LEAP Staff and Board Members



Maureen Best, Executive Director

Maureen loves food- thinking about food, growing food, eating food, cooking food and, of course, buying local food at the LEAP Community Markets. Maureen has over twelve years of experience working with food, agriculture and community. Her work and professional experience is wide-ranging and includes teaching high school agriculture in Raleigh, NC, working with migrant farmworkers in eastern NC and in the Colorado plains, doing food safety inspections in Boulder CO, and studying the economic viability of the local food system in Northern Colorado. Maureen has a MA in Anthropology from Colorado State University and undergraduate degrees in Agriculture Education, Spanish, and Anthropology from North Carolina State University. Maureen and her family love Roanoke and are happy to call Southwestern Virginia home. You can contact Maureen at maureen@leapforlocalfood.org.

Sam Lev

Sam Lev, Market and Kitchen Coordinator

Sam Lev and his wife are relatively new to southwest Virginia and love calling Roanoke home. Having spent 7 years as a professional pastry chef, Sam is a food lover, a home cook, and always interested in new food adventures around the house. His current projects include growing fruit trees and raising ducks for eggs! Sam has a degree in History from Appalachian State University, was born in Georgia, and has lived in many states across the country from Alaska to New York. He is also an avid runner and hiker, enjoying everything the mountains around the Roanoke Valley have to offer. You can contact Sam at sam@leapforlocalfood.org.


Ned Savage, Community Outreach Coordinator

 A native of Salem and graduate of Hampden-Sydney College with a BA in History, Ned has traveled widely and we are so happy he has decided to move back to the area. After college, he earned his certification in teaching English as a second language, and has worked in that capacity in Chile and Cuba. Ned gained experience in community organizing and solar energy while living in southern California, and developed a passion for local agriculture while working on a variety of small farms in northern California, Washington, and Hawai’i. Ned has called West Virginia home for the past several years, where he started a neighborhood arts and crafts market, helped to develop the Mountain Music Trail (a cultural tourism project akin to Southwest Virginia’s Crooked Road), worked as a raft guide and bartender, and took time in 2013 to canoe from near the source of the New River in North Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. Since returning to the area in 2015, Ned has become a certified stream monitor, published his travel writing, had his artwork commissioned, and worked to restore an 1830’s log cabin near Catawba, where he lives and keeps a garden. Contact Ned at ned@leapforlocalfood.org.


Kelly McKeown Key, LEAP Farm Share Coordinator

Kelly grew up in northern Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in Rural Sociology. Her main passions are travel, food, and farming. After graduating, she backpacked through Europe for 3 months. Upon returning, she worked in restaurants until being accepted as an intern on an educational farm run by Heifer International in Massachusetts. There she fell in love with farming, teaching, and her now husband, Daniel. After two years of apprenticing on a farm in California, Kelly and Daniel moved back to Daniel’s hometown of Roanoke to figure out their next move and never left! Kelly has lived in Roanoke for 3 years and loves the community and the scenery. Kelly and Daniel bought their first house in SE Roanoke in 2015 where they got married this past October. They have started a small farm lovingly called Truffula Farm which so far includes a dog, cats, sheep, rabbits, vegetables, and soon to be honeybees and chickens. Kelly is also a teacher and program manager for the non-profit Happy Healthy Cooks and is the Farmer for the Local Roots Restaurant garden as well as a bartender and server. Contact Kelly at kelly@leapforlocalfood.org.

Connie Kenny Smith

Connie Kenny Smith, West End Farmers Market Manager

 Connie grew up in Bedford County and has lived in the Roanoke Valley for 35 years. Connie now lives in Botetourt County with her lovely family. Her daughter has many food sensitivities and Connie’s search for solutions brought her to the local food market. Soon, this search turned in to a love and appreciation for local food suppliers and market outlets in the Roanoke and surrounding areas. She is a proud promoter of the benefits of local and healthy food.  After many years of buying local food, Connie started working for Good Food Good People, a LEAP vendor and a distributor of local products, and we’re now happy to have her serve as the smiling face of the West End Farmers Market. You can reach Connie at connie@leapforlocalfood.org.

