January 8, 2024

Andrews University Alumna Elected Commissioner in Nearby City

Emma Kinnard is now commissioner-at-large in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Nicholas Gunn, Andrews University, and Adventist Review
Emma Kinnard is sworn in as commissioner-at-large for the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, United States. [Photo: Nicholas Gunn]

On December 18, 2023, Emma Kinnard was sworn in as commissioner-at-large for the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan, United States. Kinnard’s four-year term will begin on January 8, 2024.

Emma (Simmons) Kinnard graduated from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, with a focus on horticulture in 1976. Since then, she has continued to hold the university's mission close to her by seeking knowledge and affirming faith to change the world. Kinnard has served her community in many ways — as a community activist, volunteer, and mother-figure to many. Kinnard struggled for positive change in her community while working in Benton Harbor Area Schools as a paraprofessional for 26 years before retiring.

Kinnard has also nurtured positive change over the past 15 years as the founding director of the Fresh Start Children’s Garden, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing gardens to urban communities and to educate, motivate, and encourage communities to grow fresh fruit and vegetables.

During the December 18 meeting, the commissioners also voted on a resolution to sell to Kinnard the property where one of her community gardens resides. Commissioner-at-large Mary Alice Adams said, “I’ve seen you feed this community and spend time with the children teaching them. For as much as Mrs. Kinnard has done for this community in her capacity of being a mother of this food desert, I recommend that we revise this (resolution) to $1.”

Mayor Marcus Muhammad also supported Kinnard, stating, “I’ve worked closely with Mrs. Kinnard for many years. What we have is a model for urban gardening, not just in Benton Harbor.”

For 2024, Kinnard said, she looks forward to creating a larger impact by changing the world for the better — creating change with her garden by bringing fresh meals to families in need.

The city of Benton Harbor (pop. 8,800) is less than 20 minutes from the Andrews University campus. The school has a long history of supporting horticulture and agriculture. Recently, its Department of Sustainable Agriculture achieved Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) certification for its livestock system at the Agriculture Education Center. The center is now among the 5 percent of farms in Michigan to have earned this certification.

The original version of this story was posted on the Andrews University news site.