A Farewell to Some Special People 

By Heidi Witmer, Executive Director

Tromping through the soggy, icy farm last week, I saw something amazing - the early green growth of garlic beginning to peak through their winter bed of straw. The first signs of seasonal change left me in awe and made me pause for a moment to reflect on the changes at LEAF. Around this time last year, our team came together for our annual retreat and explored how to take LEAF from our start-up phase into our next chapter of growth. We emerged from that retreat with an ambitious yet clear road map for the next few years that drives our young, determined, impactful organization to grow in a thoughtful, collaborative, and sustainable way - like a native plant with deep roots, in a diverse and resilient ecosystem.

Around the same time, two of our key staff members, Maggie Stonecash and Mackenzie Johnson, were experiencing transitions of their own. By March, we knew they would be leaving our team at the end of the year and we wanted to have a meaningful and powerful last season together. We took time to dream about what LEAF's ideal staffing might look like and clarify the roles and talents we'd need for LEAF's next phase. We put our dreams to paper, launched a national search for our new team members, and found them! We’re thrilled to introduce our new staff members and work collectively towards our mission. In our excitement for the future, we think it is important to reflect on the impact both Mackenzie and Maggie have had in building LEAF to remember where we come from.

Maggie has been a thought partner in LEAF since before it even had a name. Around many kitchen tables during late night visioning sessions, she has helped nurture this bold idea into existence. As our first Program Coordinator, Maggie poured countless hours into designing LEAF's curriculum, learning from other peer organizations, and designing powerful experiential learning opportunities for youth. One of the most significant legacies Maggie leaves is a thoughtful equity & inclusion curriculum that invites all youth to learn about themselves, about working alongside people who are different from them, and about how our different life experiences make our community work. After the birth of her daughter, Basil, Maggie transitioned into a new role with LEAF, our first ever Development Director. Here, Maggie too has left a meaningful legacy of keeping our mission and our youth at the core of all of our fundraising through innovative approaches and authentic opportunities for our community to support this work. We are thrilled for Maggie's next vocational adventure in developing mindfulness and yoga education opportunities for children and youth.

Mackenzie first joined the LEAF team in the summer of 2015 as a crew leader and rising senior in college. From the first few days of her orientation, it was clear that Mackenzie brought something special and needed to our team - which is why we approached her about becoming a Program Assistant when she graduated. During Mackenzie's four years with LEAF, she quickly became indispensable and helped build LEAF into what it is today. Her remarkable capacity for efficiency, systems analysis, and passion for pursuing equity allowed us to further develop both our systems and our curriculum. More than that, Mackenzie's unfailing sense of humor and ability to reference just the exact right meme for any situation built warmth and camaraderie on even the most difficult days on the farm. Early this year, Mackenzie moved to Tennessee and is off to new adventures of her own.

Reflecting on these two amazing individuals and all they have brought to LEAF is humbling and inspiring. Thank you, Mackenzie and Maggie, for all that you have done - we cannot wait to follow your journeys! And thank you to all of you reading this blog, your continuous support makes our work possible. Here’s to a new season of warmth and growth!

What does it take to be a young leader?

Even though the weather has been all over the place this spring - snow to heat and sun to never-ending rain - things have been progressing steadily at LEAF! Over the past few months, the staff has been focused on recruiting and hiring the crew of youth interns who will being their experience this summer in June, and the youth have been working hard to prepare the farm and themselves for a great season! 

Fall Internship: Ventures & Social Enterprise

After several weeks of hard work throughout August, September, and October, the Fall Crew is over. Five youth worked twice a week on the farm and in the kitchen, preparing meals for our Kits program and doing projects large and small on the farm as part of our Ventures Crew. In the fall, there is still produce to be harvested and cultivated, while we also shift our focus to preparing the farm for the following season...

Weeks 2 + 3 - Why we eat

The past two weeks at LEAF have been filled with some amazing stuff! In an incredibly short amount of time, our new crew has built many new skills, both in the farm and in the kitchen. The leadership team - Crew Leaders, Assistant Crew Leaders, and Level 2 Crew - has also been fortifying and practicing their skills as they lead tasks each day.

Week 1 - Thunder Spuds and Sick Beets

Unbelievably, the first week of LEAF is complete! Twelve new individuals started their first experience with LEAF last Thursday, with two days of orientation. Our leadership team (composed of our Crew Leaders, Assistant Crew Leaders, and Level 2 Crew) was fully prepared for their arrival after spending Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in workshops and farm tasks meant to equip them with the necessary skills for the entire summer.

Spring internships, wrapping up!

Even though it feels like it just began, our spring internships are already coming to a close! This week is the last week of both our ventures crew, and our leadership series. The youth who have worked with us have done a tremendous amount on the farm since starting in mid April, including planting what feels like and entire farm’s worth of salad greens!   

New projects, new weather!

A couple weeks ago, we shared with everyone a little bit about our new greenhouse project. Beyond getting the site cleared and level for construction, there are now posts in the ground that will serve as the foundation for the structure. This project has been in the making for a long time. Last year, when I (Mackenzie, Program Coordinator) was still a student at Dickinson, had the great opportunity to work with LEAF on a grant writing project as a part of a class. The purpose was two fold - my two classmates and I would be able to learn through the process the ins and outs of writing grants (or as much as one can in a few short months!)...

BCS, Greenhouse, and more!

Before our Leadership crew arrived at work on Sunday, we were forewarned about a gaping hole on the farm. While initially confusing, this meant that the land was beginning to be prepared for our new greenhouse! The project will take some time to complete, but will eventually have in ground beds that LEAF can use to continue to grow produce into the fall, and start growing earlier in the spring. This new addition will help LEAF youth busy with meaningful work during some colder months! 

Spring 2017!

This past Tuesday, April 18, marked an important day in the LEAF 2017 year - our spring crew started! Having youth back on the farm provides a sense of excitement about all the work that will be done throughout the season, and the way in which the farm - and the youth - will transform to create something unique and amazing. 

LEAF Kits!

LEAF Kits are an exciting new project launching this fall! The aim is to make cooking together with local ingredients quick and easy for any family. For all those out there who wrestle to get dinner on the table in addition to a busy work, school, and extracurricular schedule, we're sure you can understand this struggle!