Current Fellows

& Alumni

Farm and Food Study

2021-2022 Cohort

AMI offers a tuition-free educational experience that trains and empowers Fellows to gain the skills they need to dig in and transform the food system.  In the first six months, Farm Fellows participate in the experiential, residential Farm and Food Study at AMI’s Allegheny Farm Campus

 
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Alex Tone

An avid climate activist and verified food nerd, Alex is new to farming but no stranger to food justice. As a military kid, Alex grew up hopping between the US, Russia, and Germany before finally going to study Political Science and Geography at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland in 2017. Between her studies and the ample pints and craic, Alex volunteered in the vibrant environmentalist community in Ireland, designing and running student workshops at Trinity and working on NGO climate action campaigns. After a summer stint in a Bavarian hotel kitchen and a year of collaborating with the agricultural activist group Growing Together, Alex decided to dig into the intersection between food systems and climate justice by working on a goat farm in Westmeath, Ireland. Learning more about the exploitative industry practices that make farmers use unsustainable methods on the land to which they are so deeply tied, Alex decided to pitch in her knowledge of climate and political science, community organizing, and environmental education to the ongoing effort of creating equitable, lasting, and nurturing food systems as an AMI Fellow. Alex loves music, hiking, peanut butter, books, and long chats over large cups of tea.

John Pierce

John grew up learning to cook from his parents and his Sicilian grandmother and spent countless hours in the forests of eastern Pennsylvania and Maine - he can’t remember a time when he didn’t love the kitchen or the woods. After receiving his undergrad degree from American University in Washington DC, John volunteered at the Bimini Biological Field Station / “Sharklab '' in the Bahamas, where he began to link food and environmentalism and became acutely aware of issues around food systems and sustainability.  His time in DC acquainted him with the endless power struggles and lack of representation for working class communities - and overrepresentation of corporate interests - in the Capitol, and he made it his mission to pursue environmental work focused on healing the country’s fraying food infrastructure. John hopes that he can channel his experiences and learning at AMI into a long career of continuing to localize the food movement while fighting inequality and creating food justice for communities and farmers who need it most. 

Madeleine Dodge

Originally from Denver, CO, Madeleine spent the last four years in Portland, OR where she completed her undergraduate studies at Lewis & Clark College, and is so excited to join the 2021-2022 Cohort of AMI Fellows. As a kid, Madeleine always loved spending time in the garden - especially if it meant finding worms with her grandma - but her interest in working in the food system really took root after working on a small farm in Massachusetts, coordinating a free food box program with Farmers to Families, and writing her senior Capstone about prison gardens. Madeleine hopes to use her passion for food justice and grassroots organizing to help equip marginalized communities with the resources they need to grow, cook, and eat tasty, nutritious foods.

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Grant Higginbotham

Grant grew up in southern Louisiana where his family operates a couple of 24-hour diners and lives amidst sugar cane fields - food and nature were surrounding and left a deep impact. Grant moved to New Orleans and graduated with a degree in English - Creative Writing from Loyola University in 2018, all the while studying and developing a deep love for environmentalism and food. He was lucky enough to attend a summer abroad program in northern India where he studied permaculture and religious ecology, getting his first taste of organic farming. A year after graduating from college, Grant attended culinary school in New Orleans knowing it was a step towards a career in farming and food justice. AMI is the next big step in that journey as Grant dedicates himself to the study of regenerative farming and holistic nutrition. Some of Grant's other passions include queer representation, visual arts, comparative religion & spirituality, speculative fiction, and traveling. Grant hopes to one day start his own organic farm operation that also acts as a venue for artist performances, chef pop-ups, and a multi-disciplinary education center.

Olivia olson

Olivia grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, growing veggies and cooking food with her family, which sparked a love of food and an interest in it on a broader scale. During her time studying food systems and global studies at the University of Minnesota, she found a passion for food justice and sovereignty and her studies abroad in Vietnam piqued her interest in international agriculture and food customs. She's researched (and eaten a variety of) edible insects, and is always down for a new food adventure. As an AMI Fellow, Olivia is excited to more deeply understand a wide range of food production processes, as well as learn about the food system in Virginia, and put knowledge into practice by working towards food justice, food access, and system sustainability.

