Current Fellows

& Alumni

Phase I Fellows

2020-2021 Cohort 

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. Phase I Fellows participate in six months of learning and growing on the Allegheny Farm in Highland County, Virginia. Applications open November 2021.

Melanie Canales

Melanie comes to AMI after three years living in Boston, and it's only on her way out that she learns the city acquired the title "Beantown" because colonial Bostonians cooked their beans in molasses. She graduated from Wells College after writing her thesis on food as a lyrical device in rap, and has been collecting bizarre food-related tidbits of information ever since. Upon entering the workforce, Melanie tried her hand at viticulture, elementary education, and NGOs before landing on beekeeping. Through her apiary work, Melanie discovered the many tiers of sustainable food systems, and found she had much to learn. She hopes her thumb is as green as the rest of her is in this ever-evolving discipline. Her passions include food justice/accessibility, cultural identity as it merges with food history, environmental journalism, and seeking out the best breakfast in the world, an endeavor she has lovingly dubbed, "Breakfast Quest."

Dylan Koenig

Dylan grew up in the suburbs of New York where, as a child of Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi ancestors, food was always a central concern. He then studied computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University before moving out west to California. Through a love for plants, being outdoors, and community building, he started volunteering at urban farms and farmers markets. This passion led him to study the myriad ways our food system intersects with climate and social justice issues, and the promise of regenerative practices to nourish our communities while rebuilding our soils. He has worked on technology to reduce the environmental impact of industrial agriculture and now comes to AMI to connect deeper with the land and work toward a just food system.

Justin Seguret

Justin grew up back and forth between the mountains and tobacco fields of Madison County, North Carolina, and the rural wheat fields of Auxy, France. His family raised a garden every year where he learned the taste of fresh food. Now, he seeks to learn about environmentally and economically sustainable agricultural practices which can be integrated into an evolving agricultural system. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Environmental Studies and Geology this May. He looks forward to getting two full seasons of experience working on a farm and to sharing his passion for producing healthy food and conscientious environmental stewardship with fellow AMI members.

Hannah Dorrel

Growing up in a military household, Hannah has bounced around her whole life, but was most currently located in Manassas, Virginia. She recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Global Studies and Economics. Hannah always had a love for food, stemming from baking in her grandmother’s kitchen and planting gardens with her parents at every new house. Throughout college, Hannah became interested in food and food systems and began working with Edible Campus, a program that creates working landscapes across UNC-Chapel Hill to facilitate campus community engagement in topics of food and agriculture sustainability. Hannah is excited to increase her knowledge of food justice issues and sustainable agriculture as a Fellow at AMI.

Sophia May

From Syracuse, NY, Sophia first became passionate about issues of food security in high school while volunteering with community organizations that worked with farmworkers on rural dairy farms and urban communities living in food deserts. She graduated from Cornell University's Industrial Labor Relations school this Spring, where she focused her studies on community and union organizing, food systems and Spanish. During her time in college, Sophia worked on and off as a labor researcher, a barista and a house painter. Sophia grew up around urban farmers and ecologists, and is really looking forward to expanding her knowledge of the production side of local food systems with the AMI crew.

Sarah Spinner

Originally from the Richmond area, Sarah graduated from Appalachian State University with a BS in nutrition and foods and a minor in sustainable development. She grew her appreciation for food and the environment while living in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and becoming an active member in the Boone community. Having worked with a local non-profit where she helped run a farmer’s market and taught preschool garden lessons, Sarah is most passionate about food justice and promoting food security through equitable, local food systems in rural America.

Lauren Glaze

Lauren grew up in Charlotte, NC and studied environmental science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She developed an interest in the food system because it is intimately connected to our health. Lauren wants to work to spread access to and education about healthy food. She also wants to learn how to work with the land rather than against it.

