Founding Members of the
Central Virginia Agrarian Commons
Renard Turner is the co-owner and operator of Vanguard Ranch, a diversified farm business located in Louisa County just southeast of Gordonsville, Virginia. He and his wife, Chinette, founded the business in 2007 on land they had purchased, and have since raised pastured heritage kiko goats and organic heirloom vegetables for sale in local markets in Charlottesville. The goat meat is sold through the farm’s concession trailer, most frequently at live events held in collaboration with breweries and wineries, as well as at music festivals hosted by the Turners on property adjoining their farm.
Over the years, Turner has taken on many leadership positions, including president of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming, national secretary of The American Kiko Goat Association, board member of the Virginia State University College of Agriculture, and member of the Minority Farm Advisory Council under former secretary of agriculture Tom Vilsack. He is currently a team member of The Community Ownership Empowerment & Prosperity project of The Chesapeake Foodshed Network.
Duron Chavis started his career in community advocacy at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, where he founded the highly acclaimed Happily Natural Day festival, a grassroots supplement to the museum’s summer jazz concert that focuses on cultural awareness, health, wellness, and social change. In 2009, he launched the Richmond Noir Market, a Saturday farmers market targeting low-income communities located in what the USDA has designated as food deserts. Three years later, he developed a community garden, which subsequently led to the development of urban farms, orchards, and vineyards, and to work in poverty mitigation, workforce development, health, and racial equity. Presently Chavis is engaged in coordinating innovative, dynamic, and culturally relevant initiatives around urban agriculture and local food systems.
In 2011, Chavis served as a Clean Air Ambassador on behalf of Earthjustice and the Hip Hop Caucus. He is an alumni of Leadership Metro Richmond’s class of 2011, received Style Weekly’s Top 40 under 40 award in 2010, and was included on the Style Weekly Power List in 2014 and 2015. Chavis served as the inaugural director of the Harding Street Urban Ag Center, a recreation center repurposed into an indoor farm by Virginia State University.
Nikki D’Adamo-Damery serves as the Community Coordinator for the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust. She has a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Duke University and an M.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and Sociology with a certificate in Social Justice from Iowa State University. Nikki grew up in the Richmond area and has worked on community development and justice issues in Arkansas, Alabama, Northern Ireland, Iowa, and central Appalachia.
Michael Carter, Jr. is an eleventh generation American/farmer, and is the fifth generation to farm on Carter Farms, his family’s century-old farm in Orange County, Virginia, where he gives workshops on how to grow and market ethnic vegetables. With Virginia State University, he is the Small Farm Resource Center Coordinator for the Small Farm Outreach Program. As a cliometrician, curriculum developer, and program coordinator for his educational, cultural, and vocational platforms, Hen Asem (Our Story) and Africulture, he teaches and expounds on the contributions of Africans and African Americans to agriculture worldwide and trains students, educators, and professionals in African cultural understanding, empathy, and implicit bias recognition.
Carter is the Small Farm Resource Center Coordinator for the Small Farm Outreach Program at VSU and sits on the board of directors at the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers and Virginia Foodshed Capital. He also serves as the state coordinator for the Black Church Food Security Network and the food safety coordinator for the Six State Farm to Table organization. He acquired an agricultural economics degree from North Carolina A&T State University and has worked in Ghana, Kenya, and Israel as an agronomist and organic agricultural consultant.
“It is a rare blessing,” says Callie Walker, “to inherit land and a house, with no debt or monthly payments. For me, it is also a responsibility and a calling to find others who will nurture the land itself, the food it can grow and the people it can feed.” Callie has had thoughts like these for nearly 30 years, probably because her father was forever asking his kids how they would use the land. Callie and her husband, Dan, are big on things like hunger relief, environmental limits, and lifestyles that can be equitable for all humanity—in a word, downscaling. The Walkers are also influenced by the work of Heifer International, and their observations that the global average size of a “farm” is less than one acre, that smallholdings get far better management than large-holdings, and that land produces more food through hand tools than mechanization. The Walkers hope to see a neighborhood of food growers develop on the land they are donating to the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons. Callie says, “It is a dream we would not have been able to live into on our own. We are incredibly grateful to Agrarian Trust and the Central Virginia Agrarian Commons for partnering with us to let this land serve more people.”