic Gardening magazine.