To conserve natural resources and improve rural economies through community leadership and enhanced educational opportunities.

Meet the Team

Image of Susan McKinney, Executive Director.

Susan McKinney, Executive Director

Susan has over 30 years of professional experience with over 15 of those working in the nonprofit sector. In her current position as Executive Director at ARCD, Susan is the Chief Executive and oversees the daily operations of the organization. Her work at ARCD includes development of rural and urban agricultural programs, sustainability of local food systems, economic development, youth environmental education, as well as conservation of farm lands and natural resources. Susan has a Masters of Public Administration degree from East Tennessee State University in Nonprofit Management, is a graduate of Leadership Johnson City, and is a two-time graduate of Appalachian Regional Commission’s Ready Nonprofit in Fundraising and Financial Management. She serves on the Boards of the Washington County Agricultural Partnership, Northeast TN Tourism Association, and is on the Advisory Committee for the Appalachian Producers Cooperative. 

Connect: 423-427-0560 / susan@arcd.org

Profile Image of Lexy Close, Project Director

Lexy Close, Program Director

Lexy is a native of Northeast Tennessee with a Masters of International Development and Social Change from Clark University. After 7 months WWOOFing in Europe, Close returned home to apply her passion for sustainability by improving rural economies through sustainable agriculture. In 2012, she co-founded the community organization “Build It Up East Tennessee” which was integrated into ARCD in 2015. Since inception, Build It Up has established three vibrant community gardens in low-income neighborhoods, and backyard gardening participants have harvested a grand total of 117,931 pounds of food. She came onto the ARCD team as the Local Food Promotion Coordinator and grew to be a regional expert on local food markets and products. Nowadays, she focuses on grant writing and is the Program Director for ARCD’s work with the Appalachian Producers Cooperative. So far, she has written successful grants totaling $2.5 million to support local agriculture programs.

Connect: 423-427-0549 / alexis@arcd.org

Profile Image of Rachel Armor, Project Director

Rachel Wheeler, Program Director

Rachel is a native of Bristol, Tennessee, and first joined the ARCD in 2017. Her educational background is in Anthropology with a focus on Appalachian Studies. Before joining the ARCD, she was a local arts co-op business owner in downtown Bristol, and for a decade she educated hundreds of tourists and locals as an environmental tour guide on the Nolichucky River. During her tenure at ARCD, she played a key role in hosting the National Quilt Trail Gathering, developed the TN FarmLink program, directed a Farmers Market Promotion Program, and currently leads the ARCD’s Appalachian Farmacy program. She applied her background in environmental tourism and Appalachian Studies to local agriculture by establishing the first farm tour event in Tennessee. Rachel has also served as Vice President of the Tennessee Association of Farmers Markets, where she collaborated to develop an emergency response plan for farmers markets during the pandemic. Having run a farm and a productive market garden, she understands the challenges involved and hopes her work can be an asset to area farmers and consumers. Rachel is passionate about supporting locally produced food access for all people. Rachel and her son call downtown Johnson City home, and love being involved in their community.

Connect: 423-427-0547 / rachel@arcd.org

Profile Image of Kayla Nichols, Marketing & Communications Director

Kayla Nichols, Marketing & Communications Director

Kayla joined ARCD in 2018. Prior to joining ARCD, she worked in the marketing industry in various roles since graduating from East Tennessee State University in 2014. Her previous roles include work on the Kingsport Carousel Project, at the Bristol Herald Courier, and most recently Biltmore Estate. Her passion lies in community engagement and creating just and resilient local food systems. At ARCD, Kayla directs all marketing and communications activities, and leads our Northeast Tennessee Food Vision project which aims to increase investment in, access to, and consumption of locally grown food. Outside of ARCD, Kayla serves as the Vice President of A Step Ahead Tri-Cities, serves on the Washington County Library Board of Trustees, and enjoys writing poetry and listening to podcasts. She grew up in Fall Branch, Tennessee, and now resides in Jonesborough.

