• Allegheny Mountain Institute

     

     

    AMI's Farm and Food Education Fellowship Application is Now Available!

     

      

     

     

  • Allegheny Mountain Institute (AMI) is an educational non-profit organization with the mission to cultivate healthy communities through food and education.

    AMI's flagship program is an 18-month Fellowship that prepares individuals to become teachers and ambassadors for a more vibrant and accessible local food system. Selected Fellows are fully funded to spend six months in immersive training on AMI’s Mountain Farm campus (Phase I) and one year in service work with AMI’s partner organizations (Phase II).

     

    The AMI Fellowship creates strong leaders who work to promote community food systems. AMI Fellows go on to work as local food coordinators, farmers, school garden facilitators, market farm managers, food systems educators, and advocates for sustainable food systems.

     

    Read more about the AMI Fellowship below!

     

  • About the Fellowship Program

    The AMI Fellowship is an 18-month, two-phase program that spans two full growing seasons. AMI Fellows gain a deeper understanding of the relationships between food production, natural systems, diet, and optimal human health and participate in hands-on educational program in sustainable agriculture. They go on to work as local food coordinators, school garden facilitators, market farm managers, food systems educators, and advocates for sustainable food systems. AMI's Fellowship Program creates strong leaders who successfully work to build a more cohesive food system.

     

    Applications are due by February 1, 2018, and will be considered on a rolling basis, and are reviewed as soon as complete. For more information, e-mail Jessa Fowler: jessa@alleghenymountainschool.org.

    What Will You Study?

    Full Season Organic Gardening

    Cooking, Preserving & Fermentation

    Food Systems and Food Access

    Nutrition & Wellness

    Soil Science

    Small Animal Husbandry

    Permaculture Design

    Mushroom Cultivation

    Beekeeping

    Community Development

    Nonprofit Management
    ... and Much More!

     

    Phase I Fellowship

    During Phase I, April 22 to October 31, 2018, a cohort of passionate individuals committed to revitalizing our foodshed live, work, and study together for six months on AMI’s Mountain Farm in Highland County, VA. Here, Fellows grow most of their own food, while developing a deeper understanding of the connections between sustainable food systems and community wellness, through hands-on experience, workshops, and training. Fellows gain a full season of experience in sustainable growing methods and small animal husbandry on a small-scale farm. Through hands-on experiences, workshops, field trips, educational sessions, and trainings. AMI Fellows study a variety of topics, including sustainable agriculture practices, whole foods preparation and preservation, wellness and nutrition, land stewardship, leadership, and community development. The curriculum includes expert guest instructors, field trips, and garden and educational sessions. In addition, AMI Fellows develop their own skills and interests through a Fellowship-long Capstone Project.

     

    Upon successful completion of Phase I, AMI Fellows receive a $1,000 stipend. Fellows spend approximately 40-50 hours per week learning, studying and working on the farm, with occasional evening and weekend commitments. AMI provides all successful Phase I Fellows with work placements in Highland and Augusta Counties for Phase II of the Fellowship, and considers Fellows’ interests when making placements.

     

    For more information, please click here to view Frequently Asked Questions. 

    "I experienced six months of personal and botanical growth living atop Allegheny Mountain learning about the many intersections between food and community."

    - Samantha Taggart, AMI Fellow, 2014-2015

     

    Life on the Mountain

     

    It’s hard not to fall in love with our Allegheny Mountain Farm campus. Not only is the soil rich for growing abundant amounts of food, the farm is surrounded by picture-perfect mountain views, bubbling springs and a night sky lit up by the Milky Way.

     

    Set on hundreds of acres of land in rural Highland County, the farm is situated on an old farmstead at a triple watershed divide and bordered by both the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests.

     

    Off the mountain, Fellows are welcomed into a rich Appalachian culture and the close-knit community of Highland County. Just 30 minutes away, the town of Monterey offers a full Farmer's Market, restaurants, and community events throughout the summer.

