• Allegheny Mountain Institute


    Allegheny Mountain Institute (AMI) is an educational non-profit organization
    with the mission to cultivate healthy communities through food and education.
    The vision of AMI is a thriving network of collaborative, vibrant communities

    who value the connection between food and health.


    Fully-Sponsored Fellowship Applications Now Available!


  • AMI Fellowship Program

    Applications now available here!


    Now in its eighth year, Allegheny Mountain Institute’s fully sponsored 18-month Fellowship prepares and empowers individuals to become teachers and ambassadors for a more vibrant and accessible local food system. AMI Fellows spend six months in immersive training on our mountain farm campus (Phase I) and one year in service work with AMI and food related non-profit partner organizations (Phase II).


    AMI's Fellowship creates strong leaders who successfully work to build more cohesive community food systems. AMI alumni go on to work as local food coordinators, farmers, school garden facilitators, market farm managers, food systems educators, and advocates for sustainable food systems.


    Learn More! Download this Info Packet.


    For more information, e-mail Jessa Fowler: jessa@alleghenymountainschool.org.

    What Will You Study?

    • Full Season Organic Gardening
    • Cooking, Preserving and Fermentation
    • Food Systems and Food Access
    • Nutrition and Wellness
    • Soil Science
    • Small Animal Husbandry
    • Permaculture Design
    • Beekeeping
    • Herbalism and Foraging
    • Community Development
    • Nonprofit Management ... and much more!

    Phase I - Farm Study

    May 13 - October 30, 2019


    During the six months of Phase I, a cohort of passionate individuals committed to revitalizing our foodshed live, work, and study together on AMI’s Mountain Farm in Highland County, VA. On the farm, Fellows gain a full-season of experience in sustainable growing methods, small animal husbandry, and homesteading skills. In addition to growing and preserving their own food, Fellows develop a deeper understanding of the connections between food and health through weekly workshops, field trips and educational sessions. Fellows gain experience with multiple aspects of the food system including: teaching in a school garden, selling at a Farmers Market and supporting the AMI Farm Stay program. In addition, AMI Fellows develop their own skills and interests through a culminating Phase I Capstone Project.


    Phase I Fellows are provided with room and board. In exchange, Phase I Fellows spend approximately 40-60 hours per week learning, studying and working on the farm, with occasional evening and weekend commitments for chores and AMI events. Fellows are granted personal days and holidays.


    Tuition to Phase I is fully subsidized by AMI for all Fellows who fulfill the AMI Fellowship requirements, including participation in the Phase II year of service. Phase I Fellows will receive a $1,000 stipend upon signature and commitment to the Phase II contract.

    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. Set on hundreds of acres 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. 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.


    The farm campus includes hand-crafted cabins, wifi-equipped study spaces, and large commercial-style kitchens. During the Fellowship, AMI Fellows work together to create farm-fresh meals supplemented with whole food staples for a predominately vegetarian diet.


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



    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, AMI Fellow 2017-2018

    Phase II - Service Work

    January 6 - December 18, 2020


    In Phase II, Fellows give back and apply their Phase I training to a year of service with AMI and its non-profit partner organizations in the region that are striving to grow the local food system and support local farmers, increase access to healthy foods, promote health and wellness through healthy eating. In these positions, Fellows lead and contribute to projects such as: growing food on a market-style farm, creating infrastructure for local food systems, teaching gardening and cooking skills, and developing school gardens and site-based curriculum. Phase II Placements with Partner Organizations in 2019 include: Project Grows, Highland County Public Schools, the Allegheny Mountain Farm, and the AMI Farm at Augusta Health.


    In this continuation of the Fellowship, Phase II Fellows meet monthly for leadership training and professional development sessions. In addition, Fellows deepen their understanding of farming practices, non-profit management, and education with at least one workshop or field trip per month.


    All Phase II Fellows are supported with monthly one-on-one mentoring. As Phase II draws to a close, Fellows work to develop and prepare for post-Fellowship goals.


    Phase II Fellows are paid an hourly wage of $10 per hour (subject to payroll taxes) and are paid bi-weekly. Fellows work 40 hours per week, occasional evening and weekend commitments are required. Phase II Fellows are provided with basic benefits, including Workers’ Compensation, paid time off and sick leave.