Jamie Rudd

After a childhood of hiking and horseback riding in beautiful Central Oregon, Jamie moved to Upstate New York in 2013 to attend the University of Rochester where she double majored in Anthropology and English and was active in the university’s emerging Environmental Humanities program. Following graduation, Jamie began working at the MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, a Rochester-based nonprofit, where she served as the manager of the Institute's community garden. Now, with a strong foundation in urban agriculture, Jamie is eager to expand her food systems knowledge in a rural setting with AMI and pursue her passions for food justice, Permaculture, and sustainable agriculture as part of a dedicated cohort.

 
 

Phase II Fellows

2019-2020 Cohort

Phase II Fellows complete one year of service with farm and food non-profits in our region. 

England Avis

Originally from Southeastern Michigan, England is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University where she studied Communication and Environmental Sustainability. England was first inspired to get involved with educating community members on growing their own healthy food through her internship with Growing Hope, a small urban nonprofit farm. After completing the Michigan Master Gardener and Master Composter courses, England’s search for more hands-on training landed her in Virginia, with Allegheny Mountain Institute’s 18-month Fellowship program. Through Phase II of the Fellowship, England is working with Staunton City Schools as the Garden-Based Outdoor Learning Coordinator, where she works with students and teachers to implement garden education as part of the regular curriculum.

LOla DaLrYmple

Despite being born and raised in New York City, Lola has always felt most at home in the great outdoors. A graduate of Bard College, with a degree in history, Lola has worked on organic farms in Australia, in vineyards and wineries in California and New Zealand, and before starting at AMI, as a teacher and staff naturalist at Echo Hill Outdoor School on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She is passionate about growing, cooking, and fermenting vegetables, and during her Phase II position as the Farm and Village Coordinator on the Allegheny Farm she hopes to share this excitement with the new Phase I Fellows.

Natalie Pax

Natalie is originally from Lewis Center, OH, near the city of Columbus. She went to school at The Ohio State University where she graduated with a degree in Environmental Policy, Philosophy, and Geography. She is interested in holistic health, sustainable agriculture and community dynamics as ways to cultivate sustainable relationships between people and with the earth. She is also passionate about social and environmental justice and is interested in contributing towards a healthier future for all. Her current Phase II placement is with Project GROWS, an educational non-profit with a mission to improve the health of youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, VA through garden-based education and access to healthy food. She is excited to be working with this organization this year and will be focusing on food access programming in the local community, including farm to school tastings, garden education lessons, family cooking classes, and farmers markets.

Georgia Meyer

Originally from Minnesota, Georgia graduated from Haverford College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Growing up near her grandparent’s farm in northern Iowa, Georgia spent her childhood exploring the woods and fields, and showing alpacas at her local county fair. After an urban farming fellowship in Berkeley, CA, she is excited to expand her knowledge of the food system and learn more about the intersection of food justice, health and education as an AMI Fellow. In Phase II, Georgia is working at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health as a Farm Assistant and Market Coordinator.  

matt hansen

Matt is originally from Marshall, Minnesota. He graduated from Regis University in 2016 with a degree in Biochemistry. He then spent a couple years in the Pacific Northwest as an AmeriCorps member, first as a Services Coordinator for farmworker families in Washington’s Yakima Valley, and later as a facilitator of art programs for individuals with disabilities in Juneau, Alaska. Through his experience in the nonprofit world he became interested in working toward a more equitable and sustainable food system. As a Phase II Fellow, he will be working on the Allegheny Farm in Highland County as a Farm and Village Coordinator with a focus on livestock. 

Tess jacobson

Tess hails from the great town of Herndon, Virginia. During her time at James Madison University, Tess focused on youth education around renewable energy and also took part in extensive research on environmental, social, and historic impacts that large wind energy plants can have on local communities. After graduating with a degree in Integrated Sciences and Technology, concentrating in the environment, she wanted to continued learning about how we, as individuals, can reduce our own impacts on the environment. She was especially interested in the environmental impacts of agriculture and this curiosity led her to apply to AMI. Tess is fulfilling her Phase II position at AMI’s Farm at Augusta Health as an Outreach and Engagement Assistant. She is excited to use her previous skills with youth education to make the most out of this year and to better understand the wonderfully complex relationship between fresh food and health.

