Meet our guest instructors and staff:
The knowledge and resources within our community are exceptional. We are privileged to bring in these farmers, agricultural extension agents and other experts to teach our Farmer Training students.
S’ra DeSantis, Farmer Training Program Co-Director and Instructor
S’ra DeSantis has worked on organic vegetable farms since 1996 when she took a job as a farm hand because there were no other jobs available. She immediately fell in love with farming and can’t seem to keep her hands out of the dirt since.
In 2000, she became co-owner and member of Diggers’ Mirth Collective Farm, an organic vegetable farm located in Burlington’s Intervale, where she learned the fundamentals of farming. For six years, S’ra managed the Old North End Farmers Market, a market located in a culturally and economically diverse community that is committed to providing locally grown food at affordable prices. She has worked at several Vermont agricultural non-profits including the Intervale Center, Rural Vermont and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont. S’ra has taught a self-designed course, Controversies in Vermont Agriculture, at the University of Vermont.
She holds a master’s of science degree in Plant and Soil Science and a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the University of Vermont. S’ra is excited to be part of the team at the Farmer Training Program where two of her deepest passions can come together – organic vegetable production and hands on education. S’ra is also the proud mother of two really fun kids, Arlo and Elsa.
Rachel Stievater, Co-Director, Catamount Farm Manager and Instructor
Rachel Stievater was turned on to the idea of farming in college. She left school for hands-on experience and has never looked back. After apprenticing on farms in the northwest and northeast, she became a Field Manager at Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY. Although a production farm, Hawthorne Valley also runs many programs for students. It was here that Rachel began to see the importance of incorporating education into agriculture.
This led her to Farm & Wilderness in Plymouth, Vermont where she became the Garden Manager for 4 years. Farm & Wilderness operates a year-round, highly diversified, small-scale farm. Seasonal interns, campers, and students learn through working on the farm.
She took a break from Farm & Wilderness to raise a son, start a homestead and a cut-flower business, and return to college at UVM to obtain a degree in Plant Biology. After finishing her degree at UVM, she realized she missed the educational side of farming and returned to work as the Garden Manager at Farm & Wilderness for another three seasons. Rachel is excited to be back at UVM and to bring her skills in farming and teaching to UVM’s Catamount Farm.
Molly Leebove, Instructor
Molly gravitated towards farming as the common thread in her passions of environmental health, personal wellness and community building. After studying public policy and non-profit management at Indiana University, she began to volunteer on the weekends at urban farms in San Francisco while working at a health technology startup. It became clear her heart was in sustainable agriculture.
In 2013, she decided to take the big plunge and complete the Farmer Training Program. After leaving Burlington, she spent the year as an apprentice at the Esalen Institute, farming on the coast of California in Big Sur. Molly is thrilled to be part of the Farmer Training Program team and living in the lovely landscapes of Vermont.
She is looking forward to a big season of growing in the field and off. In her free time, you may find her knitting, reading tarot, hiking, or on the dance floor.
Andy Lang, Instructor
Andy Lang has taken an untraditional path to farming. Trained as a welder and machinist he has always felt centered and happy whilst dirty. A 2015 graduate of the Farmer Training Program and the newest member to join the staff, Andy hails from the Ozark Mountains of Southwestern Missouri. He is excited to be in Vermont learning more about growing and enjoying the beautiful people and landscapes.