  • AMI Phase I Fellows

    THE 2018-2019 COHORT

    Phase I Fellows participate in six months of training in sustainable, regenerative agriculture at the Allegheny Mountain Farm campus in Highland County, Virginia. In addition, they are involved in the local community and engage with programs that serve the greater Highland County, Virginia region.

    AMI Phase I Fellows left to right: Freddy Carruth, Nick Hogsdon, Julia Loman, Maggie McCormick, Audrey Carter, Grace Grattan, and Ariel Duran.

    . . .

    Click on their names to learn more

    Freddy Carruth
    Audrey Carter

    Ariel Duran
    Grace Grattan
    Nick Hogsdon
    Julia Loman
    Maggie McCormick

    . . .


    Applications for 2019-2020 Cohort are now available online.

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

  • AMI Phase II Fellows

    THE 2017-2018 COHORT

    After completing their Phase I training, Phase II Fellows participate work with AMI and its Partner Organizations to build vibrant, healthy food systems in the region.​

    AMI Phase II Fellows left to right: Elora Overbey, Maya Epelbaum, Stephen Rodriguez, Grayson Shelor, Sophia Hutnik, Pat Banks, Mary-Ellen Garner, and Mathew Kitchen.

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

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

  • Follow the AMI Fellows

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

    November 12, 2018
    November 6, 2018
    October 30, 2018
    October 26, 2018
    More Posts
  • AMI 2019 Classes & Events


    Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training

    Wednesday, February 20, 9:00 AM-5:00 PM

    Room #215, Augusta Health Fitness Center

    Safe fruits and vegetables are important to us all, and for commercial growers, they are also good business and a part of federal regulations. Produce Safety Alliance Grower Training is one way to satisfy the FSMA Produce Safety Rule requirement. This Training is sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth Extension and Hosted by AMI


    CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP, or contact grayson@alleghenymountainschool.org

  • The AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    The AMI Farm at Augusta Health is a joint venture of AMI and Augusta Health to raise awareness about the importance of healthy eating and sustainable growing practices. AMI and Augusta Health share the vision that access to excellent health care includes access to healthy food. The project is rooted in the missions of both organizations to promote health and wellbeing in the community. - Click here to learn more!


    The farm site is located across from the Wellness Center
    and behind the Augusta Community Care building. Just look for the silo!
    Click here for an Augusta Health Campus Map

    Healthy Food

    Healthy Bodies

    AMI and Augusta Health share the vision that access to excellent health care includes access to healthy food.

    Community Health Needs Assessment

    This innovative farm project addresses Augusta Health’s recent CHNA priorities: Nutrition, Diabetes, and Mental Health.

    A Farm &
    Community Venue

    Key features include a production farm for Augusta Health, and demonstration garden, as well as a community venue for nutrition education.


    At-risk chronic disease patients will receive
    “prescriptions” for nutrition education, cooking classes, and fresh produce to support health and wellness.

  • 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

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    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. Read more...


    Lisa Millette

    AMI Fellow, 2012-13

    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. Read more...


    Ben Samuelson

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    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. Read more...


    Anna Tracht

    AMI Fellow, 2015-16

    Phase I of AMI 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. Read more...


    Roger Woo

    AMI Fellow, 2013-14

    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. Read More...


  • Farm Stay Program at AMI Highland Farm

    Enjoy fresh-from-the-farm meals and refreshing spring water in a cozy Lodge atop Allegheny Mountain in beautiful Highland County, VA. Relax in a private room, explore the mountain, and sit on the porch to gaze at the stars. Then, tour the farm and meet, learn and work alongside young adults passionate about growing healthy communities.


    Email elora@alleghenymountainschool.org or call 540-468-2300 to book your stay.

    Or click HERE to book your stay online for 2019!

    Stay in The Lodge

    AMI's farm includes a spacious Lodge and Fellow cabins, lush gardens and botanically-rich fields and forests. Chickens, cows, and bees are on the Farm below the Lodge. Guests are invited to stay in upstairs of the Lodge, which include four guest bedrooms and two private bathrooms (available to rent in a variety of configurations).

    Explore the farm

    Help gather eggs, harvest our produce grown using organic methods, and explore the beautiful mountain setting. Guests may participate in select workshops with the Fellows for a small fee on Wednesdays. Click here to register for workshops.

    Enjoy farm-fresh meals

    A self-serve continental breakfast featuring sustainably grown, farm-fresh produce are provided for all guests. Weekday guests are also invited to participate in family style meals with the Fellows at no additional charge.


