AMI (as AMS) was founded in 2011 as an intensive, hands-on, cooperative, experiential learning and training program designed to teach members of our communities to grow and prepare their own food and to understand the nutritional benefits of eating seasonally. Now, AMI has grown as a non-profit organization that has established many programs beyond our Farm Fellowship. We are continuing to grow. Follow our development as we expand beyond our fellowship and build programs in our community.
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.
May marks the start of my fifth year living in Highland County; I moved here as one of nine “Founding Fellows” of the Allegheny Mountain School (now Allegheny Mountain Institute). I now work for The Highland Center, a non-profit community and economic development organization in Highland County. The Highland Center is the former parent organization for Allegheny Mountain Institute and where I was placed for my AMI Senior Fellowship. During the first year that I worked here, I found that the Center’s programs and goals fit some of my own interests and goals. There was focus on local food and community development and I was able to use skills I had learned in my architecture and landscape architecture programs. When I was offered an opportunity to stay at the Center, I accepted without question; it was so fulfilling to practice what I had learned in school and at AMI.
When I moved to Highland County in May of 2011, I had just finished my coursework for a Masters in Landscape Architecture and needed only to finish up my thesis to receive my degree. My thesis ended up taking a turn for the better because of what I was learning through AMI and morphed into a different animal than what I had started with. I ended up analyzing the connection between self-sufficient farming and landscape architecture in Appalachia. This study ended up directing my focus in work I do at The Highland Center. At the Center, I am able to use my landscape architecture degree in developing a community park in the Town of Monterey, I use skills I learned at AMI to prepare local foods meals for over 100 people, and am actively part of the economic development happening in Highland County.
My first full day on the Mountain is one that I will always remember; two “young men” were there doing some carpentry work on our buildings to better suit the needs of the fellowship program. I complimented one of those long-haired guys on the construction of some book cases in the Beta House (one of our common buildings) and we got into a fairly lengthy conversation about finish carpentry practices and stainless steel screws. In July, Josh and I will have been dating for four years and in the middle of the month, we will be getting married.
Allegheny Mountain Institute helped me grow as a community builder, a community member, and as a designer, and as a human; I am so appreciative for the launching point that AMI provided to me, in all parts of my life!