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 is currently funded through a grant from Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth and a multi-year grant from Augusta Health.
W. Ryan Blosser
Title: Project GROWS Coordinator
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 Grew up in Waynesboro, VA. where he spent most of his time working at developing his basketball game with the hopes of playing in College. He achieved his dream of becoming a Division I college player when he attended Loyola College in Baltimore on scholarship. Frustrated with the dark side of being a student-athlete, Ryan left Loyola and moved to Hawaii with his wife Joy, where they discovered the natural world. Through surfing, Ryan felt a sense of rhythm he hadn’t harnessed before. Around this time, while studying creative writing as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii, Ryan discovered the work of Bill Mollison and Dave Holmgren in developing Permaculture. Wanting to, in the words of Wes Jackson, “find a place to become native to”, Ryan and his partner Joy returned to the Shenandoah Valley where they purchased 4 acres of land in Augusta County and established Dancing Star Farm. After years of Permaculture tinkering, Ryan finally got serious and received his Permaculture Design Certification in the Spring of 2011 through Harrisonburg’s New Community Project. Ryan Holds an MA, Ed.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from JMU and approaches Permaculture through the lens of community healing and social justice. He divides his time between Dancing Star Farm and working as coordinator for Project GROWS. He has a daughter named Kai Marley Blosser who joins Ryan in the garden whenever possible.
Title: Farm Manager
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.
Title: Asst. Coordinator of Marketing & Outreach – Fellow from Allegheny Mountain School
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! Full of healthy vitamins, adaptable to many cultures and cooking techniques, and just fun to be around.
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 that goes back for centuries all over the world.
A native of Richmond, Virginia, Jenna Clarke comes to Project Grows via a fellowship position with the Allegheny Mountain School, where she spent the last six months learning about sustainable food cultivation and community development. As part of that fellowship, Jenna will spend 2013 as Assistant Coordinator of Marketing and Outreach for Project Grows. 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, playing outside and dreaming up ideas for her next big adventure.
Title: Assistant Coordinator of Education and Programming – Fellow from Allegheny Mountain School
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.”
Lisa Millette originally hails from Massachusetts but ventured down south to be a part of the 2012-2013 Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) cohort. Up at the AMS farm site last summer, Lisa enjoyed expanding her agricultural knowledge and getting better acquainted with the outdoor Virginia and West Virginia wild. Previously, Lisa worked for a small non-profit in Central Massachusetts installing raised bed gardens for residents. She is excited to immerse herself in the work 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. In her spare time, you can find Lisa riding her bicycle and/or drinking a chai latte. Also, come join her pop-up yoga classes at the Project GROWS Farm!
Erin Botkin (Valley Community Services Board) – Media and outreach, fiscal agent liaison
Laura Bon Cash (Augusta Health) – Farm committee
Pat Caulkins (Boys and Girls Club) – chair, education and outreach committee
Lisa Dunn (Valley Social Services) – Treasurer, executive committee
Steve Grande (Mary Baldwin College) – Media and outreach
Tyrell Mcelroy (Boys and Girls Club) – President, executive committee
Melissa Orndorf (Office on Youth) – Education and outreach committee
Chris Pokrana (Application Development & Product Management for Nonprofits) – Media and outreach committee
Robin Swecker (Blue Ridge Area Food Bank) –Secretary, executive committee
Amber Vallotton (Virginia Cooperative Extension) – Chair-Farm committee
Members of Project GROWS committees:
Leah Pallant – Media and outreach
Beth Trainum – Media and outreach
We need your help! You may have years of experience growing produce, cooking healthy meals, or working on a farm. Maybe you would like to learn how to do these things for the first time. Either way, we encourage you to get involved and become a Project GROWS volunteer. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check here for more opportunities Join Us.
Click on our Seasonal Update to find out what’s coming up in the garden this week.