     

    The Farm includes hand-crafted cabins, wifi-equipped study spaces, large commercial-style kitchens, and experimental garden spaces. During the Fellowship, AMI Fellows work together to create farm-fresh meals supplemented with whole food staples.

     

     

    As an AMI Fellow, you will build a life-long community with a cohort of individuals passionate about living sustainably and cooperatively with nature. -Grayson Shelor

    Phase II Fellowship

    Phase II of the Fellowship, January 2 - December 31, 2019, is a yearlong placement with a partner organization where AMI Fellows use their knowledge and skills to build organizational capacity and launch new programs. In Phase II, AMI Fellows apply their Phase I training through year-long work placements with partner organizations working to improve community health and build local food systems. Phase II Fellows work on projects and programs such as developing school gardens, and site-based curriculum, developing infrastructure for local food systems, growing food, and increasing food access, cultivating food-based businesses and teaching nutrition and cooking for a healthy lifestyle. Supported by the AMI staff, Phase II Fellows continue to meet regularly for leadership training, workshops and professional development.​

     

    Phase II Placements for 2018 include: The Highland Center, Project Grows, Urban Farm at the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and with AMI projects and programs.

     

    Phase II Fellows work 40 hours per week, with work hours dependent on the partner organization placement. Occasional evening and weekend commitments are required. Fellows receive an annual salary of $18,000 (paid biweekly, subject to payroll taxes).​

  • Watch to learn more about AMI's Phase I Fellowship

  • Watch to learn more about AMI's Phase II!

    Check out where they are now and what great work they do.

  • Meet the Fellows!

    AMI's 2017-2018 Cohort
     
    Coming from as far away as Wisconsin and as close as Lynchburg, these eight amazing individuals have completed Phase I and will begin work placements with Phase II partner organizations in 2018.

    Patrick Banks

    Pat has volunteered across the U.S. on various organic farms, but it wasn't until last summer that he began interning and working full time on a local organic farm outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where he truly fell in love with sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is his passion, and though it’s hard for him to pinpoint one main area of interest, he is excited about the actual growing of crops and connecting people to their food and farmers. He also enjoys studying and discussing topics such as food waste and the impacts that the agricultural field has on our environment as well.

     

    For the Capstone Project, Pat and AMI Fellow, Mary-Ellen Garner partnered to create the presentation, Herbal and Medicinal Beers for the Home Brewer: Fermented beverages have existed for a majority of human history. In their earliest of uses, beers were crafted to make water safe to drink and as herbal remedies. In the many years since the dawn of brewing beer, its practical usage and purpose has greatly changed. Unlike foods, modern brewing laws don’t require any ingredients to be listed on packaging. The purpose of this work is to reconnect to the ingredients found in beer and to rediscover through practice many of the ancient herbal and healing brews of societies past.

    Click here to view Pat & Mary Ellen's Capstone Presentation

    Maya Epelbaum

    Maya graduated from Washington and Lee University with a Psychology major and minors in Environmental Studies and Philosophy. She led the Compost Crew and Student Environmental Action league at her college. She interned for a summer at Henry’s Fork Foundation in Idaho, where she discovered that she was meant for an outdoor career. Upon graduating, Maya worked as a Campus Organizer for the NJ Public Interest Research Group (NJPIRG) Campus Action for a semester. Since then, she has interned at the Holiday Lake 4-H Environmental Center in Appomattox, Virginia, teaching natural resource classes. Maya partnered with AMI Fellows, Mary-Ellen Garner and

    Stephen Rodriguez for the Capstone Project, Exploring Interest in a Community Park and Mentorship Program: Though many may know that The Highland Center is working to develop a Community Park in Monterey, many may not know that a community garden and growing space is also a part of this plan. AMI Fellows designed and administered a survey in the community to help inform The Highland Center and Community Park Committee about local interest in a community garden. In addition, Fellows gauged interest in garden education and a garden mentorship program. Click here to view their Capstone Presentation.

