Farm and Food Study
We can't wait to meet the 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
Community Action Year
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.
Melanie comes to AMI after three years living in Boston, and it's only on her way out that she learns the city acquired the title "Beantown" because colonial Bostonians cooked their beans in molasses. She graduated from Wells College after writing her thesis on food as a lyrical device in rap, and has been collecting bizarre food-related tidbits of information ever since. Upon entering the workforce, Melanie tried her hand at viticulture, elementary education, and NGOs before landing on beekeeping. Through her apiary work, Melanie discovered the many tiers of sustainable food systems and found she had much to learn. She hopes her thumb is as green as the rest of her is in this ever-evolving discipline. Her passions include food justice/accessibility, cultural identity as it merges with food history, environmental journalism, and seeking out the best breakfast in the world, an endeavor she has lovingly dubbed, "Breakfast Quest." As a Community Fellow, Melanie is working with Waynesboro Public Schools as Farm and Programs Coordinator. In this role, she is especially excited to be prioritizing communities that have a harder time accessing food and making opportunities to participate in community enrichment programs more accessible.
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.
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.
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.
Growing up back and forth between the wheat belt of France and the Southern Appalachian mountains and in a family that always raised a big summer vegetable garden, food and farming are essential elements of Justin's identity. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in Environmental Studies and Geology where he spent much of his time working at the Coker Arboretum and on other gardening projects. Having found agriculture as a converging point for many of his passions, he is grateful for his mentors' encouragement of his farming focus, and for the inspiration and direction, his time at AMI has brought him. As a Community Fellow, Justin is a Farm and Education Coordinator for Waynesboro Public Schools. He looks forward to getting the roots established on this project - a new community vegetable farm where students will apply their classroom curriculum as they engage with food production. As a part of this, he hopes to see students develop an intimate understanding of food as it relates to health, social equity, ecology, and cultural identity.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.