Board Members

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.16.01 PMBrent Cochran, Board President

Brent is a native of Roanoke, VA and a social entrepreneur committed to developing sustainable solutions through triple-bottom line business methods.  He lives with his wife, dog, and two young kids in Roanoke, VA. In 2009, Brent founded LEAP as a way to support the local foods ecosystem. He has since co-founded many businesses in Roanoke and across the country, including River Rock Climbing Gym, Grandin CoLab and Community Sourced Capital.

susan clark

Susan Clark, Board Vice President

 Susan Clark has lived in Roanoke the past thirty years although she grew up in Fairfax VA where she learned early how to grow and preserve food from the family garden. Her academic degrees are in nutrition and foods (bachelors, doctorate-VA Tech and masters-University of Kentucky), and she is also a registered dietitian. Presently, she is director of the interdisciplinary, experiential-based civic agriculture and food systems program at VA Tech.  Her teaching and research relates to civic and sustainable agriculture and food systems as a community development practice to promote resilient, accessible, affordable, and healthy food.  Since 2010, she has been involved with the Appalachian Foodshed Project investigating how to build/strengthen place-based, community food systems in West Virginia, and the Appalachian regions of North Carolina and Virginia.  She particularly values time with family and friends, as well as making bread, leisure reading, watching Kentucky basketball, and hiking the trails of Montana and Virginia.


 Dave Prosser, Board Treasurer

Dave Prosser is Freedom First Credit Union’s Senior VP of Community Development. Dave oversees Freedom First’s corporate giving and social responsibility initiatives, including award-winning financial education, credit counseling, and loan programs for working households. Dave led Freedom First’s development of the West End Village Station project—a partnership with local nonprofits, local and federal governments, and neighborhood leaders—in recognition of which the Salem-Roanoke County Chamber of Commerce gave him its first “Community Impact” award. The Credit Union National Association named Freedom First 2013’s national Community Credit Union of the Year.

Pat Young, Board Secretary

Pat is a Maine native, but has called Roanoke home for years. Pat is the Program Manager for Healthy Roanoke Valley, a program of the United Way of the Roanoke Valley. Pat also works as a health, community, and strategic planning consultant through her company Community Works. As a registered dietitian and a self-professed lover of good food, Pat works closely with numerous community organizations to improve nutrition and healthy food access.


Betty Bailey

Betty is a native of Roanoke County, coming from a long line of Southwest Virginia farmers.  She and her husband live, garden and cook on the family farm located between Dragon’s Tooth and McAfee Knob next to the Appalachian Trail.  Before returning to revive Catawba Meadow Farm and sell at local farmers’ markets (including LEAP’s Grandin Village Community Market), Betty spent 30 years in the non-profit sector, working most of that time for sustainable agriculture, family farms, and healthy food from healthy land.

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Jim Crawford

Jim is a Roanoke native who has been with LEAP since the beginning. He works as a Special Projects Coordinator, Roanoke Natural Foods Co-op and holds an MS in Cultural Geography from Virginia Tech. He is president of Mountain View Neighborhood Association and a Board member of Roanoke Preservation Foundation. He and his wife live in a 107-year old house in Roanoke, endearingly nicknamed Kudzu Bluffs B&B based on the proliferation of the plant and stream of happy visitors.

 Diane Elliot

Diane loves local and sustainable food and made it her profession when she bought Local Roots- a Farm to Table Restaurant (Grandin Village) from her son in 2009. She grew up in Indianapolis and has called Roanoke home for over forty years. In between high school and college, Diane traveled on the R.M.S Queen Mary to England (was an exchange student for a year) where she met her husband of 45 years. Diane has a degree in Art History from Vassar College (last all-female graduating class) and she loves to take fun pictures with food (see above!).  Diane is very involved in the community and she and Local Roots support various food, health, gardening, and other worthy community causes. Diane is working to turn her yard into a bountiful “Elliot Eden” full of vegetables, flowers and fruit trees.