April 27, 2016

Board of Directors

President: Michael David Jenkins was raised in Independence, Virginia. After graduating from Grayson County High School in 1989 he attended Emory and Henry College where he earned a B.A. in Spanish and English. During this time he also attended La Universidad de San Juan Evangelista in Madrid, Spain. Afterward, he attended Virginia Polytechnic and State University where he earned a Masters of Arts in Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction. Upon graduating from Virginia Tech, he began his teaching career in Stokes County, NC as a Spanish teacher. He leads student and adult groups to Costa Rica, Perú, and Western Europe to experience cultural diversity, history, and current environmental conservation practices, eco-tourism opportunities, and alternative energy efforts.

In addition to his teaching profession, Michael opened in 2003 and still operates with his husband, Matthew Greene, Ward Manor Events Venue on the family farm. Being the shepherd of this Bicentennial Farm is his joy. He eagerly awaits the arrival of his retirement when he may be afforded the opportunity to more enjoy his hobbies of vegetable and flower gardening, and looks forward, at that time, to being a regular vendor at the Independence Farmers Market.

Vice president: Katie Monday graduated from Radford University in May of 2020 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Communication Studies. She served as President of the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences as well as the founder of Shelter Animal Advocates RU. After graduation, her goal was to meet
people where they were and help them in anyway she could. Since April of 2022, Katie has worked as a Community Health Worker for the Virginia Department of Health.

Through marketing, outreach, and events, she serves as a liaison between the community and health department resources. In her spare time, Katie enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and three fur babies.

Secretary: Ann Watson is originally from Northern California where she attended the University of California at Davis, earning a BS in anthropology. Following graduation, she stayed in town to join a cooperative restaurant modeled after the Moosewood collective. It was there that she was introduced to the joys of preparing and serving organic locally sourced foods. While a career dream of joining the Leakey Foundation in Africa was never realized, she did travel east to train for her second vocation in health care.  Motivated to eventually serve a rural community, Ann attended the Physician Assistant (PA) program at Duke. Upon graduation, she was privileged to embark on a 36 year career in Family Medicine in Grayson and Alleghany (NC) counties. She commuted back to Durham as a working mom to complete her Master’s degree in  Health Science.in 1996. 

Ann married a local mixed practice veterinarian, Bill DeBord, in 1988. Farm calls together provided a unique picture of a transitioning local economy. It also gave her an opportunity to meet many long-term residents and to come to appreciate the land in a new way. They raised beef cattle and two sons together until Bill’s death in 2001. Dan is now a commercial lobsterman living on a small island off the coast of Maine. He hopes to pursue an interest in aqua- culture in the future, combining his farming heritage with a love of the sea. His older brother Will is a Public Defender in Fredericksburg Virginia. Both are fairly tolerant of visits from mom. 

Ann is a member of the Church of the Good Shepherd and enjoyed the First Friday Film series events offered there. She is active in the Grayson Permaculture group, and as a recent retiree, is excited to have time to volunteer now with Food Independence as well as the Free Market. While a haphazard gardener at best, she appreciates those who do so more successfully and is happy to buy their produce at the Farmer’s Market. Ann enjoys reading and travel and is honored to serve on the GLC board. 

Director: Michelle Pridgen grew up in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. She earned a BA in East Asian Studies from UNC-CH and an AA in General Agriculture from NCSU. She worked as an extension technician doing vegetable research and as part of the horticultural team at WRAL while living in Raleigh. Michelle and her husband Don bought land in Grayson County in 1984 that would become Windyhill Farm. They formed Windyhill Logworks and traveled the country building log homes for 20 years. She has served as secretary for Grayson LandCare and was hired as Director in 2020. Michelle has been the manager of the Independence Farmers Market since 2013. She continues in that position and grows produce and flowers for the Market.

Her goal is to help increase the success of local agriculture. To that end she serves on various boards and has worked with Blue Ridge Woodland growers and Appalachian Sustainable Development’s Herb Hub to determine the feasibility of woodland medicinals.

Treasurer: Kevin Strawn grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida where everyone’s dream was to retire to the mountains. After a career in information technology at Duke Energy and a follow up career teaching high school math, he is living the dream. Kevin and his wife Mary Nell McPherson moved to Grayson County in March, 2020. He spends his time maintaining a small apple orchard, raspberry canes, and 9 acres of hay fields, and fly fishing the waters of SWVA.

After graduating from Furman University with a BS in Math/Computer Science Kevin moved to
Charlotte, NC. In 1987, young and foolish, he and Mary Nell bought 48 acres at the foot of Point Lookout
Mountain. It became the farm they never named, a home for his retired parents, and the getaway often
visited. Kevin served as an ordained elder at Covenant Presbyterian Church, was a frequent volunteer at
Habitat for Humanity, and served as chair of the Charlotte advisory board of the Self Help Credit Union.
As a teacher, Kevin joined the NC Association of Educators and served 6 years on the board of the local
Charlotte Mecklenburg chapter, including 4 years as the treasurer. In Grayson, Kevin is attends the

Church of the Good Shepherd, volunteers at Food Independence, and sings with the Highland Camerata.
Kevin would be happy to take you fishing anytime.