     

    Mary-Ellen Garner

    Born in Georgia and raised in Florida, Mary-Ellen spent most of her childhood covered in dirt, sand, mud, or clay. She graduated from Rollins College with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Chemistry. Since then she has been doing work-trades in New England and Western Europe, hopping from one passion to the next. Mary-Ellen has always been drawn to medicine, and her primary interest in growing food comes from a deep desire to help break the cycle of poor health and promote community wellbeing through a more customized and localized food system. She believes the desire for connection (to others, to the earth, to our food) is intrinsic to our human experience and is so excited for the awaiting opportunities at AMI to grow and feed this connection. Mary-Ellen collaborated with AMI Fellow, Pat Banks on the Capstone Project Herbal and Medicinal Beers for the Home Brewer, as well as with AMI Fellows Stephen Rodriguez and Maya Epelbaum on Exploring Interest in a Community Park and Mentorship Program:

    Sophia Hutnik

    Sophia is originally from Ithaca, New York and has a Bachelor’s in International Relations/Anthropology from SUNY Geneseo and a Master’s of Science in Human Ecology from Lund University in Sweden. During her bachelor’s, Sophia focused on political issues in the Middle East and Turkey. After her work in political research, she switched her focus to environmental justice and food supply systems during her Master’s program, and now gravitates towards garden-based education as her means of political and social activism. She also wishes to live a homesteading lifestyle in the near future.For here Capstone Project, Sophia explored the Feasibility of AMI-Scale Dairy: Though AMI Fellows produce much of their own food while on the mountain, the Fellows do not have a good source of dairy on the farm. Sophia’s capstone investigates what it would take to bring dairy cows to the farm, including barn speculations and small scale milking equipment prices. In addition, she considers how AMI-produced dairy could be used and will share her experiences making butter, heavy cream, sour cream, cheeses and more. Click here to see Sophia's Capstone Presentation.

     

    Matthew Kitchen

    Matt is a sprightly native of Manassas, Virginia who went to school at the College of William and Mary and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in theatre and creative writing. His fascination with the multicolored biodiversity of organisms fitting together into the beautifully designed latticework of ecology is even further enlivened when considering people’s place in this system of life. The Allegheny Mountain Institute will be Matt’s first adventure since finishing college, and throughout he aspires to share his enthusiastic love for biodiversity with others. Matt's Capstone Project,

    Highland County Schools Perennial Garden, focused on a specific area in teh town of Monterey, back towards the fairgrounds and behind the greenhouse, there is a Highland Public Schools garden area with high potential to become a functional, low maintenance educational space. His capstone proposes a garden design that could provide an outdoor education area for the school, create a place for Highland County Students to have a hands-on agricultural experience, and provide a place of respite to connect to nature. Click here to view Matt's Capstone presentation.

    Elora Overbey

    Elora was born on a farm in Floyd, Virginia, and lived in New Mexico for 12 years before attending the University of Oregon to study Journalism and Advertising. In Oregon, she worked on a series of stories concerning social justice issues of housing and food security. She recently moved back to Virginia and began volunteering with Lynchburg Grows to work on food accessibility in pursuit of a better understanding of how all these issues intersect. Elora can't wait to begin the AMI program and is looking forward to discovering ways of bringing this knowledge back to help her community.

    For her Capstone Project, Elora presented, "Meet Lola’s" – A Farm to Food Truck Venture to Build Community and Increase Food Access By Creating a Mobile Food Hub: In communities of limited food access, a Farm to Food Truck business could help build healthy communities by providing a direct connection between food, the people that grow it, and the people who eat it. This capstone puts forward a business proposal for a Farm to Food Truck venture that, with partnerships from regional non-profits and community buy-in, might be implemented in the future. Through local sourcing, fresh preparation and the mobility of a food truck, a Farm to Food Truck could increase community access to healthy, local, seasonally delicious food. In addition, this truck could build healthy communities by serving as a mobile education unit that provides cooking classes, nutrition workshops and face-to-face interactions. Click here to view Elora's Capstone Presentation

