Growing food, building community
The Allegheny Mountain School (AMS) was established from a Highland County resident's vision to help support food access and stewardship in rural areas of western Virginia, by empowering communities to learn how to grow, prepare, and preserve their own food. Initially a program of The Highland Center of Monterey, VA, the concept took root in 2011. Young adults at the beginning of their careers were recruited for an 18-month Fellowship program where they received intensive hands-on, garden-based training for six-months before serving our region's communities by delivering classes and programming that promoted garden, land, and nutrition-based education.
As the Fellowship program grew, AMS recognized its own need to expand, and in 2014 established itself as its own 501c3 non-profit, Allegheny Mountain Institute (AMI). Cultivating healthy communities through food and education is the mission of AMI, and our programs and projects are driven by the success of our flagship Fellowship program. Today, AMI has welcomed a new group of cohorts to our farm campus in Highland County and has graduated over 50 Fellows, many of whom have gone on to serve in professional roles in education, agriculture, entrepreneurship, and community development in Highland County, the Shenandoah Valley, and beyond.
In 2014, AMI joined the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind in establishing a three acre farm site on the school's campus, with a mission to empower other institutions to use gardens as educational spaces, as well as involve VSDB's students in garden learning. In 2017 the farm "graduated" from AMI's leadership, and is now managed independently by VSDB.
Established in 2018, 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. AMI Farm at Augusta Health supplies the hospital food service and a prescription produce program, as well as educating the community.