Featured Alumni

Gen Spellman (2021)

Gen Spellman UVM Farmer Training ProgramGen grew up covered in soil, with a shirt full of gleaned potatoes from her family’s fields. Food was always a part of her definition of family and community. She spent a lot of time working in kitchens and in food retail spaces. Finding herself constantly looking out the window, it became clear that a shift back to soil and sun was calling. Enter FTP.

FTP had been on her radar for a few years, and it finally came time to take the leap and move to VT. The program guided Gen’s longing for connection with land, food, and people and solidified an understanding of her role in the work of feeding others. With the path more clearly in view after FTP, Gen accepted a position at the Farm @ the Vermont Youth Conservation (VYCC)  as the Farm Production Coordinator where she works alongside young people to steward a 14-acre production farm. Food grown serves a 450-member Health Care Share (look it up, it’s pretty cool!). Additionally, when not farming, Gen enjoys farming– tending to a small herd of dairy goats and connecting with food-loving neighbors.

Abdoulaye Niane (2021)

Abdoulaye NianeAbdoulaye is an immigrant from Senegal in West Africa and grew up in the capital city of Dakar. He lived in Italy for over a decade before moving to the United States. He travelled to a few different places before landing in Vermont. He worked as a precision machinist for many years but after finishing FTP, he is now switching gears and is pursuing a future in farming. He is a 2021 FTP alum. Along with his wife and children he is starting Khelcom Farm in Berlin VT. It is an urban style farm which will be operational for year 1 of business in the spring of 2022. He will be growing a variety of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers for sale. In addition, he has chickens, ducks, goats, and a lamb for eggs and meat for personal consumption. He credits FTP for giving him a solid foundation to have the knowledge and confidence to pursue this transition.

Ali Mills (2019)

Portrait of Ali Mills UVM Farmer Training ProgramAli was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, slinging drinks and working with some innovative food & drink pros before deciding to attend FTP. Driven by a desire to do good, to learn more about where her food came from, and by a general obsession with plants that had festered and gone unfulfilled for years, she packed up her dog and her things and moved to the snowy north. Ali left FTP with a deep love and appreciation for the land and for the people who steward it, as well as for the plants and animals that belong to it. She has gone on to work with several growing and landscaping operations in Vermont, including Red Wagon Plants, Shelburne Orchards, and Restoration Gardening. Learning from these leaders about how far behind the ornamental horticulture industry is regarding responsible practice, Ali decided to make her dislike of the suburban lawn a career path.  She is now the Product Manager for American Meadows, a Vermont-based wildflower seed and ornamental plant supplier, working to bring biodiversity and resilient landscaping principles to the direct-to-consumer market.

Evan Hoyt (2019)

Evan Hoyt smilingEvan was living and working in tech startup world in San Francisco before moving to Vermont for FTP. He started the program with absolutely no experience raising food and fell quickly in love with the beautiful labor of feeding land and people. Distressed by the tight financial environment most farmers find themselves in, but inspired by an abundance of incredible farmer mentors, Evan spent years after FTP exploring cooperative farm models and alternative economics, eventually landing at Brush Brook Community Farm in Huntington, VT. This experiment in gift-based food production raises sheep and cows, veggies, and bakes bread and makes soup. All these wonderful foods are then offered as a gift at no charge. Evan has been able to keep applying and building on what he learned at FTP, while deepen relationships and serving the land that feeds him and his community, which is more than his tech-addled brain could have ever asked for before finding FTP.

Eric Gratta (2019)

Eric Gratta headshot wearing a straw hatEric joined the Farmer Training Program in 2019 to explore sustainable agriculture through personal, technological, and business perspectives. He grew up on Long Island, NY in the deep suburbs and had a background in computer science, only awakened to farming later in life. FTP taught him crucial farm management skills, grounded his knowledge in much broader political, social, and ecological contexts, and enabled him to form so many meaningful, life-long relationships. Eric spent another season after FTP growing organic vegetables and is now a software engineer for Silo, a wholesale food platform looking to bring transparency and sustainability to the food system. He still looks forward to forming his own farm and technology operation, marrying efficiency and ecological responsibility.

Christine and Fabio Ritmo (2018)

Christine and Fabio RitmoOur farming journey began in 2015, when Fabio quit his job slinging’ brews to intern with Paul + Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, NY. Christine left her job as a veterinary assistant to join him through the Fall and Winter. Under the Arnold’s tutelage, we got our first taste of production, year-round farming – and fell head over heels.

Following the completion of our internships, we returned home and took over a family garden. That year we sold a few CSA shares and at a community farmers market while working “9-5” jobs to build our farm-nest-egg. After that important first season, it was clear which skills we each had and which we lacked. So, in 2018 we packed up again and moved to Burlington, VT to attend the Farmer Training Program at UVM. We credit FTP – and our incredible instructors, cohort, and rotational farm mentors – with filling in the gaps/teaching us the tools to become more thoughtful, capable, and confident farmers.

