Meet The Team
Heroic Food Board Members
Having served in the U.S. Army Reserve, Jennifer is a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2005). Following her deployment, Jennifer enrolled at Paul Smiths College in upstate New York and graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts and Service Management in 2010. In 2013, she began to grow her in-laws maple syrup production business and began marketing a myriad of maple products. By 2017, the business had grown the farm to include pumpkin patches, hay mazes, pre-cut Christmas trees, and agri-tourism events.
A U.S. Army Vet and a farmer in the Hudson Valley, Greg is a force to be reckoned with. His main crop is black currants but the farm also boasts 9 other berries, a small fruit orchard, a small vineyard, a maple grove and an apiary. When not farming, Greg is a children’s books writer and woodworker. Greg has always been a number one supporter of Heroic Food’s mission; hosting beekeeping and farm product marketing workshops on his beautiful property in upper Dutchess County.
Jaklyn Van Manen
Jaklyn joins the Heroic Food board of directors with over 10 years of experience in government, non-profit, and higher education sectors, specializing in strategic engagement. As the daughter of a Coast Guard veteran and as a former employee of the James J. Peters VA Medical Center, Jaklyn cares deeply about honoring and providing opportunities for our nation's veterans. Currently, Jaklyn is the Development Director for the National Young Farmers Coalition, helping young farmers achieve viable farming careers. She resides in the Hudson Valley and enjoys growing food and flowers for her family and friends.
Heroic Food Staff
A U.S. Marine Corps Veteran and farming hopeful, Ryan just recently purchased five acres of land after three years helping other veterans get into small scale farming. Formerly Heroic Food’s program manager from December 2016 to March 2019, he has been an integral part of our growth. He has rejoined us as program manager after a year in service to our community as Veteran liaison for Congressman Delgado (NYS-D19) in 2019. Just this year, he was awarded the 40 Under 40 Movers and Shakers Award by Dutchess County's Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Contact Ryan at
Assistant Executive Director
Formerly our communications specialist, Jasmin is familiar with our operational procedures and has a genuine passion for Veteran services. With a B.A. in Political Science, Jasmin understands the importance of thinking globally and acting locally. For the last two years she has served our mission by sharing our message; a millennial with tech savvy, her ability to communicate the necessity of our mission has built forward momentum. She feels both farming and serving in the U.S. military are family affairs. Leading Heroic Food is her way of honoring the Veterans in her family; her grandfather, uncle, and fiancee have fought in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq and both siblings are members of the armed forces.
Contact Jasmin at
Veteran Program Manager
A US Army Veteran and Farmer in the Hudson Valley, Justin served at ground Zero after the towers fell in 2001. In 2007, Justin moved out of NYC to return to the region he grew up in and started to get involved in horticulture and farming. In 2012 he introduced Hop Farming to the Hudson Valley and has designed, built and processed over 20 Hop Farms in the region. Justin’s Family owns a 5 acre Agritourism Farm / Bed and Breakfast in Gardiner, NY. The farm serves as an educational and wellness Farmstead for veterans and others to learn about sustainable systems. In 2019, the Patchwork Quilt Farm hosted its first Heroic Foods BBQ fundraiser in July. He is currently working on a succession plan to take over his family farm as his parents move into their golden years.
Michael began farming in 1970. After 20 years in 1990 Michael was hired to run the first organic farm in Salinas, California. Over the next five years TKO Farms became the country’s leading grower of packaged salad greens. In 1996 he became the first Farm Manager for Mission Organics, growing for the Earthbound label and newly formed Natural Selection Foods. In 1998 Michael began a ten year stint developing 1600 acres of intensive organic vegetable and herb production in the northern half of Baja California for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, including 30 acres of indoor tomatoes. In 2008 he began the Farmer Veteran Coalition out of the back of his pickup truck.
Founder and Executive Director
Leora grew up in the Army, the daughter of a 24-year Army Chaplain. During the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Leora began mentoring veterans in writing through the Writers’ Guild of America East Foundation, of which she is a member. In 2012, she decided to start a sustainable farm school for veterans, which would become Heroic Food. Through her leadership since our inception in 2014, over a hundred veterans in NYS have experienced the farm life, whether through our one-day workshops, our annual signature three day workshop "Farm Squad", or our more intense 8-month Immersion Program.
Contact Leora at Leorabarish@gmail.com