    Grayson Shelor

    A former “picky kid”, Grayson is now committed to proving the merits of vegetables to children. She firmly believes that growing and preparing healthy food can and ought to be fun and empowering, and that "changing the way people, young and old, think about their meals is the key to better health and stronger communities." Grayson enjoys books, tea, playing tennis, singing along to musicals, hiking, and splashing in creeks in the mountains near her East Tennessee home. For her Capstone Project, Grayson created the book :"Highlander’s Guide to Farm Fresh Produce': What is Kohlrabi? How is Siberian Kale different from Dinosaur Kale, and which is better for sautéing? Is purple Cauliflower healthier than white? The Highlander’s Guide is designed to answer these questions and more. This vegetable-by-vegetable resource book is crafted to make new varieties of produce attractive and accessible and includes species-specific talking points for future AMI Fellows at the farmers’ market. It will include tips for determining ripeness, storage, preparation, and preservation for each featured vegetable, as well as recipes collected from our community of growers and eaters. Click here to view Grayson's Capstone Presentation.

    Stephen Rodriguez

    Stephen was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. After receiving his BA in English from Ohio State University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, he moved to Northwest Ohio, where he worked as a substitute teacher and volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Mulberry Creek Herb Farm, and Another Chance Sanctuary. Stephen sees gardening as a uniquely empowering and therapeutic activity and wishes to raise awareness about the benefits of eating locally grown produce through the creation of community gardens.

     

    Although the Allegheny Mountain Institute is comprised of 550 acres of land, only 100 of those acres are used as farming, learning, and living spaces. So what’s happening on the other 450 acres? Stephen's Capstone Project, Getting Back to Back CreeK, explores that question by going on hikes through the vast forests surrounding AMI’s main campus. As a way of making this project useful for future AMI Fellows, GPX mapping software is used to create a map of the old logger paths that traverse the mountainside. Click here to view Stephen's Capstone Presentation.

  • Follow the AMI Fellows

    What's it like to be a Fellow? Check out AMI Fellows and Alumni blog posts!

  • Join Us!

    The Allegheny Farm Manager will be responsible for most operational aspects of both Farm and Facilities at our Allegheny Mountain Farm in Highland County, VA.

     

    Competitive applicants should have a strong commitment to organic, regenerative agricultural practices and an interest in education of the broader community.

     

    This is a full-time, exempt, year-round position with regular weekend and periodic evening work.

     

    Salary is commensurate with experience. Benefits package includes housing, farm-grown food share, workers’ compensation coverage, and earned vacation/sick leave, plus holidays.

     

    Click Here for full position description.

  • Contact Us

    Allegheny Mountain Institute's offices are located in Staunton, VA,
    and our mountain farm campus is located in Highland County, VA.

    Email us at info@alleghenymountainschool.org

    ...

    Allegheny Mountain Institute

    PO Box 542
    Staunton, VA 24402

    Staunton office: 540-886-0160

        

    Formerly known as Allegheny Mountain School.
    Click here to visit our old website and view previous blogs.

  • BECOME A MEMBER!! JOIN AMI TODAY! Support AMI's work with your membership. Please select from the AMI Membership opportunities listed below.

  • The AMI Urban Farm at VSDB

    The AMI Urban Farm at VSDB is a project of Allegheny Mountain Institute and Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB) in Staunton, VA. The farm provides students of all ages a place to learn, play and grow outdoors. Our 3-acre site located on the VSDB campus consists of a 2-acre vegetable farm, educational gardens, outdoor classroom and kitchen, orchard, and diverse native habitat plantings.

