We are excited to feature the outgoing and personable Charlie Brady as this month’s member spotlight! Charlie has been the Executive Director at Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) for just over a year. Before working at BRC, Charlie practiced law for nearly 30 years. Towards the later years of his law career, he did legal work for land conservancies, land acquisitions, and other resource conservation groups. Charlie grew up immersed in land conservation as his family was very passionate about clean water resources. This exposure at a young age has stuck with him to where he is today.
Charlie became a member last spring and is very active in the BRWIA community. He attends as many events as he can, and he particularly enjoyed the past farm tour and food hub open house. Charlie attends the events because he wants BRC and himself to support BRWIA’s work. He appreciates the mutual support between the nonprofits.
Charlie sees a connection between Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and Blue Ridge Conservancy's work. Part of BRC’s mission is to work with willing landowners to protect land and water quality; agricultural resources are apart of that land protection emphasis. BRC has protected a lot of farmland with conservation easements which are designed to protect the conservation value to keep the land as a farm. This helps preserves the land as family farms and as scenic farmland viewsheds.
Charlie’s experience with BRWIA has encouraged him to get more involved with in the local food system. He passionately encourages others to become members of Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture. Charlie says "the work BRWIA is doing is very relevant and important to a broad spectrum of the people in our community".
This month's member spotlight is the inspiring, Melinda Brown, owner and operator of Never Ending Farm. Melinda farms 10 acres in Vilas where she raises pigs to sell to small-scale pork producers. She got her first pig when someone left a pig in a gas station as a joke. The owner of the gas station did not know what to do, so he called Melinda. She helped catch the pig and took it home with her where she raised it. That was her first pig, and from then on she started raising better quality pigs. Melinda also grows and cans nearly all her own vegetables. She jokingly describes her canned food "almost like fast food, but it's good food."
Melinda is the recipient of BRWIA's Direct-to-Farmer and Mary Boyer Sustainable Food and Agriculture Grant. She explains that "without the grants that I received from Blue Ridge Women in Ag, I would not have been able to continue my farming on the level that I do." She appreciates how BRWIA promotes workshops, does farm tours throughout the year, and all the resources and knowledge they offer on different aspects of farming and gardening.
She considers herself a self-taught farmer and believes it's important to encourage people to simplify their lifestyles and to (re)learn how to cook. Melinda is passionate about creating a local food system that supports a healthy community. She encourages people to start a garden even if it's tiny. Melinda is thankful for the support she has received from Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, and we are grateful for the leadership she brings to the High Country!