Current Fellows & Alumni
2023 Cohort Coming Soon
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. Based on AMI's Allegheny Farm Campus, the six-month Farm Fellowship gives participants the opportunity to live and work on a Certified Naturally Grown farm, study and practice cottage industry skills, and distribute fresh produce to the rural Highland County community.
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.
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. Arden is looking forward to learning and engaging more farming skills in her role as Farm Assistant at Augusta Health.
Emily was born and raised in Oakland, California and studied Sociology, Education, and Native American Studies at Dartmouth College in rural New Hampshire. Growing up, she attended and later worked for a summer camp in the forests of the Sierra Foothills where she discovered her passion for cultivating playful and vulnerable connections with young people in outdoor spaces. Then, 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 in love with food and cooking as a creative, land-based, community-building and culturally-sustaining process. Emily came to AMI to explore the potential intersection of her desire to work with children, her excitement about food and food cultures, and her curiosity about the natural world. This year, she will be the Garden and Outdoor Learning Coordinator at Bessie Weller Elementary School where she will facilitate co- and extra-curricular programming that weave together the classroom, the garden, and students’ broader social, emotional, cultural, and ecological worlds.
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. He looks forward to getting his hands dirty on the farm but also interacting with people in the community and facilitating educational opportunities through his role as Farm Assistant and Education Coordinator at Augusta Health.
Born and raised in Ohio, Lex considers himself a curious and open-minded person. Lex came 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. As a Community Fellow, Lex is working with Augusta Health as a Farm Assistant to grow produce for hospital programming, markets, and the CSA program. He endeavors to foster relationships with the hospital community through food and flowers.
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. For his Community Action Year, Donovan is working at Project GROWS in Staunton where he will gain a full calendar year of farming experience -- planning, seeding, weeding, irrigating, harvesting, cover cropping, and more. His responsibilities also intersect with the organization's educational and food access work by supporting other staff with summer camps, school field trips, and mobile markets.
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.