The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival®’s Valley Health Business-at-the-Bloom Luncheon, presented in conjunction with the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber of Commerce, has proven to be a high-growth event for Festival Organizers in recent years. With the powerhouse backing of Valley Health and the Regional Chamber, this event has evolved into an annual sellout, primarily due to a succession of outstanding, national-level Keynote Speakers. The list is compelling: 2012 – Sheetz, Incorporated, Executive Vice President, Louie Sheetz; 2013 – Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas Founder and CEO, Tim League; 2014 – Entrepreneur and Black Entertainment Television Founder, Sheila Johnson; 2015 – Edward Jones Principal and Chief Human Resources Officer, Anthony McBride; and, 2016 – Navy Federal Credit Executive, Mary McDuffie. It is with great pride that Festival President, Mike Stanfield, adds to this list the name of Sandy Lerner, Co-Founder of Cisco Systems, historic preservationist, diverse entrepreneur, Virginia estate-farmer and philanthropist.
In 1984, Sandy Lerner co-founded Cisco Systems with Leonard Bosack. While employed at Stanford University, the pair worked with others at Stanford and other universities and laboratories to create a network of networks which was the technical foundation of today’s Internet. The routers used to link the diverse computer systems revolutionized the computer communications industry, leading to the technology which enabled the world-wide web and follow-on service providers such as AOL and Google. After leaving Cisco in 1990, Sandy found other passions to explore. In 1992, she purchased and refurbished the Chawton House, a 300-acre manor house and farm dating back to the 1580s in Hampshire, England. Formerly the estate of Jane Austen’s brother, the property is now Chawton House Library and the Centre for the Study of Early English Women’s Writing. Founding Urban Decay in 1995, Lerner sought to provide lipstick and nail polish in a variety of alternative shades beyond traditional pinks and reds. Urban Decay products reached instant success; and, Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) acquired the brand in 2000. More recently it sold to L’Oreal, and that company still touts that no product has ever been tested on animals, a founding principle set by Lerner.
Sandy Lerner’s lifelong passion for farming led to her purchase of Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Virginia in 1996. Fully restored, the farm provides the perfect acreage, location and layout for a sustainable and profit-driven operation. Today, the farm’s mission is to preserve genetically viable heritage variety crops and herds of rare breeds of livestock through humane and sustainable farming practices. Lerner’s choice of rare and endangered heritage breeds is an extension of her quest to help rebuild the local American agricultural infrastructure. She is now turning her attention to the expansion of her Gentle Harvest stores: providing a forum for local farms to sell their products; a market for local residents; and locally grown, healthy fast food for those wanting the drive-thru meal experience. The first store launched in fall 2016, with a Winchester store set to open in 2017.
Once again in 2017, the Valley Health Business-at-the-Bloom Luncheon will be deliciously catered by Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Advance ticket orders may be placed now at Apple Blossom Headquarters; or, on line at the Festival web site: www.thebloom.com. Tickets may be purchased in person when the Festival’s Official Souvenir Store and Ticket Outlet open at 10:00am on Friday, April 7th, 2017, at 212 East Cork Street, across from the Winchester Moose Lodge. For a Table Reservation fee of $125, over and above the purchase price of 8 tickets, a party of eight can reserve a table with preferred placement along with other desirable perks.