Farm and Food Study
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
Born and raised in Washington, DC and the surrounding area, Alex spent the warmer months camping on the Eastern Shore Western Maryland, and the Catskills in New York. After attending the University of Maryland University College, Alex worked in reproductive rights, healthcare, and health equity for LGBTQIA+ communities with Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, and GLMA: Health Professional Advancing LGBTQ Equality. Alex left the non-profit sector to begin work in the D.C. food service industry, where they discovered a love for wine and a passion for the farmers, their growing techniques, and their stories. After working a harvest season at District Winery, Alex knew they had to work in agriculture in some capacity. Engaging in food systems through service industry and agricultural production, coupled with experience in social justice movements, ignited Alex’s passion and interest in equitable, anti-capitalist food systems. They are looking forward to this incredible, hands-on opportunity to learn sustainable farming practices, participate in community building, and ferment cool thing
After growing up in Arlington, VA, Brennan attended Virginia Tech to study Animal and Poultry Science with a Pre-Vet emphasis. A study abroad program in South Africa and an amazing professor, enabled him to discover a passion for improving food systems both in the US and abroad. Subsequently, as an undergrad Brennan participated in research of mungbean, developing gardening systems to be used by women and school children in Senegal, and interned as a grant writer for Seed Programs International, a nonprofit that distributes high quality seeds to farmers in developing countries. In his free time, Brennan loves cooking, trail running, and playing his banjo.
G grew up in central Ohio and has been living in Columbus for the past couple of years, at first to work on an urban vegetable farm, and then to complete their undergraduate degree at Denison University. G feels lucky to have experienced a diverse range of educational opportunities, including participating in a semester-long Border Studies Program in Tucson where they interned at an elementary school garden. During this experience, they got their hands dirty growing vegetables for the first time, became inspired by the pedagogy of gardening and learned more about the farmworker movement and exploitative labor practices of the U.S. Food System. G is excited to deepen their knowledge of growing food and food systems through AMI.
Originally from semi-rural North Texas, Amanda has also called Taiwan, New York, and Iowa home and still delights in her childhood joys of cloud-watching, bug-catching, bicycle-adventuring, and friendship-forging. After graduating from Graceland University (Lamoni, IA) in 2011 with a B.A. in Publication Writing & Design, Amanda eventually found a stable career in the commercial photo industry in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She loved the camaraderie and resourcefulness of the photo crew, but struggled with the contribution to consumerism, and kept searching for a way to give back and do good. Personal study of various strains of activism and social change led her to one of the busiest intersections between humanity and nature - food. The AMI Fellowship is Amanda’s first deep dive into the knowledge and skills she’ll need to serve the two loves of her life - humanity and nature. Amanda is thrilled with this life-changing opportunity, and looks forward to the time when her own two hands offer a depleted patch of soil and a hungry individual some real relief.
Born and raised in Corrales, New Mexico, Donovan attended College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine where he became interested in food systems. While in school, Donovan deepened this interest through food policy coursework, an internship at a food justice non-profit working with refugee farmers, and getting involved in campus activism around student food insecurity. After graduating in 2020, he moved to Bozeman, Montana where he evaluated and expanded the Gallatin Valley Food Bank's child nutrition programs as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Donovan is looking forward to learning about the food system from a producer perspective and building a community with the other Fellows.
Gaby grew up in Astoria, New York and graduated from Queens College with a BA in English Literature. When basic food staples became scarce during the pandemic, she realized how reliant city dwellers are on a food system that is bound to be disrupted. Gaby developed an interest in bridging that gap for herself by experimenting with growing food in a limited urban space. This contributed to her current goal of helping others once again regain their food agency and she is excited to build related skills as an AMI Fellow.
While growing up in suburban Southern California, Arden did not think much about food and farming. When she began college at University of California Santa Cruz, her interest in food rooted and grew. During this time, Arden earned a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Agroecology and Sustainable Food System and contributed to a student-run organization that connected the university-owned farm to the rest of campus, in part to help reduce food insecurity among students. She has primarily been interested in matters - and injustices - of land and food access, and is excited to learn more about sustainable farming and food, and how community needs are linked to these practices.
Emily was born and raised in Oakland, California where the social landscape and built environment compelled her to think critically about her positionality and responsibility in the Bay Area's highly concentrated system of class and racial segregation – and also appreciate the beauty, connection, and joy that rises up against it. Emily studied Sociology, Education, and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College in rural New Hampshire. While living at home and working at a local public middle school during a term off from college, Emily decided to teach herself how to cook, and fell head over heels in love with food and cooking as a creative, land-based, community-building and culturally-sustaining process. After graduating from Dartmouth, she moved to a small town in southern Ecuador to work as an Au Pair for a local family and in her time off, volunteered at a permaculture farm in her time off and endeavored to learn as much as she could about the food cultures of Ecuador and Venezuela. Emily is so excited to live, learn, and develop a relationship with the land and the community within and surrounding AMI.
