TomPic (844x1024).jpg


TOM MILANO
Director / CEO
Board President
Project Manager of The Garden

Tom draws upon his experiences as a community activist, naturalist and spiritualist to forge a vision about how peace can unfold on this planet, starting here in Detroit. He envisions Detroit inspiring the world with a renaissance, not outwardly, but inwardly as growing numbers of people realize the nature of their eternal loving relationship with God and one another.

A self-taught farmer, Tom has been working to develop the concept of The Garden Detroit for the past eight years. He believes having easy access to affordable healthy food is a natural birth-right that's essential and fundamental to community revitalization.

Originally from New York, Tom backpacked around the world on a spiritual quest for several years before joining the Hare Krishna movement and settling in France for a decade. In 1987, he returned to the U.S. to live in Detroit where for three years he was the president of the Hare Krishna Temple, located in the historic Fisher Mansion. In 1990, he left the movement to develop a project to help revitalize the Jefferson Chalmers business district. During this time he also operated a health-food store and forged relationships with local community-based organizations.

Tom says he's always felt at home in Detroit, because he's drawn to be a part of a community he feels is designed to spread hope and love throughout the world.

Tom is the author of The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking, published in 1984, and is currently working on his second book, titled Spiritual Vegetarianism: The Key to Unveiling Heaven on Earth.

IMG_7367.JPG

NANCY WEIGANDT
Board Treasurer
Project Manager of Detroit Abloom

Soon after Nancy met Tom in 2011, they became partners in both love and business. Nancy took a fast interest in vegetable farming and played an integral part in growing The Garden’s CSA program. With over thirty years of flower farming experience, Nancy gradually integrated this knowledge into the project,  turning several vegetable beds into flower beds and in 2015, officially chartered Detroit Abloom, our cut-flower business.

Prior to The Garden Detroit, Nancy worked for over twenty years in health care management. This experience has helped her expertly oversee the details that go into the care of all our plants, as well as manage the business and accounting sides of the two companies.

An avid reader and library goer, Nancy is constantly researching flowers and flower farming. She loves learning through others' experiences and bringing new-found techniques to her work, but feels the most valuable lessons have come from The Garden itself. Things like how weather conditions, wildlife and good vs. pesky bug interactions affect the growing season, or through trial and error, which plants thrive on what type of environment or care, and knowing when to disregard traditional “rules” in favor of trusting her instincts. Her biggest challenge has been providing for The Garden organically, without the help of synthetic chemicals, but it’s a challenge she has proudly overcome. A native Michigander, Nancy is thrilled to be a pioneer of cut-flower farming in Detroit.

NathanBioPhoto (977x1280).jpg

NATHAN DUVALL
Board Member
Ashland Street Property Assistant

Nathan grew up in Florida, where he made friends with many artists and gardeners. While handling art collections in Miami after college, he found a mentor in real estate. Around this time, he also found his way to a sweat lodge, which led him to Native American healing traditions. In 2014, after studying massage and energy work in Santa Cruz, he moved to Detroit to manage real estate and work towards establishing a healing center that would also serve as a garden paradise for yoga meditation and place for prayer.

After trying unsuccessfully for months to acquire a number of vacant lots contiguous with a house he purchased for the healing center, Nathan was dismayed when the land was sold to The Garden Detroit. When he met with Tom, however, he discovered that their visions of revitalization were strikingly similar, and he was excited to align his work with ours. Shortly after their first meeting, Nathan joined our board.

In addition to his work with The Garden Detroit, Nathan is helping to build an eco-village, spiritual community and retreat center in the mountains of Costa Rica. Nathan loves chopping, carrying and stacking wood.


AmyBioPic.JPG

AMY OTTERSEN
Board Secretary

In January 2014, after working for over a half decade in medical sales, Amy left her job in Chicago to immerse herself in a yoga instructor training program at Pavones Yoga Center in Costa Rica. After a month of living in the jungle on the ocean’s edge, eating locally-sourced organic food and practicing daily yoga, she felt intense positive changes on her body, mind and soul. This realization led her to dedicate the next year and a half to traveling abroad in order to study sustainable food production, permaculture, yoga and holistic healing. 