    • We offer a year-round gardening curriculum that teaches community and school groups about the connection between food production, nutrition, and health.
    • We host public workshops and events during the growing season.
    • We provide training and support for teachers interested in developing school garden programs. 
    • Where does all this food go? The food grown at the AMI Urban Farm at VSDB is used by the VSDB cafeteria, prepared and served to students during meal time. The food is also sold to local schools and restaurants, and donated to regional hunger relief agencies.
  • AMI in the Media!

    Check out our most recent published articles spreading the word about how much our programs have to offer.

  • Growing Food. Building Community.

     

    It Takes A Village to Teach a Cohort!

    We couldn't achieve our goal of helping individuals and communities create a vibrant and accessible local food economy without the support of our community of friends, donors, and partner organizations, who all believe in AMI’s mission.

     

     

    Donate to AMI today and help us continue to build
    our educational programming and community projects,
    through your generous support.

  • AMI Alumni

    AMI alumni continue to make an impact in communities. Former Fellows are now nonprofit directors, environmental educators, food entrepreneurs, permaculture designers, graduate students, sustainable farmers and lifelong leaders in the local foods movement. Check out where they are now, and what great work they do:

    Paul Krysik

    I stepped foot onto the mountain in the spring of 2013, a beginning farmer/local food advocate curious about what the next two years might bring. No one besides the fates would have known the knowledge and growth that AMI helped me obtain from immersing myself in study and practice with the growing AMI family. Most of all, my AMI Senior Fellowship position as the 2014 Village Manager prepared me in unspeakable ways for what life had in store for me in the next chapter of my journey.

     

    Today, I have the pleasure of working with the Chicago Botanical Gardens’ Urban Agriculture Department: Windy City Harvest. My main role in one of their many programs is with the Harvest Corps program. The program is a transitional job training program for people who were once incarcerated in their life. My main duty as Farm Operations Crew Leader is to train our members in urban agriculture skills and help them prepare and find future employment in the many opportunities here in Chicago.

    Lisa Millette

    Every day I touch thousands of lives. This is possible, when one's work is with seeds. In every singular, viable seed an embryo awaits the sufficient conditions to grow into the world. Countless lives pass through my hands and the hands of my co-workers every day.

     

    I have joined Turtle Tree Seeds as their assistant seed garden manager. We offer over 300 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown using biodynamic and organic practices both in our seed garden and by other farmers and gardeners who use biodynamic methods. Turtle Tree Seed is part of a Camphill Village in Copake, NY, a life-sharing community which includes people with developmental disabilities. 

     

    Each day, our group of about 20 adults of all abilities help with processing, cleaning and packing our seeds. We are also beginning to raise seedlings which we will grow out this season for seed as well as caring for the biannual crops over-wintering in our greenhouses. Most of us highly anticipate the spring - the start of this year's seed gardens, the hum of the bee hives, the blossoming of the apple trees.

     

    As a child, my mother taught my sister and I to pull the dead petals of the marigold to discover the seeds the plant had developed there. We stored them in old coffee containers for the following year. In the summer of 2009, the UMass student farmers harvested a row of Siberian Kale that had unintentionally gone to seed and likely saved enough seed for the next decade of student farmers.

    Ben Samuelson

    I belong to the 2013/2014 fellowship cohort of the Allegheny Mountain Institute.  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.

    Roger Woo

    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

  • Who is Allegheny Mountain Institute?

    BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    Laurie Berman
    Founder, Board President

    Laurie moved to Highland County in 1975. There she began taking an active role in local environmental protection and intensive organic gardening.  Her non-profit community involvement includes being a founding board member of the Highland County Arts Council, The Highland Center, Highlanders for Responsible Development, and most recently as the Founder of Allegheny Mountain School, now Allegheny Mountain Institute.  

    Currently on the Board of the Valley Conservation Council, Laurie is a strong advocate and spokesperson for maintaining and building agricultural vitality while protecting and preserving our valuable soil structure and watershed.  However her deepest passion is in growing food and teaching others to appreciate the importance of eating fresh foods for optimum health and well being.