    Support AMI's work with your membership. Please select from the AMI Membership opportunities listed below.

  • Join our Email list!

    Stay up to date on all the AMI happenings!

  • Growing Food. Building Community.

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


    Please consider making your tax-deductible contribution
    to support AMI's work. AMI depends on the contributions of supporters like you.
    With our thanks
     - Sue Erhardt, Executive Director

    . . .

    Help support the next generation of regenerative farmers and food citizens
    by making your donation to AMI. We couldn't achieve our goal of helping individuals and communities create a vibrant and accessible local food economy without you!

  • Who is Allegheny Mountain Institute?


    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, Valley Conservation Council,and most recently as the Founder of Allegheny Mountain School, now Allegheny Mountain Institute.

    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.

    Kayla MacLachlan​


    Kayla MacLachlan was born and raised in the rolling countryside of Upstate New York, just outside of Syracuse. In 2009, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Adolescent Education and English literature, but quickly realized her true passion for land-based learning and regenerative agriculture.


    After graduating from the State University of New York, College at Fredonia, she served with AmeriCorps NCCC before becoming an Allegheny Mountain School (now Allegheny Mountain Institute) Fellow in 2012. Falling in love with Highland County and the work of AMI, she worked as AMI's Program and Fellowship Director for several years, before pursuing work as an Adolescent Lead Teacher at the Staunton Montessori School and part-time farmer at Geezer Farm. Kayla is a graduate of the Association Montessori Internationale Orientation to Adolescent Studies and completed her coursework at the Hershey-Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, Ohio.


    No matter where her professional journey leads her, Kayla strives to find work that bridges her joy of teaching and mentorship with her love of plants, music, food, community, and the great outdoors. She enjoys working peacefully in her gardens, playing Irish music, writing, hiking, practicing yoga, and cooking fresh, wholesome food for all to enjoy.


    Kayla is excited to join AMI's Board of Directors as a way to give back to the organization that played a vital role in crafting the compassionate, connected, and community-oriented woman she is today.

    Julianne McGuinness


    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.

    Penelope Ferguson


    Penelope Ferguson is a Registered Dietitian. She was born and raised in Shenandoah County Virginia, where the ‘family-farm’ looks very much like the AMI farm in Highland County. As a child, her life included gardening, canning, butchering, cooking and being part of the lifestyle patterns of rural living and garnering food ‘off’ the land in the 1950s and 1960s. Today, Penelope utilizes her knowledge of local foods, recipes and traditions in food columns, writings and her food demonstrations. She loves to cook and believes in featuring local foods and returning to simple cooking techniques. Her approach with food-based support is simple: for individuals and families to get back into the kitchen to embrace basic real food that is local which has been prepared and served with respect for Nature and with love for those that are eating it.


    Penelope volunteers throughout the community, especially with the Valley Program for Aging Services, teaching diabetes management, self-management of chronic diseases. She is also a Biblical Storyteller, telling ‘by heart’ stories and passages from the Bible. In addition, she enjoys construction and house renovations.


    Penelope is an experienced lecturer and is able to explain medical nutrition needs and how to change the diet to accomplish therapeutic results. She is a member of the Food & Culinary Professionals with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a member of Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Nutrition. Having lived in an era of self-sufficiency, and witnessed the transition to a scientific and medical mindset when fixing everything was a mere band-aid, Penelope is now inspired by seeing the commitment of those that are back-to-earthers and the need to regenerate the soil and health and spirit of this community.

  • The AMI Team

    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.


    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
    Garden Manager

    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 fall of 2016 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 conducted research with a local, community-based ecotourism as part of her thesis. After the Peace Corps, Maggie worked on small, diversified farms in Homer, Alaska and on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington to add to her lifetime of home gardening experience. Maggie began managing the gardens on AMI's Mountain Farm Campus in the spring of 2017.

  • Contact Us

    Email us:
    Mail us:

    Allegheny Mountain Institute

    PO Box 542, Staunton, VA 24402

    Phone us:
    AMI at Augusta Health 540-886-0160

    AMI Mountain Farm Campus 540-468-2300


    AMI's offices are located in Fishersville, VA on the Augusta Health Campus.
    AMI's mountain farm campus is located in Highland County, VA.


    (Formerly "Allegheny Mountain School," you can click here to visit our old website.)

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  • AMI's Partner Organizations

    Working together to build a healthy community

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