LEAP Staff and Board Members



Maureen McNamara Best
Executive Director

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.

Jeff Bland
Kitchen Manager

Jeff Bland, known as Chef Jeff around the Roanoke, has been involved in the food industry for over 40 years. As a graduate of Johnson and Wales University, he gained a solid foundation of culinary fundamentals. After finishing school in 1987, his real education began in Providence, Orlando, Williamsburg, and, most recently, Roanoke, where he served 13 years as a corporate chef for a national food distributor. He has helped many people open restaurants and knows the challenges they face every day. Jeff is a passionate educator and advocate for the culinary arts and local food. He is working to open his own food business, Chef Jeff’s Pantry. You can reach Jeff at jeff@leapforlocalfood.org.

Kyra Crawford
Farm Share Manager

Originally from Charleston, SC, Kyra grew up in a large southern and Greek family, where food was a way of life.  Kyra first moved to Virginia in 2008 to attend Virginia Tech, from which she earned a B.S. in Wood Science and Forest Products, and has called Roanoke home since 2014.  Kyra has most recently worked as a hardware design engineer, but also has experience in technical sales, and customer service.  As someone interested in and passionate about sustainability, Kyra has been working on a personal level to break away from conventional agriculture.  Her research into local, regional, and sustainable food systems lead her to LEAP.  Kyra can’t wait to apply her creative thinking and problem-solving skills to her homegrown passion for food that has evolved into a deep appreciation for local farming.  Kyra’s hobbies include experimenting with new recipes, spending time outside with her daughter, husband, and 2 dogs, and helping as many people as she can find access to quality, locally sourced food. You can reach Kyra at kyra@leapforlocalfood.org.

Sam Hedges
Director of Support Services

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.

Connie Kenny SmithConnie Kenny
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 LEAP Farmers Markets in Grandin Village and West End. You can reach Connie at connie@leapforlocalfood.org.

Kelly McKeown Key
Director of Programs

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.

Maureen (Mo) McGonagle
Director of Regional Partnerships

Maureen (Mo) McGonagle was born in Arlington, Virginia, and has spent the past 13 years living and working in the New River Valley. Through her combined experiences working on a small-scale vegetable farm, working with local food access initiatives through the Blacksburg Farmers Market, and working with community gardens through the New River Health District, Maureen has cultivated a deep passion for alternative food systems as a mechanism for environmental and social sustainability. As a graduate from Virginia Tech with both a B.A. in Humanities, Science and the Environment, and a M.S. in Agriculture, Leadership, and Community Education, Maureen is excited to harness her academic understanding of global food systems, and apply it in a local and regional context. In her free time, Maureen enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking with her dog, running, meditation, and playing music. She is excited to relocate to Roanoke, and call the Star City home. Contact Mo at mo@leapforlocalfood.org.

Christina Nifong
Marketing and Communications Manager

Christina has worked as a journalist and food writer in North Carolina, Atlanta and Boston. She landed in Roanoke in 2006, where her need to feed her growing family in a nutritious and sustainable way sparked a love of local food that has not waned. Christina, her husband, and their three kids sold lettuce and herbs at the Grandin Village Farmers Market during the market’s first summer. She served on LEAP’s Board from 2018-2020. She’s excited for this new opportunity to tell LEAP’s story to a wider audience. Sample some of her writing on her website: christinanifong.com or in her Nourishing Stories newsletter. You can reach Christina at christina@leapforlocalfood.org.

Davey Rogner Stewards
Community Gardens Manager

Davey (he/his) is a father, husband, musician, ecological educator, and compassionate earth worker. Davey has lived in Roanoke since 2017 where he has worked with various non-profits, including LEAP (as our 2017 season Mobile Market Manager), Apple Ridge Farm, Clean Valley Council, and One Valley. He has 8 years experience building infrastructure for gardens and organizing communities for shared farming experiences. Davey is presently managing a permaculture-inspired farm called Outback Orchards in NE Roanoke and in a planning phase to build a compost facility at Heritage Point Farm with The Harvest Collective, of which he is a founder and member (see more about the Harvest Collective in our Farmer Spotlight below). Formerly, he was the co-founder of Pick Up America, where he spent 3 years (2010-2012) coordinating the nation’s only coast-to-coast roadside litter pick-up to promote a zero-waste. He holds a bachelors degree in environmental restoration and management from the University of Maryland College Park. You can reach Davey at davey@leapforlocalfood.org.

Aaron Terry
Mobile Market Manager

Aaron is originally from Colorado, but has fallen in love with life in southwest Virginia. He was happily surprised by the region’s vibrant outdoors and local food scene, and tries his best to get involved in both as much as possible. An Electrician by trade, when Aaron’s not outside slack lining, farming, meditating, playing basketball, or camping, he’s almost certainly listening to dance music (House, Trance, Dubstep) or attending a music festival or concert. Aaron is thankful for this opportunity with LEAP, and is beyond excited for our communities’ future. You can reach Aaron at aaron@leapforlocalfood.org.

Frances West
Financial Manager

Although she received her degree in agronomy, Frances spent the bulk of her career in Graphic Design & Advertising where she worked as a project manager. She first took an interest in LEAP as a member of the Roanoke Women’s Foundation back in 2014 when LEAP was raising money to build the community kitchen in the West End. A few years ago Frances started a microbusiness making mobiles (Fulcrum Mobiles) and now applies her balancing skills to LEAP’s books. You can reach Frances at frances@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.

Mike Burton

Organic Farmer • Non-Profit Executive • Attorney
Mike has more than 20 years of experience in the organic food industry, along with economics and law degrees. He moved to Roanoke three years ago from his organic farm in Floyd County. As a founding board member of SustainFloyd and its first Executive Director, Mike was strongly engaged in developing the local, regenerative agriculture in Floyd and the region. He now serves as Managing Director of the Institute for Responsible Technology, a national non-profit leader in educating the public and change makers about the dangers of GMOs and associated pesticides.

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.

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.

Linda Thornton

In addition to being a farmer for 45 years, Linda Thornton is the CEO of H.L. Lawson & Son, Inc., and is among the founders and board members of Community School and Community High School in Roanoke. A native of Roanoke, Linda has worked with and served on the board of a variety of nonprofit and community organizations in the city over the years. Linda’s lifelong experience in local agriculture as well as her extensive background in business and education makes her an interested and skilled addition to the LEAP Board of Directors.

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.