Augusta County native, third-generation Black-owned farm named 2023 Valley Treasure
Culture, Environment, Local

Augusta County native, third-generation Black-owned farm named 2023 Valley Treasure

Rebecca Barnabi
Courtesy of Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley.

Valley Treasures are opportunities to meet and recognize members of the community who work quietly to conserve the land, water and way of life in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley has chosen Augusta County’s Walter Brown of Arbor Hill for the 2023 Valley Treasure. Brown and his family have been on a nearly life-long journey to ensure the legacy of Hidden Springs Farm, the property owned and farmed by his grandfather and his father. Brown was born on the farm and he lives on the farm with his wife of 57 years, Joan.

The Browns started with a USDA easement to protect the powerful 300,000 gallons-per-day spring on the property for which the farm is named. Then the farm earned a Virginia Century Farm designation, a recognition of farms that have been in the same family for more than 100 years.

“There is pride in having your own farm. I am going to hold onto this for my daughters and my nieces and nephews. I know that it makes them feel good to have that legacy,” Walter Brown said.

The Browns are now working with the Black Family Land Trust to permanently protect their third-generation family farm under a conservation easement, a legal agreement limiting certain uses of a property to preserve its natural resources. The easement ensures the family legacy as one of the last Black-owned farms remaining in Augusta County.

“That land is an economic and spiritual asset that connects African Americans to their rich ancestral history,” Ebonie Alexander, Executive Director of the Black Family Land Trust, said.

Walter and Joan Brown have dedicated years of service to the community. Retired from public service careers as a police officer and a schoolteacher, the Browns continue to volunteer in the community and operate the circa 1898 family farm.

The Alliance will honor Walter Brown and his family with the 2023 Valley Treasure Award during a virtual ceremony on September 20, at 7 p.m. The evening’s speaker will be Dr. Jewel Bronaugh, who has more than 20 years of experience in the agricultural industry. She serves as the Senior Advisor to the Dean of Agriculture at Virginia State University and is formerly the Deputy Secretary for the USDA.

Valley Treasure winners receive a $500 cash stipend (courtesy of an anonymous supporter).


Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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