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Agribusiness the focus of October SML Leadership Academy

Members of the Smith Mountain Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce Leadership Academy toured several agricultural businesses on Oct. 4 to learn more about the important contributions the operations make to the SML region.

“With agribusiness being the largest industry in all three counties the SMLRCC serves, this was an extremely important and enlightening day,” said Andy Bruns, executive director of the Chamber. “It also was a lot of fun!” 

Bruns said the class started with a visit to Homestead Creamery, enjoying lunch and tasting of different milks produced at the Burnt Chimney-based business. Marketing Director Rachel Sigmon spoke on the exciting growth taking place at the locally owned dairy processing plant that opened in 2001.

Following a related workshop led by Jen Rowland, owner of Rowland Leadership Training & Consulting, class members gathered on the back of a wagon at Melvin's Farm To Fork Store to tour the 6th-generation farm run by Thad and Gayle Montgomery. They learned about the healthy, locally sourced foods sold at the store, all made or grown within a 60-mile radius.

The group's day concluded nearby at Pacabella Farm Alpacas & Boutique, where owners Robin and John Watson explained their agri-tourism business approach and showcased alpaca fiber products in their store. According to Bruns, the highlight was the opportunity to feed, cuddle and snap photos with the alpacas.

The SMLRCC Leadership Academy is a 12-month program designed to develop a diversified corps of informed, committed and qualified individuals who will assume leadership roles for Bedford, Franklin and Pittsylvania county organizations. 

For additional information, log onto or contact Andy Bruns at 540-721-1203 or


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