A new growing season is here

The dust has finally settled in the skirmish between a Goochland farming nonprofit and its former executive director. Turns out, there were no accounting shenanigans going on. But the treasurer of the Center for Rural Culture in Goochland says the damage has been done, but the former head of the organization says she’s glad she raised red flags nevertheless.

The spat began in January after Lisa Dearden, who was then the executive director of the Center for Rural Culture, publicly chastised the organization for how the board handles the organization’s money. CRC runs the popular Goochland Farmers Market and provides educational programs for farmers.

At the time, Dearden demanded an independent audit to clear up an alleged $30,000 discrepancy and called for the resignations of the board’s current and past president and treasurer. (You can read the original story here.)

The board stayed mostly quiet as the feud unfolded. That silence added fuel to the fire.

Keith Flannagan, CRC’s treasurer, is still working to clear the air.  He shared documents with BizSense last week to show that an analysis of CRC’s financial records did not uncover any misappropriation of money.

“There really were a lot of people who thought the board was stealing from the Center,” Flanagan said. “[Dearden] hurt us a lot. She took many of our vendors, and it left uncertainty on what we’re going to be doing.”

Dearden eventually made good on her threat to resign Jan. 31 if her demands were not met. Dearden then launched ChiknEGG Production LLC, which will operate My Goochland Market, a competitor to the CRC’s market.

CRC is still planning to run its Goochland Farmers Market and is still running its various classes and programs.

The group doesn’t have the funding to hire another executive director. The anonymous annual grant that helped pay the bulk of Dearden’s salary didn’t come through as hoped, Flanagan said.

Asked why the CRC board stayed silent early on even though its followers sought answers, Flanagan said they did what they thought was right.

“We weren’t going to sit there in public and fight back and forth,” he said. “Who was going to believe us? Now there’s the paperwork we can show.”

CRC had local accounting firm Keiter Stephens analyze the ledgers kept by Flannagan and the deposits that were made on behalf of CRC.

Despite what happened, Flannagan, who has been CRC’s treasurer since 2009, has no intention of being forced out.

“I’m not going to hide,” he said.

“We are the Center for Rural Culture to teach people how to live in the country. The center has good people and a good mission. We’re not going to abandon it.”

Dearden, meanwhile, is working quickly to get her new farmers market up and running by May. She has landed a spot at a still undeveloped mixed-use development in Manakin-Sabot.

She says she has around 30 vendors signed on to her market so far and hopes to eventually build a structure on the site to have a more year-round market.

“I got a snowball rolling,” she said. “We’re off to a really great start.”

Though the light she tried to shed on CRC’s bookkeeping didn’t find anything shady, Dearden said she has no regrets about her actions.

“The CRC came out with the final results of their financial review. No money was missing, for which I’m very happy,” said Dearden.

“I feel like that chapter is closed. It’s freeing, being out on my own and not having to deal with that.”

Now the one question that remains: Is there room for two farmers markets?

“There should be. I hope so,” said Flannagan.

Michael Schwartz is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to [email protected]

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Elijah
Elijah
9 years ago

Of course there are room for two. Since the new one in the east end will grab all sorts of folks from the short pump area, it will easily be successful. It is a fact that people go to farmers markets and buy fresh local foods.

There is another farmers market going to be in powhatan, near 288 and 64

Elijah
Elijah
9 years ago

There is room for two farmers markets. The new market in the east end of goochland will draw a new crowd from the west end of henrico.

We, Furbelow Farms, will be at both markets.

Libby Clark
Libby Clark
9 years ago

I feel Goochland can support two markets. Hopefully the Goochland Farmers Market can stay in the courthouse area. There are a lot of us who just won’t go into Centerville on a weekend.
Thanks for the good work CRC.

Barbara
Barbara
9 years ago

We patronize a few farmers’ markets. We enjoy local products and like meeting the great folks who provide them. Goochland is a tad out of the way for us. Nonetheless we come to Goochland Farmers Market when possible. Hope all the unfortunate public dust -up is over. While I found that very uncomfortable, we will continue to purchase locally!

Chris Ault
Chris Ault
9 years ago

We’re very happy the audit showed no misappropriation of funds. We didn’t really expect it to. In the past the CRC has not been supportive of the market calling it a “money drain.” We are very happy Lisa Dearden has taken on the task of starting the new market in Goochland. This way the market isn’t dependent on grants to operate and can be operated like a business as it should be. The Centreville location is where we the market originally started and is a wonderful spot right off Broad Street. Hope to see everyone there on the first Saturday… Read more »

Marie Maitland
Marie Maitland
9 years ago

This entire drama has just been one more black eye for Goochland County. I don’t know the people involved on either side of this matter, but I love our Farmers Market and have always considered shopping there a highlight of my week. Many have praised Ms. Dearden’s tireless work on behalf of the CRC and the farmers market vendors, and the resulting market certainly seemed to reflect that. However, in my opinion, the tactics Ms. Dearden used to communicate her accusations of the “missing $30,000” were professionally embarrassing, reckless, and frankly in poor taste. She showed a complete lack of… Read more »

Greg
Greg
9 years ago

Another market will be great for the area. The fact that food costs are on the rise will bring more people to the local farmers markets. Look for local farmers in these markets as well as in Lakeside Farmers Market. This year Lakeside will be open from Wed thru Sat. hope to see you this spring.

Linda
Linda
9 years ago

The former Executive Director hurled very public accusations against the CRC Board that have been 100% unsubstantiated. Her accusations did tremendous damage to the CRC, and she’s not even appoligetic that her accusations were false and unfounded. Shame on her. Her ethics are nothing I would want to be associated with.

Joan
Joan
9 years ago

I have to agree with Linda and Marie that Lisa Dearden’s ethics and actions are what should be called into question here. And what about the ‘anonymous annual grant’ that was to have paid her salary that never materialized. I guess that is money that the CRC is out – and for what?!