Kaila Topping

Kaila is a Pennsylvania native - growing up in Harrisburg and attending Juniata College where she graduated with a degree in Chemistry. Having spent much of her childhood exploring the outdoors and gardening in the backyard, Kaila is passionate about appreciating the natural world and understanding where our food comes from. In the past, Kaila has worked at summer camps, in environmental monitoring, and doing soil science research. For her phase II placement, Kaila is working at the AMI Farm at Augusta Health as a Farm Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator.

naomi Desilets

Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, Naomi studied Sustainable Food and Farming and Sociology at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is interested in working with food justice efforts after working summers with community gardens, food programs, and teaching youth about where their food comes from. As a Phase II Fellow, Naomi is the Food and Garden Coordinator for the Highland Children’s House, working to provide healthy and locally sourced foods for the daycare while starting a new garden where kids can get their hands dirty and participate in cooking with what they grow. She also helps lead the school garden program at the Highland County Public Schools. 

William barden

William is originally from nearby Bath County, Virginia. He studied history at Virginia Tech but his real passion is restoring and working on his parent's farm, which has been in the family for generations. He is looking forward to supplementing his gardening experience with a knowledge of healthy food systems and how they can positively impact our local communities. As a Phase II Fellow, William works with on AMI projects in Augusta County and at Project Grows as a Farm Assistant. He is looking forward to expanding his farming knowledge and engaging with this community.

Capstone ProjEcts

1.

Protecting Pollinators with Intentional Butterfly Habitats

England Avis - Ypsilanti, MI

Habitats and micro-climates are increasingly destroyed by urban development and pesticide use, threatening pollinator populations of bees and butterflies. By identifying butterflies native to Highland County and the plants upon which they thrive, this project encourages and guides communities on how to develop pollinator gardens as intentional butterfly habitats.

2.

Vermicomposting and its Many Uses in a Garden

William Barden - Millboro, VA

Vermicomposting- or composting with worms - is a fast-acting way to break down organic matter and create good, nutrient-rich compost for your soil. This project demonstrates how to build a vermicomposting bin and make use of its many benefits around the garden or farm.

3.

Creating Truly Local Brews: Wild Yeast Wranglin’ and Hop Production

Lola Dalrymple - New York, NY

Matt Hansen - Marshall, MN

Most of the typical “local” beverages actually import ingredients from far off. This project aims to make brewing as local to the mountain as possible, capturing and culturing wild yeast strains from fruit trees around the farm to craft beer and cider with a true sense of place. Additionally, this project creates a new structure for growing hops that doubles as a social space in our farmhouse garden.

4.

Value-Added Products at AMI: A Feasibility Study

Naomi Desilets - Worcester, MA

Canning and fermenting foods can extend the availability of local, healthy foods. At AMI, Fellows learn to preserve food to feed themselves and up-and-coming Fellows. This project researches and outlines the steps and changes AMI would need to consider in order to make these same healthy foods available for sale to county residents.

5.

Resource Guide on Sustainable Energy Systems for AMI’s Mountain

Tess Jacobson - Herndon, VA

Utilizing sustainable energy can reduce environmental impact, lower utility bills and increase energy resiliency. This project provides the Allegheny Mountain Institute with a resource guide and steps to take for obtaining a solar power system for the mountain. This project also explores other sustainable options and shows the importance and impact that sustainable energy education could have on the organization and surrounding community.

6.

Native American History in Highland County

Georgia Meyer - St. Paul, MN

Though the evidence is all around us, the history of Native American tribes occupying present-day Highland County is little known and not well documented. This project provides future Fellows with a book containing information on tools and agricultural practices used by indigenous tribes in the local area so that Fellows can better understand who came before them.

7.

