• 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.

  • Farm and Food Education Fellowship

    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. Learn More!


    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. 


    Applications for the 2019-2020 Fellowship have closed.

    2020-2021 Fellowship Applications will open October 2019.

    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
    • Beekeeping
    • Permaculture Design
    • 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 the food system live, work, and study together on our 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. On top of this hands-on experience, Fellows learn from expert guest workshop instructors, explore regional farms and attend educational sessions. Fellows also explore food system through participation with a local school garden, weekly farmers market, farm stay programming and a culminating Capstone Project.  


    Phase I Fellows receive room and board and spend 40-50 hours per work in Fellowship activities, including 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, 2014-2015 Fellow

    Life on the Mountain


    It’s hard not to fall in love with our Allegheny Mountain Farm campus. Not only is the soil rich for growing abundant amounts of food, the farm is surrounded by picture-perfect mountain views, bubbling springs, hundreds of acres of natural forests, and a night sky lit up by the Milky Way.


    Fellows stay in hand-crafted cabins, make farm-fresh meals together in commercial style kitchens and study in wifi-equipped common spaces.


    Off the mountain, Fellows are welcomed into a rich Appalachian culture and the close-knit community of Highland County.



    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, 2017-2018 Fellow

    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 partner non-profit organizations. Phase II 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,

    the AMI Farm at Augusta Health, Highland County Public Schools, the Allegheny Mountain Farm.


    Each month, Phase II Fellows meet for leadership training and professional development training, participate in monthly workshops or field trips, and are supported with one-on-one mentoring.


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

    I know that I will be leaving AMI carrying a toolbox filled with the knowledge of how to address issues in our current food system and build community –- the catalysts that brought me to this amazing place and immersive program in the first place.

    - Elora Overbey, 2017-2018 Fellow

  • Watch to Learn More!

    Phase I

    Phase II

  • Join our Team!

    Allegheny Mountain Institute is seeking a Farm Manager for our Allegheny Farm


    The Allegheny Farm Manager (AFM) is responsible for managing and maintaining the production gardens, livestock, and village facilities at our Allegheny Farm Campus in Highland County, Virginia. The AFM is a full-time, exempt position at our Allegheny Mountain Farm in Highland County. Work hours may fluctuate and are dependent on seasonal and organizational needs (e.g., preparation at the beginning of the season and end of the season). Education is a fundamental component of Allegheny Mountain Institute’s mission, and the AFM should have an interest in this area. AMI’s work is rooted in organic, regenerative agricultural practices, so the AFM should have a deep philosophical and operational agreement with such methods.


    Click below to download the full position description.


    TO APPLY: Please complete and submit this online application form, including a cover letter, resume, and at least three professional references. For questions, please contact sue@alleghenymountainschool.org. No phone calls or mailed applications, please.

  • Meet the Fellows!

    Now accepting applications for the 2019-2020 Cohort. Apply today!

    2017-2018 Cohort

    Click to learn more about our most recent graduates!

    2018-2019 Cohort

    Click to learn more about our new Phase II Fellows!

  • Follow the AMI Fellows

    What's it like to be a Fellow? Check out AMI Fellows Blog!

    March 4, 2019
    February 18, 2019
    More Posts
  • 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...


    Katie Gilman

    AMI Fellow, 2015-2016

    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 realized I wanted to immerse myself in a program with a structured focus on growing food and analyzing food systems. Read More...

  • 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


    Get involved! Volunteer hours begin in April. Contact grace@alleghenymountainschool.org to learn more.

    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 2019 Classes & Events


    Your Guide to Worm Composting

    Tuesday, March 19, 5:00-6:30 PM

    AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Worm compost is gardener's gold! Come learn how to harness the power of earthworms to create your own nutrient-dense compost for your garden.


    The first 10 participants will make a worm bin to take home!


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

    Garden Planning Workshop and Seed Swap

    Sunday, March 31, 2:00-4:00 PM

    Highland County Public Library

    Learn how to get the most from your home garden, with Jason Cooper of Virginia Commonwealth Extension. Then swap seeds or check out new ones from the Little Switzerland Seed Library!


    Contact Ariel@alleghenymountainschool.org for more information

  • 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, walk the farm and meet, learn and work alongside young adults passionate about growing healthy communities.


    Email julialoman@alleghenymountainschool.org or call 540-886-0160 to book your stay.

    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 June-October 2019.

    Explore the farm

    Help gather eggs, harvest our produce grown using organic methods, and explore the beautiful mountain setting. Weekday guests may participate in select Wednesday workshops for an additional fee.

    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.

  • 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?

    Meet our staff.

    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.


    Pat Banks
    Farm Manager

    AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Originally hailing from Pardeeville, WI, Pat developed his passion for environmental justice and farming after a 3-year quest that included travel to Central America, working and leading trail crews in AZ and CO, and then, ultimately, working as a field hand on a 3-acre farm outside of Madison, WI. Pat was a part of AMI’s 2017 cohort and spent his Phase II placement as the farm manager at AMI’s farm at August Health. When not obsessing over farming, Pat enjoys the challenge of trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle through cooking; preserving and fermenting the food he grows.

    Grayson Shelor
    Education Coordinator

    AMI Farm at Augusta Health

    Originally from the foothills of Eastern Tennessee, Grayson feels rooted in the rich food heritage of Appalachia. After graduating from the University of Richmond with a degree in English Literature, she followed her passions for service, public health, and outdoor education across the United States before returning to Virginia as an AMI Farm and Food Fellow in 2017. A proud apologist for vegetables, Grayson also enjoys books, tea, coloring with toddlers, singing to seedlings, hiking, and splashing in creeks.

    Maggie Wilder
    Garden Manager

    Mountain Farm

    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.

  • Meet our Board of Directors.

    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.

  • 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'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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