AMI Farm at Augusta Health
The Allegheny Mountain Institute bases its Phase I Fellowship in Highland County, but it aims to have an impact much farther than the county line. A nearby hospital is taking food nutrition and education into account.
AMI’s Executive Director, Sue Erhardt, talks about their new signature project, the Allegheny Mountain Institute Farm at Augusta Health. She says, “We are super excited. This project and partnership started on January 2nd of this year, and it’s a ten-year commitment where we’re going to grow, and started growing, fresh, local, organic, sustainably-grown produce that are gonna go in to the hospital institution. Here in Highland, we have a wonderful Fellowship program, and that’s an eighteen-month commitment that these people make from all over the United States, but they’re only living in Highland for six months, and some of those Phase II Fellows stay here in Highland, but many go in to Augusta County, and so we actually have three Phase II Fellows at the hospital right now. They’re working on the farm and working in education programs.
“The Allegheny Mountain Institute, our focus is education, and so, of course, we do a great job about growing produce sustainably, so that’s one part of the program. We’re gonna try to put 10,000 pounds of food grown from an acre-and-a-half lot this first year in to the hospital system, and so the second part of that is education, so there’s two parts to that. One, we have a Food Farmacy program where literally a physician is handing a prescription to people who are Type 2 Diabetics, and they’re gonna have this prescription and come to our farm stand and get this fresh, great food. They’ll also learn about how to cook that, how to store it, and then they’ll learn from doctors and dietitians healthy eating choices, and the second part is, we have local workshops that are open to the public. Most of them are free, and so anyone can come to those. We’re having classes on how to compost, how to start your garden, how to maintain your garden, what pests are in the garden.”
So why is this innovative collaboration important? Ms. Erhardt continues, “Both the hospital and the Allegheny Mountain Institute, we believe in having healthy communities. They do it through traditional, medicinal avenues, and we do it through teaching people how to grow and eat healthy local produce, and so we’re really coming together because the hospital is a non-profit hospital, and they put out a health needs assessment every three years, and their health needs assessment that came out in 2016 said that the biggest issues in Augusta County were diabetes, nutrition, and mental health, and so when we heard about that, we went to a meeting and said, ‘Hey. One of the ways you can help fix these issues is by giving people and teaching them about healthy produce, locally grown,’ and that’s how this whole partnership started with their needs assessment, and so that’s why it’s a ten-year commitment, because we know just handing someone, you know, some broccoli isn’t gonna fix a lifetime of issues that people might have, so this is a pilot year for the Food Farmacy. We hope to expand that next year, and we’d love to see you at the farm. We have an open house on June 16th from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It’s free and open to the whole public. We’re gonna have tastings from the farm, and we’re gonna have fun activities for the whole family.
“If you’d like to learn more about the Allegheny Mountain Institute, please go to our website, www.alleghenymountaininstitute.org , and our office number in Augusta County is 540-886-0160, and that’s how you can learn more about the open house.”