Heidi Witmer is the Founder and Executive Director of the LEAF Project Inc. Heidi brings a strong background in sustainable agriculture and youth development work. Growing up in a farming family, Heidi has always kept her hands in the dirt and has managed both educational and production vegetable farms in Maine and Vermont. Heidi also brings 15 years of experience in the youth development field, working as an instructor in a wilderness-based therapeutic program, teaching in a traditional classroom, and then becoming the head administrator for an all-girls private school. Heidi received her B.A. from Haverford College with a major in Religious Studies and Peace Studies.
The inspiration to start LEAF came from the combination of Heidi’s experiences while working with the United Nations in Kigali, Rwanda, seeing firsthand the power of using agriculture as community development. Then later as a school administrator, she observed how few opportunities her students had to do meaningful work during summer breaks. Heidi perceived a regional opportunity to connect one of our region’s strengths (a vibrant agricultural sector) with an untapped resource (youth employees) to meet some of our most pressing challenges: food insecurity, rise in food-choice-related health challenges, and workforce development. LEAF Youth Interns gain valuable and lifelong skills while connecting our community to the food we eat, the land on which it grows, and to one another.
Heidi and her husband, Shane Kaplan, currently live in Perry County on the LEAF Farm and share a lifelong love of travel and adventure. Despite many attempts, their dog Poppy has not adopted their love of whitewater paddling.