Katerina Mesesan

As a first-generation child of Romanian and Ecuadorian immigrants, food was an integral part of keeping the culture of  Katerina’s parents alive and led her towards a career in culinary education and nutrition programming. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, she worked for Hipcooks, an amazing small business based out of Los Angeles, teaching folks all over Los Angeles County how to find joy in the kitchen, identify their inner-chef, and fuel their bodies to improve their health. As a certified nutrition coach, Katerina wants to continue to create classes, programming, and eventually policy that integrates food accessibility, sustainability, culinary education, and nutrition. She is beyond excited to fully immerse myself into the AMI Fellowship Program and learn innovative ways to produce food, sustain it, and impact communities in need.

India fleming- Klink

India Fleming-Klink is from humid summer nights in Richmond, VA, where cicadas chirping and city sounds join together in chorus. Her Peace Studies major at Goucher College provided her with critical analytical tools for understanding systems and theory, such as food system comprehension, problem solving, and other , re-imaginative tools. India has come to understand that conflict is reduced through food justice. She wholeheartedly believes that food sovereignty is central to creating a more just and equitable world where everyone has the ability to reach their fullest potential and build healthy, thriving communities.

Lyla amini

Lyla is from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, unceded Dakota land. She is currently a graduate student studying migration and climate change, and exploring how climate change is impacting agriculture and migration patterns in Persianate regions of Central Asia. Lyla has always been interested in food systems, and has repeatedly circled back to what it means to critically engage and cultivate the skills necessary to actively participate in rectifying injustices of food systems experienced by BIPOC and under-resourced communities. She is excited to learn and grow at AMI, and become directly involved with paying it forward.

 

Community Action Year

2020-2021 Cohort

Fellows build knowledge and skills through hands-on experience that leads to a comprehensive and equity-based understanding of the food system, from agriculture and health to community change. Community Fellows apply their training in partnership with regional non-profit organizations. 

Jamie Rudd

After a childhood of hiking and horseback riding in beautiful Central Oregon, Jamie moved to Upstate New York in 2013 to attend the University of Rochester where she double majored in Anthropology and English and was active in the university’s emerging Environmental Humanities program. Following graduation, Jamie began working at the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, a Rochester-based nonprofit, where she served as the manager of the Institute's community garden. Equipped with a strong foundation in urban agriculture, Jamie came to AMI eager to expand her knowledge of rural food systems and pursue her passions for food justice, ecological design, community development, and sustainable agriculture. In her current role as Outreach and Equity Coordinator, Jamie is thrilled to be spending her Community Action Year connecting AMI’s work to communities in Highland and Augusta County, advancing organizational equity efforts, and assisting with farm and fellowship programming at the Allegheny Mountain Farm.

Sarah Spinner

Originally from the Richmond area, Sarah graduated from Appalachian State University with a BS in nutrition and foods and a minor in sustainable development. She grew her appreciation for food and the environment while living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and becoming an active member in the Boone community. Having worked with a local non-profit where she helped run a farmer’s market and taught preschool garden lessons, Sarah is most passionate about food justice and promoting food security through equitable, local food systems in rural America. Sarah is a Community Fellow at AMI's farm at Augusta Health as the Farm and Education Coordinator. Working in conjunction with hospital staff, she is excited to use her background in Nutrition and Public Health to increase food access, promote holistic, diet based health interventions, and conduct farm based workshops. She is also enthusiastic to continue practicing regenerative and sustainable agricultural approaches to growing food.

Dylan Koenig

Dylan grew up in the suburbs of New York where, as a child of Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi ancestors, food was always a central concern. He then studied computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University before moving out west to California. Through a love for plants, being outdoors, and community building, he started volunteering at urban farms and farmers markets. This passion led him to study the myriad ways our food system intersects with climate and social justice issues and the promise of regenerative practices to nourish our communities while rebuilding our soils. He has worked on technology to reduce the environmental impact of industrial agriculture and now comes to AMI to connect deeper with the land and work toward a just food system. Along with Sophie, Dylan is an Assistant Farm Manager with the AMI Farm at Augusta Health during the Community Action Year. In this role, he works with the farm crew to sustainably grow nutrient-rich veggies and manage their WIC Farmers Market operation during the season. He is excited to participate in the vital work of increasing food access in Augusta County through the many ways this farm offers its harvest and partners with its community.