At-Large: Meagan Helmick was raised in a small rural village in west Michigan whose claim to fame was the Annual Drive Your Tractor to School Day and Maple Syrup Festival every April. She graduated from Liberty University with a BS in Health Promotion and an MPH in Nutrition. She went on to work at a health system in Central Virginia before beginning her PhD at Virginia Tech. She followed her advisor to Omaha, Nebraska in 2016 and graduated with a PhD in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where her dissertation was focused on food insecurity and the emergency food network. She currently works as the COVID-19 Epidemiologist for the Mt Rogers Health District.

Meagan has lived in the Twin Counties full time since 2018, but has been a part time resident since 2012. She has been active in various non-profits in the area, including God’s Storehouse in Galax, the Medical Reserve Corps where she serves as a county captain for Galax and Grayson. She is a member of Christ Chapel and pretends to garden.  Which actually means she tells her husband what she wants to have in a garden, and then he does all the work. She and her husband have been part of Grayson LandCare for 4 years. Her family includes her husband Ches, and their two mastiffs Mya (Me-ah) and Warren. Their goal is to buy 100 acres in Grayson County and live off their land. 

At large-John Alexander grew up on a small farm in Rockbridge County, Virginia outside of the little town of Fairfield. Like all small farms in the 50s, it was a learning lab on self-sufficiency. He attended Virginia Tech for one year in 1969 where he majored in Forestry. He married his wonderful high school sweetheart, Susan McGuffin, and joined the Navy two days later where he served as a Communications Technician. Upon discharge he and his wife Susan
attended Berea College where he learned the art and craft of broom making which he does to this day. The experience at Berea where every student receives a full tuition scholarship instilled a lifelong desire to help others to succeed.

Returning to Rockbridge County, John worked in the local school system as a second grade
teacher and then principal. During this time he attended James Madison University and received
his M Ed. Degree in Administration. In 1980 John left education to work for the Presbyterian
Home for Children as its director. In 1996, John became the director of the Presbyterian
Children’s Home in Wytheville for 4 years.

Returning to the field of education, John began to work for Grayson County Schools in 1999.
He has served as a teacher and principal and now as a mentor for new principals. John retired in 2019

He now volunteers with Food Independence, Matthew’s Historical Farm, and Grayson
County Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. He continues to be active in the area of
Appalachian crafts teaching classes at Radford University, the local library, and upon invitation
to other galleries and schools.

At Large-Casey Johnson is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist who studied Urban Forestry and Arboriculture at Penn State. He spent the first 12 years of his career in commercial and residential tree care. Casey worked throughout the mid-Atlantic and about 10 years in the Savannah/Hilton Head area. In 2020, Casey began working for the Virginia Department of Corrections and now helps manage greenhouses, produce operations, and orchards in SW VA. 2020 also saw the beginning of planning and installation of the DOC orchard at the River North Correctional Center in Independence. Currently, the orchard at River North is home to 4000 apple trees.

Past President: Kathy Cole

Kathy Cole grew up in the Fairview community of Grayson County and went to Emory & Henry for a BA in Psychology. While working at the Salem VA Hospital, she got her MA in Psychology from Hollins College and then moved to Eugene for a PhD from the University of Oregon. Her career with Veterans Health Administration spanned 30 years, half as a clinical psychologist at Salem and the rest at a national employee education center in Cleveland, OH, focused on leadership training.

On retirement, Kathy moved back to Galax and volunteered with Chestnut Creek School of the Arts, the Crossroads Institute and the Galax Downtown Association. In 2017, she moved to Independence where she served as President of Grayson LandCare for several years and started the Free Market, a long-time dream that has now become a reality. Instead of tossing usable items into the landfill, citizens can bring them there and a dedicated team of volunteers will sort, clean and display them for people who can use them. Over the last six years, we have diverted several tons from the landfill and saved the county those tipping fees. The Free Market also offers household items to agency clients who are starting over, for whatever reason; and a Medical Lending Library where people in need of walkers, wheelchairs, etc. can sign them out for as long as needed. Items that would make nice gifts are saved for the annual Christmas Gift Shop, where families can choose gifts for others. There is never a charge for anything; but our generous customers give us enough donations to meet our utility bills.

Founder &  Ex Officio Member: Charlotte Hanes graduated from East Carolina University where she was a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society. She was a practicing physical therapist at NC Memorial Hospital, Chapel Hill and Methodist Hospital in Houston.  Charlotte became Director of the Physical Therapy Department at A.P. Memorial Hospital, Reidsville, NC in 1978 and a partner with Rockingham Orthopedic Associates in 1981.

She is currently president and CEO of River Ridge Cattle Company, a 1500-acre farm located along the New River in southwest Virginia’s Grayson County specializing in naturally raised beef and organic berries.  The farm serves as a demonstration of livestock production for the region’s cattle farmers and is an on-going research partner with Virginia Tech.

Charlotte is a founder of Grayson LandCare, which originated in Australia and is now in over 14 countries around the world.  She is also a board member of Rachel’s Network, www.rachelsnetwork.org., a national organization located in Washington, DC, dedicated to creating a network of women conservation funders and to be an influential voice for the environment.

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