    Laurie is also an avid naturalist, beekeeper, permaculture enthusiast, hiker, music maker, and mother of three grown daughters, who all share her love of gardening, earth stewardship, and fresh cuisine.

    Sarah Collins-Simmons
    Vice President
     

    Sarah grew up in Nelson County in the mountains of Virginia, so she felt right at home when she moved to Highland County in 2011 to participate as one of the founding Fellows at the Allegheny Mountain School, now Allegheny Mountain Institute. Sarah loved being a part of the Highland County community so much that after finishing her Phase II placement at The Highland Center, she has continued to live here.

     

    Today, Sarah uses the additional skills she acquired through the Fellowship as the Orchardist and Cellar Master for Big Fish Cider, Co. based in Monterey, Virginia. In addition to being a board member for the Allegheny Mountain Institute, she serves on the Highland County Economic Development Authority, Highlanders for Responsible Development, and the Highland Tourism Council.

     

    Growing up, Sarah first learned to care for plants from her parents in their garden and yard. After going to the University of Virginia to study architecture and environmental science, she discovered landscape architecture and went on to get a Masters Degree in that field from the University of Georgia.

     

    Sarah is married to Joshua Simmons, a Highland native, and the County Building Official as well as a general contractor. Together, they enjoy spending time outside, hiking and camping with their two dogs. They also caretake a small farm while they make plans for their own farm. Sarah also enjoys making pottery, jewelry, baskets and working with wood and recently co-launched Highland Made, a locally operated pottery studio and maker space for the people of Highland to further their artistic desires.

    Thomas Hadwin

    Treasurer

     

    Tom was trained in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Ecology at the University of Michigan. He went on to manage environmental work for electric and gas utilities in Michigan and New York, believing that it would be easier to influence corporations to behave responsibly from within.

    He later founded a computer, software and services company to promote the advantages of the newly introduced personal computers. He also created an organization to heal ailing businesses, eventually traveling the country to help businesses get back on their feet.

    He moved to Kaua’i and helped government leaders and the island utility to explore various sustainability issues, including local food, renewable energy, housing and transportation issues. As a faculty member he was able to facilitate student learning at the high school and college level.

     

    A lifelong organic gardener, he hopes to promote the training of a new generation of farmers and local food advocates to build greater physical, social and financial health in our local communities.

     

    Noah Goldstein

    Secretary

    He spent his childhood in the lush woods of Tennessee, his teenage years in the dry forests and deserts of Israel, and his adulthood in Boston, New York, and Boulder. Everywhere he goes he always finds himself in love with the natural world.

    He has a B.A. in Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Conservation from Boston University, and a Masters in Traditional Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College. He has spent time farming in the Berkshires and pushing the edge of cooperative urban homesteading in Brooklyn, where he worked as an environmental educator for the New York Restoration Project.

    Noah now lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he merges his understanding of ecosystem dynamics with those of the human body to promote health and optimal vitality as an Acupuncturist and Herbalist. Noah also tends to chickens, bees, and a growing garden. He is also a dedicated husband and father.

    Julianne McGuinness
    Director

    Originally from New Jersey, Julianne lived in Alaska for 25 years until she returned to the East Coast in 2015 to spend more time with family.

    She served as Executive Director for the Alaska Botanical Garden for 7 ½ years, and now has her own writing and consulting business, Aisling Mhor Consulting --“Dream Big” in Irish Gaelic. She co-authored the Alaska Cooperative Extension Service publication on “Growing Garlic in Alaska”.

    A lifelong avid organic gardener, micro-farmer, and Master Gardener, Julianne loves to cook, farm, forage, kayak, and travel.  She has a B.A. in Psychology, and completed coursework for a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.  She has worked as a social worker in Manhattan, managed a community radio station in Alaska, and was a caterer and camp cook. Her campfire recipes have been featured on the Food Network.

    Julianne is a lifelong student of herbal medicine and nutritional healing and plans to have an organic garlic and medicinal herb farm when she settles down in one place again. Julianne is pleased to share her expertise in non-profit management and community development as a member of the AMI Board of Directors.