In South America, Amy taught yoga at a healing center in Peru’s Sacred Valley, where she learned about plant-based medicine and how to care for the center’s garden. Amy then traveled north of Lima, where she lived on a sustainable farm, sharing her yoga practice and learning their culture and unique farming methods.

In 2015, Amy moved to Southeast Asia, where she obtained her Permaculture Design Certificate in Thailand. She worked as a volunteer on a project focused on the production of sustainable food, as well as the education of the wellness of all beings.

Amy felt called to Detroit due to its need for mental, physical and spiritual healing, and as part of her mission to help revitalize the city, she joined The Garden Detroit. Amy sees yoga and food as critical and crucial tools for overall transformation. Her vision includes hosting yoga retreats at The Garden and building a wellness center/sustainable homestead-style farm.

 

LANI MARTIN
Board Member
Farmer

Lani, a San Francisco transplant, is inspired by the deep sense of pride Detroiters have for their city and is excited to be part of its revitalization. A granddaughter to two sets of farmers (dairy, pineapple and vegetable), she feels working in agriculture is in her blood and believes it serendipitous that Tom overheard her talking about gardening one day at Trader Joe's.

Lani brings a wealth of marketing and branding experience to the organization, but enjoys the hands-on aspect of farming most of all. Harvest days are her favorite days to be in The Garden, pulling up the fruits of our labor and preparing them to be shared with others.

She also loves capturing The Garden in pictures, and is the gal behind the lens for The Garden Detroit's Instagram account.

 

RANDALL HANNAH
Farmer

When Randall moved into the house next to Tom and Nancy, he was struck by the hub of activity going on at their property. He watched volunteers and guests come and go, and saw all the hard work that went into taking care of all the plants and flowers. When Randall first met Tom in the hoop house and heard Tom’s vision of The Garden Detroit, there was an instant connection. It wasn't long before a friendship was formed and Randall was brought on as our second full-time employee.

Randall loves working with the crew and says his quality of life has increased immeasurably since because of it. When he first saw the beauty of Detroit Abloom’s cut flower farm and sanctuary garden, his jaw dropped. “I felt that if there is such a thing as heaven on earth, this must be it, “says Randall. “And then, as I observed how Nancy and Julia take such good care of their flower crops and make the most beautiful bouquets (they gave me one), my heart melted.” 

You’d never know that Randall is a musician with no prior gardening experience, as his love of learning and strong work ethic has helped him fit right in. He loves working outdoors with nature, getting plenty of exercise (he recently terminated his gym membership as he no longer needs it) and learning about horticulture and the transformation of vacant land into places of beauty. But his favorite part of the job is the optimism, dedication and devotion of the members, volunteers and friends of The Garden Detroit. Randall says that he feels like he’s finally arrived home. We couldn’t agree more.

JULIA GRIFFIN
Board Member
Flower Farmer

In early 2015, Julia began volunteer work for The Garden Detroit in exchange for a weekly CSA share. At the time, she had almost completed her degree in nutrition and food science from Wayne State, but didn't have any practical experience in growing produce. With her boundless enthusiasm, Julia quickly learned the essentials of organic farming.

As the season evolved, so did her love of flowers. She began studying and photographing The Garden’s flowers whenever she could. Now she says her life revolves around her love of flowers and even dreams about them.

In 2016, Julia became The Garden Detroit’s first employee. In addition to assisting with flower cultivation, her role includes working at our farmer’s market stand in Grosse Pointe Park, arranging bouquets and helping with vegetable farming. Instagram is one way Julia shares her love for flowers and she manages our Detroit Abloom account. Julia enjoys vegan cooking and likes to experiment with recipes using ingredients that grow at The Garden.

NUTMEG
The Hoop House Cat

Tom and Nancy adopted Nutmeg as a kitten four years ago and she immediately made herself at home. Nutmeg comes and goes as she pleases, although you will often find her napping in the hoop house on a bed of straw or in a produce box. She's an efficient hunter who keeps our Newport garden free of rodents who would otherwise develop a taste for our organic seedlings.

She is forever curious about the goings on of the Garden and loves to follow us around as we tend to the plants. She is also quick to investigate visitors, getting close enough for a hello, but preferring to observe from a distance with a watchful eye.

Nutmeg is a true free spirit, making her the perfect mascot of The Garden Detroit.


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Mahatma Gandhi