Harrisonburg Chamber honors community business leaders

The Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual membership meeting and awards ceremony Thursday at the JMU Festival Conference & Student Center. During the ceremony, the Chamber honored two restaurateurs, and a local farm family that is dedicated to sustainable farming practices.

2010 Entrepreneur of the Year

Aaron Ludwig, owner of Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint, was the recipient of the Chamber’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year award. Jack Brown’s opened in downtown Harrisonburg in April 2009 and has become one of Harrisonburg’s most popular hotspots.

Ludwig has a great understanding and appreciation for his customer base, and he reaches out to them through social media. “His unique approach to marketing has helped Aaron create a fun and vibrant dining destination downtown,” said Josh Hale, 2011 Chair of the HR Chamber of Commerce. “Urged by his customers to expand, Aaron will open a new eatery downtown called Billy Jack’s Wing & Draft Shack.” It is scheduled to open in April 2011.

2010 Business Person of the Year

“The Chamber honored Dave Miller, owner of Dave’s Downtown Taverna for his efforts to promote downtown Harrisonburg as a dining destination,” said Tom Mendez, Past Chair of the Chamber of Commerce. Miller is the first person in the history of the Chamber to receive this award after previously receiving the Chamber’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2004.

The Business Person of the Year is someone who has grown his or her company and also given back to the community. Dave has been in the restaurant business for more than 30 years. He has built a locally recognized and appreciated brand. Yet, he strives for even more – success for his business partners, neighboring eateries, and for the opportunity to put downtown Harrisonburg on the map.

2010 Farm Family Stewardship Award

Agriculture is the number one industry in Rockingham based on gross sales. The Chamber recognizes the role that agriculture plays in our community by honoring a family that is dedicated to taking care of their farm and the environment.

This year’s winner of the Farm Family Stewardship award is the Witmer Family of Grazeland Dairy. “Their unique farming methods combined with environmental stewardship has enabled Grazeland Dairy to be a viable family business,” said Scot Lilly, representative of Farm Credit of the Virginias.

Grazeland Dairy, located in Ottobine, has been in the Witmer family for more than 40 years. In 2008, the farm became a certified organic dairy. “We use rotational grazing, which allows the cattle to harvest their own feed rather than using equipment and additional labor,” said Philip Witmer, owner of the farm. “What led us to consider organic production was the understanding that consumers are seeking organic products,” he continued.

The Witmer family is currently in Colombia on a two-year church mission trip. Duane Witmer, farm manager of Grazeland Dairy, accepted the award on the family’s behalf.

In addition to these awards, the Chamber also awarded Janice “Bonnie” Moyers an honorary lifetime membership in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce. Bonnie has been involved in the Chamber for more than 30 years. She has served on various committees, sub-committees and task forces throughout the years, and most recently served as the Chamber’s 2009 Chair of its Board of Directors.

“Bonnie has more than demonstrated her commitment to the Chamber of Commerce and the greater community through her professional and personal actions,” said Frank Tamberrino, president of the HR Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to have her as a lifetime member that we can learn and grow from.”

Edited by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at freepress2@ntelos.net.

augusta free press news