Tom Brenneman '92, shown here in 2016 working with Eastern Mennonite University's student-run Sustainable Food Initiative in his leadership role at The Farm at Willow Run, has been named executive director of the educational nonprofit organization Project GROWS. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

Tom Brenneman ’92 to lead Project GROWS agricultural education nonprofit

Project GROWS announced Thursday the hire of Tom Brenneman ’92 as its new executive director. Brenneman will start on the job on Monday, Jan. 20.

“We are thrilled to have Tom come on board,” Project GROWS Board President James Goalder said in a press release. “Tom’s experience and qualifications made him an easy choice and we can’t wait to see everything he accomplishes.”

Project GROWS is a non-profit, educational farm for youth on four acres in the Central Shenandoah Valley. The mission is to improve the health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro and Augusta County through garden-based food education and extending access to local and nutritious food.

The non-profit offers field trips to school groups, several healthy food incentive programs and Farm to School tastings in local school cafeterias.

With the help of volunteers, Project GROWS cultivates four acres of fruit and vegetable production emphasizing ecological practices. Produce from the farm travels into the community through Community Supported Agriculture shares, partnerships with public  schools and local restaurants, and finally through individual sales made at farmer’s markets situated in underserved communities.

A 1992 graduate with a degree in social work, Brenneman has retained close ties to Eastern Mennonite University in various ways, including as an adjunct professor in the pre-law program designing and teaching a class on child welfare and juvenile justice. With professors at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP), he has also collaborated on projects addressing migration in the Sonoran borderlands and in work with 3D Human Security, an organization formerly based at CJP that encouraged U.S. government agencies to protect humanitarian space while embracing conflict prevention and peacebuilding principles. 

More recently, Brenneman worked with the student-run Sustainable Food Initiative in his leadership role at The Farm at Willow Run, which is owned by Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. He runs a four-acre, farm-to-table program serving 1,600 meals daily.

Students with the Sustainable Food Initiative at EMU harvest vegetables at The Farm at Willow Run. (Photo by Michael Sheeler)

“I’m very excited to come on board to work with the amazing staff and board of Project GROWS,” Brenneman said. “I’m the one who is excited to see where we GROW as a team with the amazing  work underway and the strength of Project GROWS’ mission and impact! I’m humbled to share in this opportunity and eager to join as a member of the team in this new season of growing, learning and community impact with Project GROWS.”

Join the Discussion on “Tom Brenneman ’92 to lead Project GROWS agricultural education nonprofit

  1. Just a little tidbit from a proud momma.

    My daughter, Madelyn (Cooper) Arbaugh, ‘13 BSN, as part of EMU’s selection for Star Senior Nursing Student, co-wrote the curriculum for Project Grows, middle school edition, along with the JMU Star Senior Nursing student. Our family formerly lived in Augusta County and it was exciting to watch the farm grown from a little garden patch to what it is today. I wish you much success in your new position.

  2. Congratulations, Tom! And thanks for all the wonderful vegetables VMRC feeds us – you’re helping us get our vitamins!

  3. now…..if you’d just add some goats to your farm – they’d keep the grass down, you know, and add much to the Fun on the Farm!

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