Nature and Nurture LLC is a locally owned organic gardening business by Erica Kempter and Mike Levine. Nature and Nurture is licensed and insured.
As a University of Michigan student in 1991, at a time when environmentalism, social justice, and healthy food were viewed as mutually exclusive categories, Erica “discovered” sustainable agriculture and became passionate about its 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. 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, 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 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 has been obsessed with edible plants for his entire adult life. He has worked in the gardening, farming and ecological restoration fields since 1995. 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. In 2001, he and Erica founded Nature and Nurture, LLC, and have co-owned and managed it ever since. Nature and Nurture, LLC provides organic landscape maintenance, installation, consulting, design, and other related tasks. He currently runs a fruit nursery and orchard with many interesting and edible plants and taught Easy Organic Fruit Growing, a 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 soon plans to build his own mycology lab on the Nature and Nurture Farm.