Permaculture in Practice: AMI Village Garden

Natalie Pax - Columbus, OH

Permaculture design principles can help create beautiful, abundant and low maintenance garden spaces. This project reclaims the ‘Village Garden,’ a small garden plot designated for each year’s Fellows to care for that has been difficult to maintain. The goal of this project is to uncover and preserve existing elements within the plot and create a Village Garden Guide that draws on Permaculture principles to help future Fellows cultivate and manage the space sustainably and effectively.

7.

A Nursery at the AMI Farm to Provide Plants for Silvopasture

Kaila Topping - Harrisburg, PA

Silvopasture systems integrate livestock, trees and forage to benefit both animals and plants. To help fulfill AMI’s goal of creating silvopastures in our existing fields, this project takes the first step: cultivating needed plants. This project utilizes both propagation and seed starting methods to begin growing plants that will thrive in the Highland County climate.

 

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

2013- 2014 Fellow

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. The AMI Fellowship prepared me in unspeakable ways for what life had in store for me in the next chapter of my journey. In early 2015, I joined the Chicago Botanical Gardens’ Urban Agriculture Department: Windy City Harvest team as a Harvest Corps Crew Leader in my home city of Chicago. I now coordinate and manage a two-acre incubator farm site in Bronzeville where I mentor the new agricultural business aspirations of Windy City Harvest graduates and grow $40,000 worth of vegetables on ¼ acre for Midwest Foods, a local produce wholesale company.

Anna Tracht

2015- 2016 Fellow

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. Phase II was an exciting whirlwind; I spent the year working with The Highland Center, developing and running a Culinary and Hospitality Internship Program, supporting the Highland Farmers Market, and reopening The Highland Inn Restaurant as a local food destination. I was energized and inspired by the Highland farming community, and how people were linking together different parts of the food system in new and innovative ways, especially given Highland County's remote location and the accompanying challenges. It was these connections- both personal and on a systems-wide level- that pushed me to pursue work with food hubs and increasing local food access. When my time with AMI came to an end, I was motivated to continue the work of building local food systems. About a year ago, I accepted a position with Cultivating Community, a food justice non-profit based in Portland, Maine. In my role as the Sales Coordinator and CSA Manager, I support a training farm and food hub for new American farmers. I work with refugee and immigrant farmers in providing produce to about 450 CSA members and numerous markets, schools, and food pantries throughout southern Maine. We aim to equip the farmers with skills and tools to graduate and become independent farm business operators. As I begin my second season with Cultivating Community, I still draw on foundational experiences and lessons learned during my AMI Fellowship each day, and I'm sure I will continue to do so for years to come.

Katie Gilman

2015- 2016 Fellow

I was drawn to the AMI Fellowship in 2014 when I returned home to Virginia after spending 8 months in rural farming communities in Guatemala. During my travels, I learned about the region’s food production issues and how these issues more deeply affect the peasant farmers that make up the majority of the country’s indigenous population. I realized I wanted to immerse myself in a program with a structured focus on growing food and analyzing food systems.

The Fellowship played a pivotal role in my personal and professional development both as a human, engaged in buying, growing, and consuming food, and as an agricultural educator. AMI offers a unique experience for inner reflection, with the opportunity to live in the breathtaking Allegheny Mountains for the six months of Phase I. The yearlong placement in Phase II allowed me to fully integrate the hands-on skills, farming practices and intra and interpersonal capabilities in a real way. I have gained training and knowledge that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I feel confident that I will always be able to provide food for myself and community, wherever that might be.

It’s now been 3 years since I finished my time with AMI. I’m currently back in Guatemala where I work with several Guatemalan educators as a Network of Agricultural and Ecological Educators by the name of REISA. REISA offers free, hands-on experiential trainings and workshops based around food sovereignty for 15 to 25 year-olds in rural indigenous Mayan communities. 

Roger Woo

2013- 2014 Fellow

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

Ben Samuelson

2014- 2015 Fellow

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.

Allegheny Mountain Institute

PO Box 542,

Staunton, VA 24402 

 

AMI at Augusta Health

540-886-0160

Fishersville, VA

Allegheny Farm Campus 

540-468-2300

Hightown, VA