Born and raised in Ohio, Lex considers himself a curious and open-minded person. Lex comes to AMI with a degree in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability from The Ohio State University. More recently, he worked at a commercial greenhouse. Lex is intrigued by alternative forms of agriculture and passionate about working with nature to improve resiliency for our communities and planet.
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.
An avid climate activist and verified food nerd, Alex grew up hopping between the US, Russia, and Germany before finally going to study Political Science and Geography at Trinity College Dublin. After working with vibrant environmentalist and agricultural communities in Ireland, Alex dug into the intersection between food systems and climate justice by working on a goat farm in Westmeath, Ireland. There she learned more about the exploitative industry practices that make farmers use unsustainable methods on the land to which they are so deeply tied. This motivated Alex 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. She hopes to learn more about strengthening food sovereignty on a community scale and engaging kids with farming as the Educational Farm Coordinator at the Waynesboro Educational Farm this year. Alex loves music, peanut butter, books, and long chats over large cups of tea.
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 and 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 has fallen in love with Highland County, and hopes to channel this passion, as well as his experience as a Farm Fellow last year into his work on the Allegheny Farm as Donation Coordinator and Fellowship Assistant and at the Highland Center in Monterey, as Local Food Coordinator.
Olivia grew up in Minnesota where growing a variety of veggies, cooking food with her family, and making "soup" in a frisbee out of whatever plants she could find in her neighborhood fueled her passion for almost all things food-related. While studying sustainable food systems and global studies at the University of Minnesota, she began focusing on food justice and sovereignty in the United States and around the world. Living and studying abroad in Vietnam piqued her interest in international agriculture and food customs, and Olivia hopes to continue to learn more about food systems around the world. She's researched (and eaten) a variety of edible insects and is always down for a new food adventure. Equipped with technical knowledge about food systems, Olivia was excited to join the AMI Fellowship to get hands-on experience with sustainable farming practices and food systems transformation and is looking forward to sharing her knowledge with and learning from students at Waynesboro Public Schools as the School Garden Coordinator.
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 was Grant's next big step in his journey to study regenerative farming and holistic nutrition. In his Community Action Year, Grant is working full-time as the Augusta Health Farm Assistant and CSA Coordinator and is helping distribute food to hospital food programs as well as managing cut flower operations, mushroom production, and growing a wide variety of herbs. Some of Grant's other passions include queer representation, visual arts, comparative religion & spirituality, speculative fiction, and traveling.
Lyla is from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, unceded Dakota land. In late 2021 she finished her graduate degree on migration, climate change, and climate-resilient agriculture policy in the 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 rectify injustices of food systems experienced by BIPOC and under-resourced communities. As a Community Fellow, she is working at both Jubilee Climate Farm, a project of Vine and Fig, as Field Staff as well as at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health as Farm Assistant. Lyla is excited to continue to learn, gain hands-on experience, and deepen her skills in multiple aspects of farming while exploring the critical overlaps between climate change, land access, public health, and our food system during her Community Action Year.
India fleming- Klink
India Fleming-Klink is from Richmond, VA. Her Peace Studies major at Goucher College equipped her with critical analytical tools for understanding systems and theory, such as food system comprehension, problem solving, and other re-imaginative tools. India's introduction to growing food and food justice was through her four years of work with Tubman House, an urban farm in West Baltimore, MD, where she came to understand that conflict is reduced through food justice. During her time at Goucher, India also served as president of the college community garden and facilitated a farming program with Therapeutic Alternatives of Maryland (TALMAR), a horticultural therapy center. Later, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she volunteered as a farm assistant at a local flower farm outside Richmond. As a Community Fellow, India serves as the Community Garden Coordinator at Jones Gardens — a community garden in Staunton, VA — working on food access and community building. India is also a Farm Assistant at Augusta Health, where she will run AMI's stand at the Farmers Market at the Staunton-Augusta Health Department, a market designed to increase food access for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants. India wholeheartedly believes that food sovereignty is central to creating a more just and equitable world where everyone has the ability to reach their full potential and build healthy, thriving communities.
After growing up in Denver, CO, unceded Ute, Cheyenne, and Arapaho land, Madeleine received her BS from Lewis & Clark College. As a kid she 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 program with Farmers to Families, and writing her senior Capstone about prison gardens. As a Community Fellow, Madeleine is currently the Farm and Education Coordinator at the Allegheny Farm where she hopes to foster a vibrant and supportive space for the next cohort of Fellows to learn and grow in farming.
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 www.togrowameal.com
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.