LEAP Staff and Board Members


Maureen Best, Director, Strategic Planning

Maureen loves food- thinking about food, growing food, eating food, cooking food and, of course, buying local food at LEAP 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, Director, Programs and Operations

Sam Lev moved to southwest Virginia in 2014 and loves 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 making delicious dried foods with local produce and baking some of the best bread in town. 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.

Sam Hedges, Program Grant Manager

When Sam graduated college, he didn’t know how to cook a pot of rice.  He was an adult by the time he realized that an onion is a root.  In the decade following his formal education, he has learned a lot about food.  Sam has worked as a baker, line cook, commercial farmer, market manager, farm volunteer, food writer, and as a board member and director of an Arkansas-based local foods non-profit.  He loves food for its tangible nature and believes in it as the ultimate unifier in polarizing times.  He loves hearing about people’s personal histories with food and agriculture and is interested in the long tradition of agriculture in Virginia.  When he isn’t trying to discover a new way to eat eggplant, Sam enjoys camping with his wife and dog and watching movies at the Grandin Theatre.  You can contact him at hedgesjs@leapforlocalfood.org

Kelly McKeown Key, Program 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! When Kelly isn’t at work, she is typically found working on their own small farm lovingly called Truffula Farm in SE Roanoke with her husband and daughter.  Contact Kelly at kelly@leapforlocalfood.org.

ned-savageNed Savage, Community Outreach Specialist

 A native of Salem and graduate of Hampden-Sydney College with a BA in History, Ned worked as an English as a Second Language teacher in Chile and Cuba and a community organizer in California before delving into his passion for local agriculture while working on a variety of small farms in northern California, Washington, and Hawai’i. After moving back to Appalachia, Ned launched a neighborhood arts and crafts market, helped to develop a music-based cultural tourism project, and took time in 2013 to canoe 2,300 miles from the source of the New River to the Gulf of Mexico. Since returning to the Roanoke area in 2015, Ned has become an active stream monitor, published his travel writing, had his painting commissioned. He lives with his partner in an 1830’s log cabin near Catawba, where they’re building a homestead and continuing to explore the connections between land, people, and food. Contact Ned at ned@leapforlocalfood.org.

Connie Kenny SmithConnie Kenny Smith, 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.

Katie Struble, Mobile Market Manager

Katie serves as the LEAP Mobile Market Manager and helps manage the Virginia Fresh Match website as a resource for regional farmers markets and stakeholders. She comes to LEAP from a background in public health, food service management, and social/emotional education, making her path to food sovereignty and agriculture a non-traditional one. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science with an emphasis in Sociology and a personal focus in environmental justice from James Madison University. Her passion for food and its healing properties was first experienced as a young adult with the diagnosis of her father with Multiple Sclerosis. After serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Oregon Public Health Authority she migrated to Colorado for seasonal work with a non-profit nestled in the Roosevelt National Forest, guiding high school students in culinary work projects. Now more than ever the connection between fresh food accessibility and the community at large has become her life’s work. She’s a big fan of watching people grow and become healthier and happier versions of themselves. When Katie is not out in the woods hunting for mushrooms, you can find her in the kitchen fermenting random odds and ends from the market. You can reach Katie at katie@leapforlocalfood.org

Board Members

susan clark
Susan Clark, Board President

 Susan Clark has lived in Roanoke the past thirty-five 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. Susan is a professor emeritus at VT where she previously directed the interdisciplinary, experiential-based civic agriculture and food systems program.  Her teaching and research related to civic and sustainable agriculture and food systems as a community development practice to promote resilient, accessible, affordable, and healthy food.  Since 2010, she was  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.

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

Christy C. Pugh, Board Treasurer

Christy is originally from Charlotte, NC and has lived in Floyd County for 10 years. Christy and her husband built a tiny house on 10 acres, which is powered with solar, and they grow a big garden with lots of blueberries, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, greens, and flowers. 

