Meet Our Team

Board of Directors

President: James Goalder,
Bloomerang Nonprofit Software

Immediate Past President:
Nell Desmond,
Mary Baldwin University

Treasurer: Grace Schultz, FNP,
Carilion Clinic Family Medicine

Tony Davenport, VA Department of Corrections
David Geiman, Consultant – Agriculture Management
Damon Strickland, Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center
Deborah Bundy-Carpenter, RN, Central Shenandoah Health District
Shana Meganck, Ph.D., James Madison University
Sophie Lambert, the Urban Land Institute


Past Directors / Advisors

Jenna Clarke Piersol
Ryan Blosser
Erin Botkin
Chef Laura Bon Cash
Steve Grande
Wendy Gray
Melissa Orndorff Stephens


Courtney Cranor

Courtney Cranor

Interim Executive Director

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Courtney has called the Shenandoah Valley home since moving to Staunton in 2007 and has served on the Project GROWS board since 2016, recently taking a leave of absence to serve as Intertim Executive Director. With a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, her diverse background includes non-profit, governmental, and private sector work including Economic Development & Tourism, Public Relations, Marketing, Real Estate, Education, and Restaurant & Retail Management.

When not running around town acquiring funding for Project GROWS, Courtney can be found listening to live music, experiencing local foods while traveling, or working on something creative in her always under renovation hundred year old house.

Email Courtney

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
Hmmm…I guess I’d be an onion. I can be sweet and mild or bold and strong. And I have many layers!

What do you love about farming?
Everything! The importance of soil maintenance and regenerative agriculture. Food systems and removing barriers to access. The nutritional and health maintenance aspects. And culinary applications…how that’s tied to personal enjoyment and community!

Laura Smith

Laura Smith

Farm Manager

Laura grew up in the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia. While studying Spanish at James Madison University, she discovered her passion for farming. After college, Laura moved to the Midwest to begin her career as a vegetable farmer. Laura spent three years working on a certified-organic vegetable farm and five months backpacking through Latin America before returning to Virginia to connect her passion and farming skills to communities in the Valley. Laura continued her journey farming and apprenticing with seasoned farmers until she joined the Project GROWS team as Farm Manager in the spring of 2017.

Most days Laura can be found on the farm working with our crew and volunteers, covered in dirt, and munching on veggies. When she is not on the farm, she enjoys exploring new swimming holes and playing fetch with her naughty Siamese cat.

Email Laura

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
A sugar snap pea – they are the most whimsical plants on the farm. Their curly tendrils and the way they twist and climb make the pea beds the most magical place on the farm. If there are fairies at Project GROWS, they’re definitely inhabiting the pea plants.

What do you love about farming?
I love that farming is truly dynamic. I enjoy the challenging, physical aspect of farm work as well as the community that we are building around local food. Farming has given me the opportunity to combine many of my interests and skills into one career path – all roads lead to farming!

Nichole Barrows

Nichole Barrows

Education Manager

Nichole is a transplant to the Shenandoah Valley from Virginia Beach and after ten years is happy to call it home. After graduating with her BA in English and Master of Arts in Teaching from James Madison University, Nichole spent three years teaching eighth grade English in Harrisonburg, one summer backpacking with Camp Woolman teenagers on the Pacific Crest Trail near Lake Tahoe, and two years as the children’s education coordinator at the Edith J. Carrier Arboretum. Having originally connected with Project GROWS as a teacher through on-farm field trips, she joined the Project GROWS team in 2018.

Always delighted to learn a new tree or bird name, Nichole’s passion lies in connecting young people to the outdoors and to local food production. In her free time you can find her milking cows and chasing calves at the Family Cow Project, a collectively owned cow-calf operation in Harrisonburg.

Email Nichole

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
Like a sweet potato, sometimes I enjoy working on projects for a long time “underground” before the world gets to see them!

What do you love about farming?
Farming gets you “up close and personal” to the seasons of year—the anticipation and green of spring, the heat and hard work of summer, the bounty and color of fall, and the slowness and chill of winter. I’m fascinated by the seasonal parallels we see reflected in the progression of a day from dawn to midnight; the timeline of a human life from birth to death; and the life cycle of a plant from seed to compost. We have so much to learn from the land!

Megan Townley

Megan Townley

Food Access Manager

Megan comes from the beautiful state of Oregon, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health at Oregon State University. During her time at OSU she discovered her passion for the environment, nutrition, and the food system. Megan moved to Virginia in 2017 where she worked as a nutritionist assistant for WIC and her passion for food access grew stronger. In January of 2018 she found Project GROWS and started her journey as the team’s Food Access Manager.

Megan is often found managing the Farmer’s Markets, but she can also be found helping out on the farm and in the local schools. When she is not working, Megan enjoys cooking, hiking with her dog Moose, and exploring her new hometown in Harrisonburg, VA.

