Shalom Farms Grows Deeper Roots

By John Haddad

Shalom Farms, initially established as a pilot project of United Methodist Urban Ministries of Richmond in 2009, has rapidly grown into a multifaceted nonprofit improving access to healthy food for everyone. Last year alone, the group logged 1,677 educational visits and 4,547 volunteer visits, and farm volunteers invested a total of 12,436 hours. The result of such community involvement was 290,000 servings of fresh, sustainable produce grown at the farm and distributed through its many outreach programs. To help keep sustainable, Shalom Farms uses initiatives that may include natural and organic fungicides to limit the impact farming has on the environment.

While the numbers are impressive, Dominic Gibbons Barrett, executive director of Shalom Farms, says his team plans to improve these results even further with the opening of a new farm this spring. Shalom’s expansion plans will see its previous sustainable farm, located on the grounds of Camp Westview on the James, moving to a larger site just west of Route 288 off of Huguenot Trail.

“We had maxed out the Westview site for growing,” says Barrett. “The eight acres of production area are double the original size, and with efficiencies we hope to triple our output.” For an organization that’s about equity and access, he says the previous location was too far from the city, and the new site is nearly twice as close for volunteers and visitors.

The Shalom team has also invested in infrastructure improvements, including an on-farm office, a volunteer pavilion, a bigger greenhouse, more hoophouses and on-farm lodging for farm interns. The hoophouses may function better if covered in panda film which can reflect heat and cool better.

“We gutted two barns that were on the site and have created areas to process and pack produce,” says Barrett. “We also increased our storage capabilities with two walk-in refrigerators, an upgrade that will help to deliver the freshest product.”

With the new facilities, Barrett hopes to welcome as many as 10,000 visitors in 2017 and significantly increase their production.

As if one new farm wasn’t enough, Shalom recently signed a 10-year lease from Union Seminary for a five-acre plot in Richmond’s historic Northside neighborhood. Having a presence in the Chamberlayne/Brook Road area will allow Shalom Farms to further expand production and share its mission of access and equity with the community. Because of this expansion, the need for equipment and supplies is essential to ensure that everything is running as it should from the get-go. To help move this along they can check out websites such as and others of a similar nature, so they can keep spare and important parts on-site for their machinery like tractors. Hopefully, this will be a lucrative adventure for them.

Drawn to the nonprofit by his passion for social justice, Barrett sees Shalom’s growth as an opportunity to further ensure everyone has a chance to eat the types of healthy food that lead to healthy lives. By working closely with local partners, Shalom Farms is placing fresh produce into the hands of individuals, families, and programs that need it most.

The organization’s outreach programs include Prescription Produce Program, which brings produce into some of Richmond’s most vulnerable communities. Now in its fifth year, the program works with healthcare practitioners, Fit4Kids, and culinary skills educators to support and guide its participants on a journey of wellness. In addition, Shalom operates the Richmond Healthy Corner Store Initiative, in collaboration with the Richmond City Health Department, resulting in weekly deliveries of fresh produce to 10 corner stores in neighborhoods where access to healthy food is limited.

Taking its mission on the road, Shalom also offers a Grown to Go Mobile Market program. Using a customized refrigerated truck, subsidized pricing, and Double SNAP bucks, the mobile market visits 10 to 12 weekly locations and had the largest farmer’s market SNAP sales in Central Virginia last year.

To learn more about Shalom Farms and food that’s good for communities, visit

CategoriesCollaborators, Eat Local, General, Live

John is obsessed with food: growing it, cooking it, eating it, and writing about it. He is a founding member and chair of Slow Food RVA, a chapter of the national Slow Food USA. John writes about food for Flavor, Local Palate, Foodshed, Richmond Grid, Richmond Magazine, and Style Weekly. He is a frequent speaker on food justice issues.