Christy is an accountant and who has always been drawn to working with food businesses including working with the Concord Food Coop in Concord, New Hampshire and Good Food Good People in Floyd, VA. She understands the business side of farming and selling food on a small, local scale. After getting her master’s degree in Accounting and Information Systems at Virginia Tech, Christy is now working as a tax and audit accountant with Foti, Flynn, Lowen & Co. in downtown Roanoke.

Christy has watched LEAP grow and mature over the last several years and is thrilled to be a part of the board and to contribute what she can to the organization.

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.

Jeremy Butterfield

Jeremy has lived and worked in Roanoke for the last 16 years. From television news reporter to public relations and advertising professional, Jeremy has experience in both the non-profit and corporate worlds. Currently, Jeremy is Communications & Marketing Manager for Lawrence Companies, a 400-person, employee-owned transportation-centric business headquartered in Roanoke. Food, whether growing or consuming, continues to be a major influencer in Jeremy’s life. Convinced to dig into his backyard only months into dating his future wife, Jeremy and Kim have since expanded the garden and their family with the addition of Ruby (4) and Nash (2). Jeremy previously served as Board President of the Roanoke Community Garden Association and is an eager advocate for community access to green space and garden know-how.

Sam Cannon

Sam has lived in Roanoke for 25 years. He is a graduate of Virginia Tech. He has worked for Associated Asphalt for 25 years as well and is currently the Vice President of Operations. Over the years, he has developed an awareness around the importance of proper nutrition and the respectful sourcing of those foods and nutrients from local and regional providers. He is an avid supporter of local organizations like the Roanoke Co-op and Farmers Market as well as any local business for his and his family’s needs. He is married and has two daughters and a dog named Snoopy. In his free time, Sam enjoys staying active by doing anything outside, getting a workout in at the YMCA and never turns down a trip to the beach.

Christina Nifong

Christina’s love of local food was sparked more than a decade ago when she began trying to feed her family in the most nutritious way possible. Her research convinced her that eating locally — from farmers she knew, as well as from food she grew herself — was the best way to nourish her children, her community and the environment. These days, Christina shares all she’s discovered in her monthly e-newsletter: Nourishing Stories, on her website: christinanifong.com, in the classes she teaches, and in her writing for magazines such as The Roanoker. Fun fact: Christina, her husband, and her three kids sold lettuce and herbs at the Grandin Village Farmers Market during the market’s very first summer.

Laura P. Reilly

Laura was the director of the Salem Farmers Market for 8 years, accepting & matching SNAP since her very first season. As part of the Blue Ridge Farmers Market Managers Coalition, Laura supported and embraced the resource of local market managers and how helpful and informative fellow managers could be. Laura currently works with the City of Roanoke as the Landscape Management Coordinator.
A native of Gate City, Virginia and a proud Virginia Tech Hokie, she is an avid ACC basketball fan.

Cameron Terry

Cam uprooted from his native Colorado and landed in Roanoke in fall 2017.  He is the owner-operator-farmer of Garden Variety Harvests, an urban market-garden network of microfarms throughout the city.  Before life as a farmer, Cam was a videographer and photographer in and around Denver. After graduating film school at CU Denver in 2009, he worked on a documentary project with a homestead farmer who inspired him to delve into growing his own food.  After several years of increasingly obsessive container vegetable gardening, he decided to make the leap into farmpreneurship in an effort to do his part to localize food systems.

Cam is very grateful that LEAP was working in local food in Roanoke, which helped pave the way for the success of his farming business has seen in its infancy.  Cam is excited to share his perspective as a market vendor and as a farmer on the board. 

Rebecca Wright

Rebecca Wright grew up in and now lives in Roanoke City. Rebecca and her husband, who is from Chile, have two little boys they all enjoy speaking predominantly in Spanish at home.  Rebecca is a French & Spanish teacher in Roanoke County Public Schools.

Rebecca appreciates fresh, local food but is not an expert in nutrition or cooking. She used to go to Roanoke’s farmers markets occasionally, but in recent years has gone more regularly as a participant in LEAP’s Healthy Food Incentive program.  She enjoys bringing her two little boys to the markets– they love playing at the market and picking out fresh fruits.