top of page

Our Board Chairwoman's Story

How does one arrive at an interest in regenerative agriculture? My path to this point is simultaneously pretty simple and complex; in fact, one might say that I’ve traveled a highly winding road in life to get to this point.

I am a child of the tiny island of Trinidad; it’s a speck at the end of the Caribbean archipelago and the big sister in the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. My parents emigrated to the United States in the late 60s in an effort to secure a brighter future for their five children. That move put me on a path that eventually led to my Jamaican American husband, and we settled in Richmond, Virginia, while I pursued a Ph.D. in science education.

My very first memories manifested as an interest in the natural world. I was astounded by plump raindrops and the delicate dew on the morning grass, the cooler temperatures in December and the summer heat that dried and cracked the earth, and fiery red sunsets and the howling of hurricane-force winds.

My place in the natural world seemed to be as a reactor. I had to ration water when it was hot and dry. However, heavy rain kept me inside and fearful of floods, and cooler temperatures meant I had to wear a sweater. My hyper-awareness of the natural led to an early interest in the sciences that eventually resulted in my career choice as an Earth Science teacher, then a science teacher educator. Now, in my 2nd act, sustainable agriculture.

I can clearly remember my many experiences with agriculture over the past 55-plus years, which I think is remarkable; many of those memories started when I was about seven years old. My father had an interest in farming and animal husbandry. Although we lived in what today would be considered a subdivision, we had enough land to have a vegetable garden, a collection of citrus trees and other tropical fruit trees, and pens for poultry and pigs. At one point, we supplied chicken eggs to our community. My first garden was a small plot beside our chicken coop in which I planted beans and discarded carrot tops. Unfortunately, I had little success because of the hot, dry conditions and the pull of summer play which left little time for hauling water for the plants. Shortly after that attempt at gardening, we moved to Brooklyn, NY.

To say the least, gardening in Brooklyn for a 10-year-old was a challenge. I started by sprouting bean seeds and coaxing carrot tops to grow. I then moved on to plant morning glories along our back fence. Thankfully, my mom also liked plants, so we turned our Brooklyn Brownstone into an indoor tropical garden. I found my niche during high school by starting a garden club.

Fortunately, the club sponsor had connections at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and I was able to sign on as a volunteer in the education department. Those were glorious years! I learned about plant propagation, creating dyes from vegetable matter, caring for perennials, and many other skills. I was also given the opportunity to plan and grow a vegetable garden in my own plot. The skills I learned at the BBG were shared with my family and employed in our backyard garden. The asparagus bed I started remained productive years after I went off to school and married.

Sadly, my interest in gardening did not play into my early career decisions. After high school, I spent a year at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism. After a year, I then moved back to NYC, got married, and transferred to City College of NY with a major in health administration. That lasted a year before we moved to Richmond, Virginia when my husband got a job offer he couldn’t refuse. Not finding an equivalent undergraduate major in health sciences, I transferred to Virginia Commonwealth University to major in finance. After one semester of working full-time and going to school part-time, I decided to stop. A “D” in accounting and a “C” in microeconomics played into the decision.

The early 1980s were my restless years. My husband and I dabbled in multi-level marketing, financial services, and a couple of other business opportunities, all in an effort to find financial success. We also purchased our first home, and we had our first child. During those years, the only gardening I did was in small, seasonal vegetable gardens, most of the time with limited success. During those years, I was engaged more heavily in reading, during which time I garnered a deeper understanding of racial equity and environmental degradation issues.

By 1987, I decided to become a secondary science teacher, and we purchased our 3rd home in an inner-city neighborhood. My career choice allowed me to become deeply grounded in the earth sciences, giving me the tools necessary to grasp the looming issue of climate change.

Between 1989 and 1999, I taught earth and environmental science to middle and high schoolers during the academic year and led science enrichment programs during the summers. In the early 1990s, I was funded to create a curriculum and site focused on science and mathematics integration using a created wetland. Students learned the value of wetlands, their flora and fauna, and the impact of human activity on their lived environments. My efforts resulted in being awarded the James River Soil and Water Conservation District Educator of the Year for 1993 and heightened student interest in the sciences.

Several of the involved students went on to careers in science themselves. One, in particular, eventually earned her Ph.D. in Bioinformatics with a focus on environmental issues. In 1997, I was funded to create a school gardening project with inner-city students, which resulted in my being offered an opportunity to complete an advanced degree at a local university. After completing my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and a doctoral degree with a focus in science education at the University of Virginia (UVA), I secured a position as an assistant professor of science education at VCU.

In my role as the primary science educator at VCU, I was fortunate enough to be connected to units in Environmental Sciences, Life Sciences, College of Humanities and Science, and the Medical College. These allegiances greatly enhanced my understanding of the syngenetic relationships among the different academic disciplines.

I was part of the working group that drafted the first university sustainability plan. The university’s plan was a direct response to address what actions it could take to reduce the entire organization’s carbon footprint, including faculty, staff, and students. Additionally, I assumed roles as the Director of Life Sciences Education, a lead researcher on various National Science Foundation-funded grant programs, and a site director and researcher on a US Department of Education Investing in Innovation (i3) Program. In those roles, I was able to put my skills as an administrator, curriculum writer, instruction leader, and researcher to good use. Managing in excess of $8 million in grant funding and the staff required to run those programs greatly sharpened my administrative skills.

The curriculum my team and I developed encompassed topics such as sea-level rises, the impacts of oil spills on marine organisms, invasive plants, renewable energy production, mining asteroids, and the reduction of CO2. We designed integrated units focused on these topics to generate inquiry-based, real-world science lessons. By the end of my tenure at VCU, I had published several peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, presented national and international talks, and earned the School of Education Faculty Excellence Award.

Since retiring from VCU in 2017, I’ve immersed myself in various community-based projects. I served on the board of directors of Art 180, a community arts education organization serving the Greater Richmond area by providing a judgment-free space encouraging creative self-expression. This program also developed local young creators, promoting them through exhibitions, performances, public art, and publications. I also volunteer with the Six Points Innovation Center, which provides neighborhood youth with dynamic civic engagement and creative expression skills. I taught job readiness and leadership skills.

In my capacity as a science educator, I served as president of the Virginia Association of Science Teachers from 2017 to 2019. During that time, I planned and executed their annual professional development conference themed “Diversify and Strengthen Science for All.” That conference featured internationally recognized science educators as presenters and concurrent sessions focused on best practices for diverse learners.

Currently, I’m part of a group of science educators developing a multi-day workshop on teaching climate change for K-12 teachers. Additionally, I served on the executive board of SisterFund, a grassroots donor education and grant-making initiative, uniting civic-minded African American women’s ideals and actions through philanthropy and collective giving.

My interest in sustainable agriculture evolved out of my interest in Earth Science, my years of involvement in science education, and my sense of the pressing need to address the impacts of climate change on our most vulnerable populations, in particular.



bottom of page