In the AMI Farm Fellowship, a cohort of passionate individuals committed to revitalizing our food shed, live and study together for six months at a farm in the Highlands of Virginia. Here they grow most of their own food while developing a deeper understanding between diet and optimum health.
The AMI Urban Farm at VSDB is a project of Allegheny Mountain Institute and Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB). 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 1-acre vegetable farm, educational gardens, outdoor classroom and kitchen, orchard, and diverse native habitat plantings.
What do we do?
Trevor is a native of Richmond, VA and has a BA in history from the University of Virginia. He developed a passion for growing food in college and has spent his professional career working towards a healthy local food system in Virginia. After graduating from the AMI farm fellowship in 2013, Trevor joined the AMI staff as a project manager and permaculture instructor. He currently manages the AMI Urban Farm located at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind (VSDB) in Staunton, VA. Trevor enjoys cultivating life of all kinds, with a particular interest in growing medicinal herbs and fruits. In 2014 he cofounded Shenandoah Permaculture Institute where he teaches and writes about permaculture design.
Mandy Henkler was raised in a suburb north west of Philadelphia and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Community Entrepreneurship and Food Systems from the University of Vermont. It was in Vermont that she found her passion for local food and organic farming. She spent her childhood playing outside or in the kitchen and is happy to say that is still where she spends most of her time. Mandy came to be the Outreach Coordinator at the Allegheny Mountain Institute after finishing up her Allegheny Mountain School Senior Fellowship at the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. While at the Food Bank Mandy realized the extreme need in our community for access to healthy whole food. She will be working on projects aimed at feeding underserved populations and educating them on gardening, nutrition and cooking skills.
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. I teach aspects like how to sow carrots and build raised beds to how to write a cover letter and prepare for an interview. Monday through Thursday my crew and I travel around the city to Windy City Harvest's multiple farm sites to assist with special projects like construction, plantings, harvests, and other farm necessities. Then every Friday, we are in the class room discussing future employment preparation and going over the environmental literary course, Roots of Success, material. My crew is an amazing group of individuals that at one point did not know or like anything about urban farming and now are requesting to stay and move onto Windy City Harvest’s more intensive nine month program: The Windy City Apprenticeship Course. There they will receive more in depth knowledge and training, an internship with one of numerous local food programs and establishments, and collegiate certification in sustainable urban agriculture.
I was born and raised on the south-side of Chicago, and during my city life, I’ve become a so called social activist. My time on the mountain was fruitful in so many ways, and inspired me to come back to my urban Chicago home community to continue teaching and working in the local food movement. Why? Food is a powerful tool for building community. For centuries, people have gathered and celebrated around the table as family, friends, and a culture. Food emerges as a keystone within cohesive communities where relationships, health, and empowerment grow with every shared meal. AMI helped me realized the capability of good food to change many ailments in our communities both physical and cultural. Now, I doing my part in Chicago’s growing local food system and urban agricultural movement by taking all I have learned at AMI and passing it onto individuals who are finding new direction in their lives.