Connect: 423-427-0546 / kayla@arcd.org

Profile Image of Aubrey Baker, Community Relations and Advancement Director

Aubrey Baker, Operations & Finance Director

A native of Knoxville, TN, Aubrey is thrilled to have relocated to the beautiful Tri-Cities area in 2020. Inspired by the dedication to economic development and positive impact on physical health outcomes, Aubrey recently joined the team at Appalachian RC&D Council. As the Community Relations & Advancement Director, Aubrey garners support and industry advocacy to leverage philanthropic giving and create sustainable funding streams. With over a decade of program development and implementation experience, Aubrey is passionate about engaging communities with initiatives that increase access to lifelong learning opportunities. Her work has largely focused on cultivating strategic cross sector partnerships, maximizing resources to better serve the community. Most recently, Aubrey directed regional community relations and public programming for Kentucky Opera. In addition, Aubrey has taught in higher education as an adjunct professor with Roane State Community College and Tusculum University. A classical musician by training, Aubrey received her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and Master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. She also received a Project Management and Leadership Certificate 360 from eCornell. Outside of ARCD, Aubrey serves on the Children and Youth Vision Council with United Way of Greater Kingsport, and the Workforce Development Planning Team with ACC STRONG. She enjoys exploring the outdoors with her family, painting, and playing music.

Connect:  aubrey@arcd.org

Profile Image of Rosie McVeigh with white AmeriCorps logo on the lower right corner

Rosie McVeigh, Agriculture Education Director

Rosie joined ARCD in 2020 through the AmeriCorps program, and was then hired on directly to continue her work with Build It Up and Field School. She graduated from ETSU in December of 2019 where she studied Anthropology, Spanish, and Public Health. Before joining the ARCD, she worked for the Town of Jonesborough managing the Ardinna Woods Arboretum. Rosie was born and raised in Northeast Tennessee, and her family participated in many food co-ops during her childhood. Her family also utilized most of their property to grow all their own fruits and vegetables along with eggs. This self-sustained way of living inspired her to work in agricultural sustainability and food insecurity. She has a passion for learning new skills and growing as a professional and a person; she loves to travel and has been to 15 countries. Her goal is to visit all 7 continents and at least 100 countries.

Connect:  rosie@arcd.org

Board of Directors

Roy Settle, Chair
Lynice Broyles, Vice-Chair
Linda Crouch-McCreadie
Heidi Davis
Wayne Davis
Ron Dawson
Lewis Haynie
Bonnie Macdonald
Steve Mallory
Alicia Phelps
Kenny Smith
Mark Stevans
Dana York

What Does “RC&D” Mean?

Resource Conservation & Development

The Appalachian Resource Conservation & Development Council is 501(c) (3) non-profit organization chartered in 1994. Our Board of Directors includes representation from across the region.

Our mission is to conserve natural resources and improve rural economies through community leadership and enhanced educational opportunities.

We work to preserve our heritage, promote local growers/producers and protect the lands of past generations so that future generations may be able to enjoy the natural wonders our region has to offer.


Farm Fresh Appalachia

Funded by an FMPP grant from the USDA, Farm Fresh Appalachia is a local cohort of organizations lead by ARCD with a goal of promoting and supporting local farmers markets.

Field School

Field School is a beginning farmer training program that is hosted by ARCD and Green Earth Connection, and is supported in large part by USDA and TDA in addition to many local organizations.

Build It Up East TN

Build It Up offers training, education, and resources for backyard gardening to families in Northeast Tennessee. The program has helped over 100 families learn to grow their own food, thereby mitigating the impact of food desserts.


ARCD’s work in conservation includes water quality restoration, land conservation, and wildfire risk mitigation. ARCD also facilitates Envirothon for Northeast Tennessee which teaches high school students about the environment.

Appalachian Quilt Trail

The Quilt Trail is a database of local barns that display a quilt block for the public to see and appreciate. The database is maintained by ARCD, but is not currently accepting new barns to be added to the trail.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits federally assigned programs from discriminating based on race, color or national origin. The Appalachian RC&D Council also requires that its services and programs be offered to all eligible persons regardless of race, color or national origin, age, gender, religion or sexual orientation.