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!