AMI was the topic at one of four Bath Salons

Quite a few years back several Bath County residents joined forces to create a chance to learn about interesting topics from local experts, and visit with each other during the dreary months.

Last year the series was taken under the umbrella of the Bath Branch of the Rockbridge Regional Library.  So far the topics this year have been the Allegheny Mountain Institute, Monarch butterflies and their habitat, The Black Plaque in 14th Century Europe, and the final one on Tuesday, Paleolithic Cave Painting.  Jessa Fowler of the Allegheny Mountain Institute led the first Salon, talked to a good-sized group about the school and it how it reaches the larger community.

“I was a fellow at the Allegheny Mountain Institute in 2012, and went to grad school and came back a few years ago, so it’s really exciting to be part of this program that has meant so much to me.”

Jessa began by  reminding us how easily we identify the graphics of such brands as Coca-cola, McDonalds, and certain detergents and then by having the group guess the identities of some pretty obscure looking vegetables.

“Jerusalem artichoke or sun choke.  This one is amazing because it kind of tastes like a potato and an artichoke combined. And it controls glucose better than just a potato.”

Then she spoke more about how AMI founder Laurie Bermann decided to start a program to that could address that gap in everyday knowledge about food.

“She thought there was this disconnect between my generation and food, and knowing where food comes from, and knowing that it can be medicinal, and knowing that it can help heal and be good for our bodies. And so she started AMI with the mission of cultivating healthy communities through food and education.”

***A fellowship at AMI takes eighteen months, the first season spent on the mountain learning the farming skills, and practicing local community service.

“It confuses our applicants all the time. They say ‘wait’ can I just do  one or the other, and the answer is no.  We are training, providing free training for people who are interested in learning to grow their own food, with the expectation that they then give back, and they serve in our communities for a year. So the first part is six months and it’s up on our farm, and for those of you familiar with the area, you’re driving on 250, past Monterey; you’re almost at the West Virginia line.

Our fellows are on the farm from May to October, and the beauty of how high up we are, and the coldness of our elevation is that the fellows really get to see a lot of the season; it can snow at the beginning of the season, and it can snow at the end.  So, it’s a short season, but they get to see all of it.”

“While the fellows are learning a lot, we do ask that they start practicing giving back, and try on some different hats., so they go and help at our farmer’s Market, they go and help at the school garden, and we have a couple of field trips that come to the farm as well. So they’re kind of trying on this leadership role, and the next phase is asking them to become leaders and to spend a year with a non-profit.”

Two beautifully produced videos added to Jenna’s presentations and led the way to more Q questions and answers when salon goers talked later on.

Phase one is just a drop in the bucket, compared to what they will experience in Phase Two, because Phase Two is where all that they learned, and all their experiences where they’re really making a difference.”

The farm at Augusta Health, the Urban Farm at Virginia School for the deaf and Blind, Project Grows, are a few of the non-profits in the wider community which AMI has help get on their feet.

“So our alumnae are continuing to stay in the food system realm.  There are a lot of farm training programs that are out there, and we need that;  the average age of a farm is in the sixties I believe, but we also need people who are in food policy, who are teachers, who are taking on non-profit roles, and our fellows are doing all of these things.  They’re managing farms and they’re directing non-profits.”

To  learn more about the Allegheny Mountain Institute Farm and Fellowship program visit.

The deadline to apply for this year’s cohort is March 1st.

And to learn more about the Bath County Salon Series, call,

Or join in the last one of the season when Bill Jones shows pictures and talks about Paleolithic cave art.  The event takes place at the Bath Public Library, Tuesday evening at 6:00.  Every one is welcome to come.

Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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