    Somers Stephenson
    Director

    After graduating from Virginia Tech in 1974 with a degree in Textiles, and upon the suggestion of a good friend, Somers opened a women’s clothing store in Altavista, Virginia in 1976. In 1977, she moved the business to Lynchburg, Virginia, and over the next 30 years, with the help of an outstanding staff and great customers, Somers’ Place became one of Central Virginia’s leading women’s clothing boutiques.

    Shortly, after the sale of the business, Somers fulfilled a lifelong desire and attended and graduated from Rhodec International School of Interior Design and went on to create interior design projects for individuals as well as colleges and businesses over the last several years.

    Somers' natural tendency to be of service to others became apparent when she became aware of the alarming decline in the health of our citizens, including our children. As a result, she was inspired to be part of the answer rather than part of the problem. In addition to investing time in educating herself about health, nutrition and exercise, Somers enrolled in the Duke Integrative Medicine Professional Health Coach Training Program and graduated as a Certified Professional in June 2015.

  • AMI STAFF

    Staunton, Virginia

    Sue Erhardt
    Executive Director

    Sue brings over 20 years of experience in education and urban agriculture to AMI. Prior to joining AMI, Sue served as Director of Education with Casey Trees in Washington DC, and held leadership roles with The Greening of Detroit and the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. Sue has created and implemented environmental education programs for adults and K-12 students and has extensive experience in training and directing staff and volunteers to get the most out of their time and talents.

     

    Julia Church
    Admin Manager / Development Coordinator

    Julia brings over 20 years of nonprofit experience to AMI, specializing in Communications and Development. Her background includes work in the areas of education, environment, maritime interests, visual arts, and museums. She served as Communications Director with the environmental nonprofit, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater in New York working to promote youth empowerment and education programs, environmental awareness campaigns, and a Green Cities agenda. Originally from Patrick County, Virginia, she comes from a long line of farmers. After a decade in the Hudson Valley, she and her husband are happy to now call the Shenandoah Valley home.

     

    David Gianino
    AMI Urban Farm at VSDB Manager

    David has always been passionate about growing food and sharing his knowledge with others, and he has been actively growing fruits and vegetables for over 12 years. He earned his Bachelor's of Science in Horticulture from the University of Georgia, where he also earned a certificate in Organic Agriculture Production and a certificate in Local Food Production. He returned to UGA and earned his Master's of Science in Horticulture. He has worked on small-scale farms and gardens, where he taught gardening workshops, sold produce to markets, and worked to promote community gardening and farming projects in the greater Augusta, Georgia area. He hopes to one day own a homestead and host educational workshops and retreats, and continue to educate and involve local communities. His hobbies include hiking, pottery, home brewing, gardening, teaching, biking, scuba diving, and camping, to name a few.

     

    Highland County, VA

    Jessa Fowler
    Education Director

    After studying ancient agriculture in college and co-teaching fifth grade, Jessa followed her passion for building healthy communities as an AMI Fellow in 2012. In her subsequent work at the AMI partner organization, The Highland Center, Jessa worked to build local food systems in the region. Jessa earned a Master's in Education from the University of Washington, where she studied and worked in the fields of nutrition and garden education, outdoor education, non-profit management, and curriculum development.

     

    Maggie Wilder
    Village Manager & Lead Gardener

    Maggie was born and raised outside Berea, Kentucky where she developed a love and passion for the land and outdoors. She completed her B.S. in Geography at Western Kentucky University. Maggie graduated from the Peace Corps Masters International Program at the University of Washington in the spring of 2015 with a Masters of Forest Resources. As part of this program, she served two years as an Agriculture/Environment Peace Corps Volunteer in Adaba, Ethiopia and taught small-scale sustainable gardening, tree nursery establishment, and leadership and life skills. She also conducted research with a local, community-based ecotourism as part of her thesis.

     

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