Board and Staff
Project GROWS was created out of the collaborative work of nine community agencies who currently sit on the Board of Directors; they are: Augusta Health’s Working on Wellness Program, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, Boys and Girls Club, Mary Baldwin College, Head Start, Office on Youth, Shenandoah Valley Social Services, Valley Community Services Board and Virginia Cooperative Extension. Project GROWS was launched with funding from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and Augusta Health, and is now supported by a variety of private foundations and individuals. Project GROWS was a host organization of the Allegheny Mountain Institute Phase II fellowship in 2013 and 2014.
If you were a vegetable, what would you be? The Beet-a serious vegetable, with an intense disposition. When turned into Borshct and playfully mixed with sour cream, softens into my favorite color, pink.
What do you love about farming? I love the quiet of being in the garden in the morning, the dirt that shakes loose from my fingernails at night, and the satisfaction of sitting down to a meal full of handcrafted soulful food grown with care by my own hands.
Ryan is a writer, Farmer, and former child and family therapist living in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. While in his 20’s searching for something more authentic, he dropped out of the life of a Division I basketball player and, along with his partner, Joy, moved to Hawaii where he encountered the natural world through surfing. This new sense of rhythm and the good fortune to stumble across the writings of Bill Mollison and Dave Holmgren while studying creative writing and cultural studies at the University of Hawaii drew him to farming as a profession. In 2004 Ryan and Joy moved back to the valley to start a family and homestead. The homestead dream grew into a farm and in 2010 Ryan and Joy named their farm Dancing Star Farm. Ryan is certified in Permaculture Design and as a permaculture educator. In addition he holds an MA, and Ed.S. in clinical mental health counseling from James Madison University. He joined the Project GROWS team in 2012 where he now serves as the Executive Director. When not spending time with the Project GROWS team, Ryan can be found with hands in the dirt on his own farm or planning a workshop for Shenandoah Permaculture Wellness Institute, which he cofounded and serves as core faculty.
If you were a vegetable, what would you be? Carrot! I love all root vegetables. But pulling carrots is always a surprise. I love all their different colors and shapes.
What do you love about farming? Honestly, I love everything about farming. Hard work, waking with the sun, getting dirty, teaching, learning new techniques, and eating fresh. Farm work soothes my soul and connects me to the land. Farming is a great outlet for teaching youth. Project GROWS combines all my favorite aspects of farming into one.
Sam grew up in Bucks Co. PA, just north of Philadelphia. He spent his adolescence tasting the bounties of a vibrant food culture and exploring the Delaware River systems with a fly rod. After graduating from Eastern Mennonite University with a B.A in Environmental Sustainability, he spent a season in NYC working on two different urban farms studying the practices of city produce production. Moving back to the Valley with a passion for building a community around youth-oriented agriculture, Sam found Project GROWS. Sam spends his days out at the farm sheet mulching, harvesting, teaching about sustainable farm work and eating carrots on the porch of the shed.
If you were a vegetable, what would you be? Definitely cabbage – one of my very favorite veggies to eat, cabbage is understated but packs a punch!
What do you love about farming? I love being outside, learning new things every day about plants, nature and where my food comes from. I love being connected to the land and the rich history of farming.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Jenna Clarke comes to Project Grows following an 18-month fellowship position with the Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) in 2012/2013. Prior to AMS, she served as Director of Development at Rx Partnership, a statewide nonprofit helping low-income Virginians access needed prescription medication. She comes to Staunton with a love of experiencing nature, meeting new folks and working together to create a healthy, happy and sustainable community. Jenna received her bachelor’s degree in communication from Virginia Tech and spends most of her free time reading and playing outside.
Lindsey Lennon, MS
If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
Summer squash. I love the color and eating it always reminds me of my childhood when I would cook dinner with my family during my favorite time of year – summer!
What do you love about farming?
It’s too hard to pick one thing I love about farming. But some of my favorites are the never-ending opportunities to learn, being outside rain or shine, and the incredible satisfaction of picking and eating something you’ve grown with your own two hands. I also love getting dirty, which is something I seem to have an extra special knack for.
Lindsey was born and raised in Augusta County, Virginia. In 2010, after attending Blue Ridge Community College and completing her B.S. in sociology at James Madison University, Lindsey and her husband Phil moved to Florida to attend graduate school at Florida State University. While in Florida, Lindsey began gardening and researching food and farming as part of her graduate studies in Sociology. She is currently completing her PhD in social-psychology on farmers and farmers markets. Lindsey returns to the Shenandoah Valley in hopes of using her academic background to give back to her community and spread her passion for food and health. When not at the farm, you can find Lindsey studying, doing CrossFit, and spending time with her family.
If Lisa were a vegetable she’d be…KALE! because it’s totally nutritious, cold hardy, and goes well with every meal. Literally, every meal.
What do you love about farming? Lisa loves the smell and feel of good soil – you know intuitively that it holds things that are good for you. Lisa also delights in the point in the summer where the separation of dirt and your pores is non-existent and your friends compliment you on your “tan.”
Born and raised in Central Massachusetts, Lisa Millette became passionate about ecological farming while working for the UMass Extension Farm. Following her passion, Lisa ventured down south to be a part of the 2012-2013 Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) cohort. Previously, Lisa worked for a small non-profit in Central Massachusetts installing raised bed gardens for residents. She thrives working (and often singing) in the garden alongside the youth and community of Project GROWS. Lisa received a BS from the University of Massachusetts in 2010 through the Bachelor’s Degree of Individual Concentration program and Permaculture Design Certification from the Shenandoah Permaculture Institute in 2013. In her spare time, you can find Lisa riding her bicycle and/or drinking a chai latte.
Allegheny Mountain Institute Fellows, 2014:
Susanna Byrd and Roger Woo
Erin Botkin (Valley Community Services Board) – Chair
Laura Bon Cash (Augusta Health)
Lisa Dunn (Valley Social Services) – Treasurer
Steve Grande (Mary Baldwin College)
Melissa Orndorff Stephens (Office on Youth)
Chris Pokrana (Application Development & Product Management for Nonprofits)
Nell Desmond (Consultant) –
Tony Davenport (VA Dept. of Corrections)
Damon Strickland (Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center)
Members of Project GROWS committees:
To be updated 2015
Help us GROW!
You may have years of experience growing produce, cooking healthy meals, or working on a farm. Maybe you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support our programming. Either way, we encourage you to get involved. For more information, please contact jenna[at]projectgrows[dot]org or click below to donate