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 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.


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! 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.



Ned 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 Smith

Connie 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

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.

 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.


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: Eat Healthy/Eat Local, on her website: christinanifong.com, in the community classes she teaches, and in her writing for magazines such as The Roanoke Times-published SWVA Living, The Roanoker and The Local Palate. 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 has been 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. As a municipal-owned market the Salem Farmers Market has become a leader in helping other markets navigate the accounting process and sharing financial reporting techniques that are acceptable to government financial officers.

The Salem Farmers Market has received numerous community-based grants to fund their SNAP matching program, as well as developed strong partnerships with local charitable food organizations. As part of the FINI-grant collaboration, working closely with LEAP as well as neighboring farmers markets, the Salem Farmers Market has been able to steadily expand their
program in 2018 to offer additional shopping incentives to SNAP participants.

Laura’s actual title is Horticulturist for the City of Salem. A native of Gate City, Virginia and a proud Virginia Tech Hokie, she is an avid ACC basketball fan.