Lauren Glaze

Lauren grew up in Charlotte, NC, and studied environmental science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She developed an interest in the food system because it is intimately connected to our health. Lauren wants to work to spread access to and education about healthy food and how to work with the land rather than against it. Lauren is the School Gardens Program Coordinator at Staunton City Schools. 

SophiE May

Sophie grew up in Syracuse, NY surrounded by a community of urban homesteaders, social justice organizers, environmentalists, artists, and academics. After becoming involved in worker justice intiatives in high school, she went on to study union organizing, food systems and Spanish at Cornell University where she was also involved with student groups focused on labor justice and worker solidarity, and worked on and off as a barista and a labor researcher. As someone who is interested in the creation of healthy community ecosystems, Sophie was excited to join the AMI Fellowship to learn how to farm for food justice and community food access as well as environmental stewardship. As a Community Fellow, Sophie is working at the Augusta Health Farm as an Assistant Farm Manager with a focus on volunteer coordination and CSA management.

Hannah Dorrel

Growing up in a military household, Hannah has bounced around her whole life, but her family is currently based in Manassas, Virginia. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Global Studies and Economics. Hannah has always had a love for food, stemming from baking in her grandmother’s kitchen and planting gardens with her parents at every new house. This now manifests in obsessively reading cookbooks and trying adventurous recipes. Hannah's increasing interest in food and food systems in college led her to managing gardens for a program that creates working landscapes to facilitate campus community engagement surrounding food and agriculture sustainability. Hannah has a deep interest in food history, the intersection of food and gender, and international food policy. As a Community Fellow, Hannah is based at the Allegheny Mountain Farm as the Farm and Fellowship Coordinator where she is excited to continue increasing her knowledge of food justice issues and sustainable agriculture and pass on this excitement to the new Farm Fellows. 

 

AMI Alumni

 The AMI Fellowship builds strong leaders who successfully work to build food systems that are socially, environmentally, and economically just. AMI alumni go on to work as farmers, educators, scientists, food entrepreneurs, designers, non-profit leaders,  policymakers, and lifelong leaders in the food movement.

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Paul Krysik

2013- 2014 Fellow

I stepped foot onto AMI’s Mountain Farm as a beginning farmer and local food advocate curious about what the next two years as a Fellow might bring. The AMI Fellowship prepared me in unspeakable ways for what life had in store for me in the next chapter of my journey. In early 2015, I joined the Chicago Botanical Gardens’ Urban Agriculture Department: Windy City Harvest team as a Harvest Corps Crew Leader in my home city of Chicago. I now coordinate and manage a two-acre incubator farm site in Bronzeville where I mentor the new agricultural business aspirations of Windy City Harvest graduates and grow $40,000 worth of vegetables on ¼ acre for Midwest Foods, a local produce wholesale company.

Anna Tracht

2015- 2016 Fellow

The Farm and Food Study of the AMI Fellowship was a gift. It was a time to slow down, dig in, and pursue passions and skills I hadn't had time to explore – like working with two other Fellows to create an apothecary for my Capstone project. the Community Action Year was an exciting whirlwind; I spent the year working with The Highland Center, developing and running a Culinary and Hospitality Internship Program, supporting the Highland Farmers Market, and reopening The Highland Inn Restaurant as a local food destination. I was energized and inspired by the Highland farming community, and how people were linking together different parts of the food system in new and innovative ways, especially given Highland County's remote location and the accompanying challenges. It was these connections- both personal and on a system-wide level- that pushed me to pursue work with food hubs and increasing local food access. When my time with AMI came to an end, I was motivated to continue the work of building local food systems. About a year ago, I accepted a position with Cultivating Community, a food justice non-profit based in Portland, Maine. In my role as the Sales Coordinator and CSA Manager, I support a training farm and food hub for new American farmers. I work with refugee and immigrant farmers in providing produce to about 450 CSA members and numerous markets, schools, and food pantries throughout southern Maine. We aim to equip the farmers with skills and tools to graduate and become independent farm business operators. As I begin my second season with Cultivating Community, I still draw on foundational experiences and lessons learned during my AMI Fellowship each day, and I'm sure I will continue to do so for years to come.

Katie Gilman

2015- 2016 Fellow

I was drawn to the AMI Fellowship in 2014 when I returned home to Virginia after spending 8 months in rural farming communities in Guatemala. During my travels, I learned about the region’s food production issues and how these issues more deeply affect the peasant farmers that make up the majority of the country’s indigenous population. I realized I wanted to immerse myself in a program with a structured focus on growing food and analyzing food systems.

