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The Ypsi Farmers & Gardeners Oral History Project (YFGOHP) is a new YDL digital archive sharing the stories of Ypsilanti’s Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and/or working class food growers. In these interviews, local Ypsi farmers and gardeners share stories about how they got started growing food, what the impact of growing food has been for their families and communities, and what lessons they want others to learn from their experiences..

The initial interviews were completed in October and November 2023 with more planned for 2024. In this episode, we talk with three of the coordinators of this local project: Dr. Finn Bell, Omer Jean Winborn, and Briana Hurt. YDL librarian Madelynne Rivenbark, our engineeress, also contributes.

This episode also features clips from the oral histories themselves, as well as follow up questions. Access all the oral histories from this project at The Ypsi Farmers & Gardeners Oral History Project is housed with other oral histories and historical materials, including the A.P. Marshall Oral History Archive, at

More about our speakers

Dr. Finn Bell
Dr. Finn Bell is an assistant professor of human services at the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Originally from St. Louis, MO, he has been putting down roots in Ypsilanti since 2013 when he first moved to Michigan to complete a PhD in social work & sociology at the University of Michigan. An avid gardener and chicken tender, Finn’s research has focused on interviewing farmers and gardeners, first at a Catholic Sister-led ecojustice center, and then in Ypsilanti for his dissertation research. Finn is particularly interested in how growing food helps people to find meaning and practice hope amidst environmental crises, as well as how growing food is a strategy of collective survival. Finn has long dreamed of ways to make the stories that have come out in his research more fully accessible to the community, and the Ypsi Farmers & Gardeners Oral History Project is a realization of that dream. 


Omer Jean Winborn

Omer Jean Winborn, was born in Ann Arbor and educated in the Ann Arbor public school system, including the historic Jones school and Ann Arbor (Pioneer) High School. Jean’s family came to Ann Arbor from Tennessee in the 1940s and her father and mother began exposing Jean to the importance of growing food for your own family and those around you. Jean obtained a bachelors in Foods in Business, and a teaching certificate in Education from Eastern Michigan University and a Masters degree in Social Work from University of Michigan. Jean taught at Lincoln Senior High School and Grosse Pointe South High School, dedicating 24 years to being an educator, where she exercised the core value of feeding and sharing food with those around you, including her fellow teachers and students. Currently serving as the President of Fred Hart Williams Genealogical Society, she is a local expert in African American Genealogy. Jean is a mother, grandmother, Trustee for the Ypsilanti District Library, and a renowned Chocolate Chip cookie maker.


Briana Hurt
Briana Hurt is from Detroit and is a senior at the University of Michigan in Dearborn, majoring in Human Services. As a Student Researcher, Briana has been a part of Ypsi Farmers and Gardeners Oral History Project since June of 2023, is currently is a part of the 28th cohort of Semester in Detroit, and is interning at Keep Growing Detroit, the non profit urban farm that works towards making Detroit a food sovereign city. She is passionate about the relationship between food access and health, and is a former Women’s Basketball player at University of Michigan in Dearborn.


Madelynne Rivenbark
Madelynne Rivenbark is a librarian at the Ypsilanti District Library. An Ypsilanti native, Maddy has experience in sound design, theatre arts, music, and youth library services. Committed to building a strong community, Maddy explores using her skills in sound design, art, and youth literacy to enrich students and patrons in the area and create more opportunities for collaboration.  



Mural by Lynne Settles and the 2017 Ypsilanti Community High School Art Students. Photo by Nick Azzaro.

Logo for the Ypsi Famers and Gardeners Oral History Project.