Email Megan

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
I would be a mushroom native to the Pacific Northwest, growing on the mossy floor of a pine tree in the Oregon mountains. Mushrooms indicate healthy soil for trees and other plants to grow in. They also love the rain, the forest, and the mountains just like me.

What do you love about farming?
I love being a part of the process! From seed to vegetable, from farm to table, from season to season, from beginning to end. Growing food for myself and my community gives me purpose and connects me to nature.

John McCray

John McCray

Development Manager

A Loudoun County native, John was raised in a family with deep ties to the earth and empathy for those less fortunate. Both of these values eventually manifested themselves in a varied career in public service while pursuing his education in Public Service and Nonprofit Management. John moved to the Valley in 2013 and in 2017 he graduated with his Master’s of Public Administration, Nonprofit Management from James Madison University.

When not actively trying to save the world through food justice, John likes riding bikes, camping, and hiking.

Email John

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
A Sweet Potato! Sweet potatoes are so willing to be amazing no matter how you want to serve them. Some savory sweet potato fries or a delicious sweet potato pie, there’s no wrong way to go!

What do you love about farming?
I love the way that farming connects people, both through the final product and the process. My grandparents grew up on farms in Georgia, and despite whatever generational differences come with living through different times/cultural shifts, it’s always been something we can appreciate and bond over. Farming is inherently rich in cultural heritage and experiences that simply can’t be communicated or replicated in any other way.


Clara Metzler

Clara Metzler

Assistant Farm Manager

Clara was born and raised in the Shenandoah Valley. Following high school, she moved to the Pacific Northwest where she lived for several years honing her barista skills and exploring glacier lakes. Following a backpacking stint in India and Nepal trying every variation of curry and momos she could, Clara returned to the valley and completed her BA in Sociology with a concentration in Nutritional Science from Bridgewater College in December 2017. While at Bridgewater College, Clara’s passion for food justice as well as local and sustainable food systems was nurtured and ultimately led her to Project GROWS.

When she’s not at the farm, Clara spends her time experimenting in the kitchen while listening to podcasts, playing frisbee with her pup Ginger, and spending time with family and friends – preferably outdoors!

Email Clara

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
Green beans! They remind me of summertime meals at my Grandma’s house. Freshly harvested and sautéed with garlic (runner up in the favorite veggie race), I can’t think of anything more satisfying to my tastebuds!

What do you love about farming?
Food! No farming, no food – and what a sad and impossible world that would be. More personally, farming provides me the opportunity to view the food system from beyond a consumer standpoint; by taking an active role in food production, I am constantly reminded of the time, care, and hard work that goes into growing the food that nurtures our bodies and minds.

Freddy Carruth

Freddy Carruth

Education Assistant | 2019 Phase II Fellow, Allegheny Mountain Institute

Freddy grew up in the small Appalachian town of Lewisburg, West Virginia, and the big coastal city of Charleston, South Carolina. At Clemson University, Freddy received his B.S. in Plant and Environmental Sciences, with a concentration in Agricultural Biotechnology. While at Clemson he met colleagues and mentors who would spark his interest in organic and holistic farming. After working on research with the USDA in Charleston and large-scale beekeeping in Utah, Freddy moved to Highland County to participate in the Allegheny Mountain Institute Fellowship. Through AMI, Freddy joined Project GROWS as an Education Assistant.

In his spare time Freddy enjoys hiking, rock climbing, music, cooking, and many other activities that can bring people together and share experiences.

Email Freddy

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
If I were a vegetable I would be garlic. It adds a great flavor to any home cooked meal and I don’t like bloodsuckers.

What do you love about farming?
Studying farm practices in the classroom and on the farm has reshaped many of my views on the food industry. It is really hard to understand where food comes from without experiencing it first hand. Now, I truly appreciate knowing where my food comes from. I am able to understand and value the work, time, and passion that go into bringing good food to our tables. Farming incorporates so many disciplines that have been cultivated and nurtured. I will never cease to be amazed at how much individuals involved in farming put into mastering their craft. I consider every workshop and conversation an opportunity to expand my interests and love for farming.

Audrey Carter

Audrey Carter

Community Food Projects Coordinator | 2019 Phase II Fellow, Allegheny Mountain Institute

A native of Richmond, Virginia, Audrey has enjoyed time in a variety of underprivileged areas and has witnessed the effects of a systemized food culture. She hopes to become a well-rounded advocate for food equality and access.

Audrey brings experience in elementary and Deaf education, farm work, and animal husbandry to serve as Project GROWS’ Community Food Projects Coordinator.

Email Audrey

If you were a vegetable, what would you be?
Ginger. It’s sweet but spicy and is soothing to the belly. It is delicious and often accentuates the qualities of other flavors. I hope to be sweet and spicy and bring out the best in others, too!

What do you love about farming?
I enjoy challenging myself physically, being outside, and the rewarding feeling of watching things grow. As I continue to work in agriculture I hope to appreciate the history of this occupation and the effects of an ever changing culture. Also food. Love food.

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