Maureen McNamara Best
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.
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 for 13 years. 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, and he is working to open his own food business, Chef Jeff’s Pantry.
Laura Weatherford Burns
Laura is a long-time customer and supporter of the Grandin Village Farmers Market and the West End Farmers Market. She is a graduate of Bridgewater College with a degree in English and a professional administrator with almost 20 years experience working with nonprofits. An 18-year resident of Roanake, Laura lives with her teenage son and senior Yorkie-poo. In her downtime, Laura enjoys cooking with local ingredients, hiking and camping, and community theater. She is passionate about finding viable ways to serve hungry people in the community while maintaining their humanity and dignity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Davey Rogner Stewards
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.
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.
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.