Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit

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Keynote Speakers

Jewel Bronaugh, Virginia’s 16th Commissioner of Agriculture

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In April 2018, Governor Ralph Northam appointed Dr. Jewel H. Bronaugh as the 16th Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Dr. Bronaugh most recently served as the Executive Director of the Center of Agriculture Research, Engagement and Outreach (CAREO) at Virginia State University. In her leadership of CAREO, she assisted in expanding the impact of the 1890 Land Grant mission of VSU and provided oversight of the Agricultural Research and Extension Divisions. She previously served as the Virginia State Executive Director for the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA), where she was appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, in July 2015.  The FSA State Executive Director is the highest ranking full-time FSA program administrator in the State. In her role with FSA, she provided oversight for critical production stabilization, price support, compliance, farm loan, conservation, environmental, and emergency assistance programs in Virginia. She was responsible for the supervision of 41 field offices and the State FSA Office, comprising 186 employees. Dr. Bronaugh is the first African American female in the nation to serve in this capacity.

Prior to being appointed to FSA, she served as the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU) for 5 years, where she led the strategic vision for the Extension and Research divisions and the academic departments of Agriculture, Family and Consumer Sciences, and Hospitality Management. In her earlier career at VSU, she was the Associate Administrator of Cooperative Extension and a 4-H Youth Development Specialist, where she developed and delivered programs that addressed issues of bullying among today’s youth.

Duron Chavis, Manager of Community Engagement, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden


Duron Chavis started his career in community advocacy first as a volunteer and later as an employee of the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. He worked as a museum coordinator developing programs and conducting guided tours for groups of all ages and backgrounds. In 2003 he founded the highly acclaimed Happily Natural Day festival as a grassroots effort to supplement the summer jazz concert that was held annually at the institution. The festival is a weekend-long experience focusing on cultural identity for people of African ancestry, holistic health, wellness and social change.

In 2009 Duron launched the Richmond Noir Market, a Saturday pop-up farmer’s market targeting low-income communities located in what the USDA has designated as food deserts in Richmond, VA. In 2012 he developed McDonough Community Garden and began transforming green spaces throughout the Richmond region into urban gardens, farms, orchards, and vineyards. He served as one of 40 community facilitator’s for dialogues on concentrated poverty throughout the Richmond region on behalf of Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, which paved the way for the development of the city of Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building. He served on both the Food Policy Task Force as well as Anti-Poverty Taskforce for the City of Richmond and participated as a member of the inaugural Citizen’s Advisory Board for the Office of Community Wealth Building.

Duron has received numerable accolades for his work. He served in 2011 as a Clean Air Ambassador on behalf of Earthjustice and the Hip Hop Caucus. He received Style Weekly’s Top 40 under 40 award in 2010 and is an alumnus of Leadership Metro Richmond’s class of 2011, and the Style Weekly Power List in 2014 and 2015. Duron served as the inaugural director of the Harding Street Urban Ag Center, a recreation center repurposed into an indoor farm by the Virginia Cooperative Extension program at VSU. In 2017, Duron was honored by the Richmond Times-Dispatch as a Person of the Year.

As Manager of Community Engagement at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Duron coordinates innovative and dynamic initiatives around the topics of urban agriculture and food security in a culturally relevant way. Duron administrates the Ginter Urban Gardener program, a 12-week, neighborhood-centric community greening training and cultivates collaboration and partnership for the creation and sustainability of public green spaces through Beautiful RVA, a cross-sector, multi-disciplinary social movement dedicated to creating a more beautiful Richmond Region.

Shelley Blades, Farm Manager and Executive Director, Lynchburg Grows

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Shelley Blades is the Farm Manager and Executive Director of Lynchburg Grows. She oversees all aspects of the farm's operation as well as the organization as a whole. Her experience includes health promotion, working with people with disabilities, and managing urban agriculture programs. She previously worked at the Harlem Children's Zone, a charter school network and nonprofit that was founded in the 1970s to help children in impoverished areas of the city. Shelley first started as a part-time employee, until one of her supervisors suggested she transit to the organization's garden coordinator. It was a case, Shelley says, of someone knowing her better than she knew herself.

At the Harlem Children's Zone, Shelley wrote a gardening curriculum, worked with teachers and students, and implemented seven different courtyard/school gardens across the city. With a degree in Health Promotions obtained at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, Shelley reckons that is she could have it her way, everyone would eat radishes rolled in butter and sprinkled with salt.

Shelley grew up on a pig farm in North Carolina but it wasn't until she wound up in New York City, of all places, that she found her niche in the garden. After two years working at Harlem Children's Zone, she and her husband moved back to Lynchburg—this time for good, she says. She began teaching nutrition through the Virginia Cooperative Extension and got involved with the Lynchburg Area Food Council. It was during a Food Council event that Shelley got a lead on her current gig. After an October screening of a film about food deserts, she overheard Lynchburg Grows' former farm manager, Hieu Tran, tell someone he was leaving the organization. It couldn't have come at a better time. Shelley, who still was working for the Cooperative Extension, says she was ready for a change. She had missed having her hands in the dirt.

Shelley and her husband are part of “the movement of people our age” trying to have their backyard gardens. Through this model, they hope to help as many people who don't have access to food.

Curtis Moody, Moody Street Garden, Newport News, VA


Curtis Moody is the Community Garden Coordinator, Moody Street Urban Garden, located in Newport News, VA. Mr. Moody is a native of Halifax, Virginia and is the fourth of five children born to the Reverend Fountain Cornell Moody Jr. and Margaret Gregory Moody.

Curtis grew up in Red Oak, Virginia on a 400-acre farm. The family grew tobacco, corn, wheat, soybean, different fruit trees and other crops. These crops were used for feed and farm function support for the various livestock including chickens, swine, cattle, goats, rabbits and horses. In the family garden were greens, carrots, peas, potatoes, grapes, beans, onions, sweet corn and much more. The yard was filled with trees, shrubs, and a colorful array of flowering annuals and perennials. Product from the farm was harvested for market sales or packaged and given to the needy in the community. Curtis was the farm manager for their family farm.

As a teen, Curtis was active in church, played trumpet in his high school’s marching and concert band. He was the star cornerback for the Randolph Henry High School Statesmen football team, served as manager of his family’s farm and was active in 4-H, winning blue ribbons in live-stock and produce shows, having the best tribe at camp, competing in business conferences and competing at 4-H Congress. According to Curtis “4-H developed competitive edge.”

After graduation from high-school Curtis attended Virginia State University majoring in Engineering. He withdrew in his third years after realizing that the sudden death of his brother had taken a major toll on his mental and emotional health. Following his withdrawal from school, Curtis moved to the Washington, DC area to pursue a career in the financial industry. He realized that the same principals used for success in 4-H could be used to in his professional life. He became a top producer and a highly successful manager. However, his passion for agriculture, working with youth and his personal growth lead him back to Chesterfield, Virginia in 2008 where he could be closer to the family farm and family.

In 2010, Curtis reentered Virginia State University to study Plant and Soil Science. In May 2013, he received a B.S. Degree in Agriculture Studies.After graduation, he served as a volunteer, teaching garden skills to youth in the community at local grade schools in Newport News, Virginia. To sharpen his skills, Curtis returned to VSU and completed the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate Program in 2018. He anticipates that the next level of his life’s goals is to build a full service agricultural based Christian K-12 academy, retreat camp and conference center.


If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, please contact Mollie Klein ( or call (804) 524-5960 / TDD (800) 828-1120 during business hours of 8 am. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations five days prior to the event.

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