Board of Directors

Fertile Ground Food Cooperative

Board of Directors: Emails & Bios


Erin Byrd, President:

Erin Dale Byrd is a mother, community activist, political strategist, and cultural worker in Raleigh NC. She was raised in a military family with roots in Tennessee and Texas. As Executive Director of Blueprint NC, a collaborative of 48 progressive organizations working for a fairer, more just North Carolina, Blueprint NC is part of the State Voices national network.  As director, she is responsible for fundraising, compliance, managing staff and driving the organizations' vision for collective impact. Her expertise is in campaign planning, coalition building, and community organizing.  She has 13 years of experience in successful coalition work on campaigns including increasing the minimum wage, public financing of judicial campaigns and same-day voter registration. Erin's work focuses on organizational capacity building with an emphasis on culture, civic engagement/organizing, planning, communication, and evaluation. She is Board Chair of Southern Partners Fund, a member of Black Workers for Justice and a founding member of the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative in Southeast Raleigh. She has been awarded the Ella Baker Award from the Youth Organizing Institute, Women to Watch from Women AdvaNCe, SiStars Award from the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Annie Mackie Ward from NC Women United, the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations and most recently won Local Hero Citizen of the Year for 2015 from Indy Week magazine. Erin is most proud of her accomplishment as a mother of two Prince Kings. She has a degree in Sociology from the College of William and Mary.

Listen to her interview about Fertile Ground on the State of Things here: Activism Inspired By Life On A Military Base: Meet Erin Byrd

Kia Baker, Vice President:

Kia E. Baker, a native of Southeast Raleigh, North Carolina, is an alumnus and Presidential Scholar of Hampton University in Virginia where she began to cultivate a high standard of excellence and commitment to lifelong education and the eradication of oppression and poverty.  She has served for over 18 years in the nonprofit sector working in alternative education, affordable housing, community economic development, social justice leadership, and currently serves as Executive Director of Southeast Raleigh Promise.


Rukiya Dillahunt, Treasurer:

Rukiya Dillahunt retired from the Wake County Public Schools as an administrator in 2010. Rukiya has devoted her entire professional life as an advocate for parents, school personnel and the educational rights of students. Rukiya is an active member in the North Carolina Association of Educators- Wake County Retired Teachers. She served as President of the Wake -North Carolina Association of Educators local for 3 years. Rukiya is a member of Black Workers for Justice and the Education Justice Alliance. She serves on the Board of the North Carolina Peace Action and the advisory board of the North Carolina State Employees  Credit Union. Since her retirement from Wake County Public Schools, Rukiya has been actively involved in the struggle against the School to Prison Pipeline.


Jim Senter, Acting Secretary 

Jim Senter, a Fertile Ground board member since 2016, is a native of New Orleans and still has family connections to the Crescent City. He’s been a member of a rural residential co-op for 26 years and a resident there for 12. He has published articles on the history and economic theory of the co-operative movement and has a passion for fruit trees and native plant gardening.


Ajamu Dillahunt:

Ajamu Dillahunt retired from the North Carolina Justice Center in January of 2013 after 8 years as Outreach Coordinator for the Budget and Tax Center (5 yrs) and the Workers' Rights Project (3 yrs).  Prior to the Justice Center, Ajamu worked for the US Postal Service for 24 years and served as president of the American Postal Workers Union local, state Research and Education Director and Arbitration Advocate. He is a Popular Educator and currently serves on the Boards of United for a Fair Economy (UFE), the Institute for Southern Studies (ISS) and Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF). He is a former member of the Policy Committee of Labor Notes Magazine and a founding member of the Black Workers for Justice.


Demetrius Hunter:  

Farmers Mobile Markets,  Chef HUB Association and Project Grocers on Wheels Project Director, Mr. Hunter brings an array of knowledge to alleviate food insecurity and provide resolutions to under-served urban/rural communities through his partnerships with civic, community, business and faith leaders. In 2006, he established SE Raleigh Vicinity Emerging (S.E.R.V.E) Communities, a 501 (c)3 enterprise that currently brings sustainable practices to SE Raleigh by focusing on sustainable education and agricultural projects. Through S.E.R.V.E., he actively promotes food justice in food insecure areas throughout North Carolina. Mr. Hunter has 14 years of experience as a community organizer and worked as an operational manager rebuilding in post-Hurricane Katrina, Gulfport, Mississippi. His expertise in building codes, green building, and weather resistant materials was invaluable during that process. In 2013, he officially started S.E.R.V.E’s second umbrella project, Grocers on Wheels, a mobile fresh produce unit that’s a solution to the prevalent food insecure areas throughout local communities and neighborhoods that lack access to healthy food choices. Mr. Hunter is continuing his 80-year family tradition started by his father Zelb Hunter. He continues his education in industrial labor, green building design and organizational management, and other skills and knowledge that he brings to the Fertile Ground Food Cooperative Board.


Ajuba Joy:

Ajuba Hampden Joy is a native New Yorker and long-time resident of Southeast Raleigh. She is a published poet, community advocate, leader and a gardener. She is a graduate of Shaw University, with a Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science. Ms. Joy later returned to North Carolina Central University where she earned a Masters in Public Administration with a minor in Education. She is presently employed with Torchlight Academy Charter, in Special Education. She has worked as a Health Educator, at North Carolina State University. She has over 25 years in the non-profit sector and is the founder and executive director of ROOT1, Recognizing Our Own Talent1, (a community garden endeavor), which is a program of SERA Inc. Joy’s recent passion is to broaden her 25 years of gardening experience by enlisting in the food revolution taking place across the country. She has been soliciting the community to become active in the reduction and elimination of the food desert conditions in her community through gardening, raising awareness, and policy change.


Liz Crews: 

Elizabeth Crews joined Fertile Ground in 2014 after being introduced to the Cooperative by another member-owner and has been an active member since that time. Liz worked as the FGFC Community Liaison for six months in 2015. Elected as a board member in 2016, she supports the marketing and outreach team. Liz often says that ‘with public anticipation and support, Fertile Ground Co-op will be a community asset and pillar resource for the area residents, especially people of Southeast Raleigh.’


Peyam (Pey) Barghassa:  

Since about age 5, Pey has always had a deep interest in growing plants. Even in NYC, as a child, he tried to grow tomatoes on his balcony. From the time he moved to North Carolina with his family, he became an avid gardener. His passion guided him to a bachelor's degree in Agronomy from NC State University and a master's in Soil Science form Texas A&M University. He later traveled to Guatemala with the Peace Corps to work on agricultural projects. He is now a sales manager for the largest hobby hydroponics and indoor gardening equipment wholesale distributor in the country. Pey also started his own business, PeyGro (find him on Facebook), where he sells his produce and plants at the FGFC Farmers Market. He was elected as a Board member in 2016.


Etheopea Balogun:

Etheopea Balogun, introduced to Fertile Ground Food Cooperative through another member-owner, became an active member-owner in 2016.  She immediately became a Finance Committee member; her committed diligence led to her election as a Board member in the fall of 2016.  Etheopea enjoys being a part of the community efforts to eliminate the food desert in SE Raleigh. She believes that the opening of the Fertile Ground grocery store and its success will positively transform the community and city. This young entrepreneur owns and operates Etheopea's All Natural Hair Studio, opened in 2011.

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