The Fellowship played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development both as a human, engaged in buying, growing, and consuming food and as an agricultural educator. AMI offers a unique experience for inner reflection, with the opportunity to live in the breathtaking Allegheny Mountains for the six months of Farm and Food Study. The yearlong placement allowed me to fully integrate the hands-on skills, farming practices and intra and interpersonal capabilities in a real way. I have gained training and knowledge that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I feel confident that I will always be able to provide food for myself and community, wherever that might be.

It’s now been 3 years since I finished my time with AMI. I’m currently back in Guatemala where I work with several Guatemalan educators as a Network of Agricultural and Ecological Educators by the name of REISA. REISA offers free, hands-on experiential trainings and workshops based around food sovereignty for 15 to 25 year-olds in rural indigenous Mayan communities. 

Roger Woo

2013- 2014 Fellow

AMI taught me so much about the power of food in building, nourishing, and sustaining local communities. It has inspired me to build a small farm business of my own, and reinvigorated my vision of building a farm-to-table restaurant and educational hub someday. However, I also want to empower others to grow their own food and in doing so, contribute to a more resilient and diverse food system, wherever they may be. Since I've left Virginia, I've encountered mentors who taught me not only how to grow vegetables, but also how to run an effective business enterprise. This season, I'm excited to be finally growing for myself, managing a farm with two other business partners in Southern Ontario. We've carved out a one-acre market garden, tucked away in the valley of an old Simmental cattle farm. There remains much for me to learn, and while AMI did not give me all the answers, it certainly instilled in me the confidence that I'll be able to figure things out. I look forward to the challenges of this journey, and I hope you will join me as I share my experiences about gardening, cooking, and everything food-related through my podcast, 'To Grow a Meal' You can find us on iTunes, Google Play, or www.togrowameal.com

Ben Samuelson

2014- 2015 Fellow

My AMI Senior Fellowship was with the founding team to create the AMI Urban Farm at VSDB. That was the first educational farm I helped to build, now I'm working on the third. I signed on as a "Location Manager" for a non-profit called The Amir Project. Amir builds gardens and farms at summer camps and runs programming during the camp season aimed at teaching ideas of social justice as well as the more obvious "where our food comes from" rag. It is a compelling idea and I saw it work. With just a little reminding and mindfulness I saw children take an understanding of our role of power in the garden. My job at the Amir Project was to first help run our seminar to train 80 farmers to go tend and teach in gardens at camps across the country, then to manage a team of 5 to build (from scratch) and run programming in a productive one-quarter acre farm in just three months! That is an insane goal and we did it. Now I am living and working in northern California at the Environment Celebration Institute's demonstration farm. This is the non-profit that Elaine Ingham works through. She is something of a celebrity in the biological farming movement, and for good reason. Her soil biology consulting work has been quietly transforming unstructured and lifeless farm soils back into resilient productive havens for microbes, like soils are meant to be. Her work has been widely embraced internationally, and the demand for consultants is outstripping supply. She relies on scrutinizing compost for the life it contains, using extreme discernment to select the right compost for the job, and applying it as an inoculant, not a fertilizer. Our workhorse is the light microscope; we make a lot of compost, and keep a lot of records. The purchase of the farm was final in the late spring of this year. There is still a great deal of work to be done on our soil, which has been chemically managed and is currently host to very few organisms other than bacteria. The purpose of the farm is to be a teaching center for the microscopy skills necessary to understand and inform all types of growing operations. Currently Elaine uses the farm as a kind of personal retreat for about one week each month where she can garden, catch up on email, and rest from her global work life. This is lucky for me as I get lots of coveted one-on-one microscope time with her, which seriously rocks. I am getting back to my roots in Biology (my undergrad major) and quickly gaining soil literacy. These skills are needed all over the world and I am honored and flattered to be considered to do this big work. There's not much gain in counting nematode eggs and flagellate cysts before they hatch, but I'm excited for whatever is next. I usually have a hard time looking down the road, even a few months. In fact, AMI gave me the longest steadiest engagement I've had since college. Wherever I go I take the fruits of that immersive learning and meaningful work that I shared in Virginia with my cohort.