Post-VT and in pursuit of land to lease in our native Capital Region, we posted our profile on what is essentially a dating service for land-owners and land-seekers. With this resource, we connected with our incredible partners, Cecilia Aldarondo + Gabriel Kristal. In 2019 we broke ground on their land outside of Saratoga Springs, NY selling veggies and some flowers at three small farmers markets. That first season, the four of us built such a solid and reciprocal relationship, that when Cecilia + Gabe decided to relocate to the Hudson Valley, they asked if we would join them. So in 2020, mid-pandemic, our newly formed collective moved to our forever-farm in Catskill. Visit our farm’s website @ Nimble Roots Farm

Allie Borovik (2017)

Baby throwing salad greens into a bucketAllie grew up in Houston, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee, before moving to New York City for college. At New York University she studied Politics, Food, and Public Health. Food and urban agriculture have always played a large role in her life: she grew up cooking every night with her parents, watched every food documentary and movie that she could, and read any book she could find about the food industry. After graduating from NYU in 2014, she moved to San Francisco to work as the West Coast sales associate at 18 Rabbits, an organic granola bar company. After one year of working in the 9-5 office world, she knew it wasn’t for her. She joined UVM’s Farmer Training Program for hands-on experience and to gain knowledge and skills about farming that she could use to create a food justice ecosystem. After finishing the Farmer Training Program, Allie thought nothing else would ever be as good. But it has been in the months following that she has been able to see how the six months spent at Catamount Farm prepared her for her next stepsAllie worked as a crops and livestock apprentice at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York in 2018 and then moved to Austin, TX to start Neighborfood, a small yard farming business. After running that for a year, she is now starting a 1/2 acre vegetable, ginger, and turmeric farm outside of Austin with the help of her one year old son, Quinn.

Bernice Kannie (2016)

Bernice Kannie working on a farmBernice is proudly South African, straight outta Cape Town. After a long (but not terribly fulfilling) career in a sterile laboratory environment, she decided she wanted something more out of life. She had always wanted to work within her community but needed to make sure that it was doing something dear to her heart. In 2014, she moved to the US, which gave her the perfect opportunity to explore new possibilities. Using her love of gardening as inspiration, she discovered FTP and found this hands-on program very appealing. Faster than you can say “cover crop” she fell head over heels in love with growing food, and 6 months in Vermont turned into 2 years that included a season at one of the farms she got to know during FTP rotation.

In 2018, she made the leap back to South Africa and set out to build a longstanding project of her own that would allow her to apply the practical tools she gained at FTP. After helping with some projects at schools and a psychiatric hospital on the Cape Flats, she met a teacher whose school was looking to establish a food garden to benefit the learners and the surrounding community, and an urban farmer was born. Far from the rural green hills of northern Vermont, the Sosebenza garden is situated in Khayelitsha, a part of Cape Town close to the Indian Ocean in what was once an expanse of sandy dunes and flats. Now it is home to over 1 million people (and about 4 million snails). Sometimes, it has proven challenging to work with the wind, the snails, the intense root structures of the plants seeking any drop of water, and the lack of organic matter (cover crop, cover crop, cover crop!), but the solid base of knowledge, versatility, and ingenuity that FTP gave has made it possible for her to create a space that is meaningful both to her and to the community. Like all farming, it’s a work in progress. 🙂 She hopes to expand her pilot work at Sosebenza to other projects around the city in the future.

Ian Frye (2016)

Ian FreiAfter too many days in front of too many office screens, Ian started to dwell on memories of dirt-covered hands and the smell of manure from his time spent on Wisconsin farms. With a taste for entrepreneurship and a desire for something more than farmhand grunt-work, he found his way to the Farmer Training Program. These days, Ian is back in NYC, finding fulfillment through fish poop. With the aquaponic system at Upward Farms, he works with the productive power of a symbiotic ecosystem of fish, microbes, and plants to produce Ready-to-Eat greens and fish for sale in Whole Foods and grocers around NYC. As the world’s only Certified Organic vertical farm, he applies diverse FTP lessons such ecological interdependencies, food safety, value added products, and even tractor lessons—which help him wrangle the robots—to bring some needed life to high-tech Controlled Environment Agriculture.

At the Farmer Training Program, Ian gained a powerful combination of scientific knowledge, business acumen, and farming techniques that enables him to build a commercial urban farm and ultimately be a part of a solution to our broken food system. He recommends FTP to everyone who wants to bring more life to their life or career.

Jack Dempsey (2015)

Jack Dempsey taking a picture in a row of lettuce in a garden/farmJack Dempsey grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and after a 3-month wwoofing experience, he knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to agriculture. He needed to find a way to educate himself about farming, and found the Farmer Training Program in VT. The farmer training program is what kicked off his agricultural career. Not only did it offer a foundation of knowledge, but it also provided invaluable relationships and connections with people in agriculture that have led him to where he is today. Following the Farmer Training Program, Jack continued his farming education and experience with some farming apprenticeships for a number of years. Along the way, Jack saw the influence of media and the way online content can have an impact. He picked up a camera and started taking photos and making videos to promote and help farms to achieve their goals and create bigger impact. Jack then attended Full Sail University to study media communications, and currently works at Rodale Institute has the staff videographer. That position is the perfect mixture of Jack’s two passions of agriculture and creating videos. At Rodale Institute, Jack shoots the video content for online courses and various online campaigns.

Elizabeth Downey (2015)

Elizabeth Downey juggling potatosLiz feels she was lucky enough to stumble into the Farmer Training Program by way of a concern for food sovereignty and the desire to learn and know the basics of what sustains us here on this amazing hunk of floating rock and space dust. She spent time working at Cookbook, a small market in Los Angeles while also volunteering with Food Forward, an organization that gleans excess produce with the intention of redistribution to shelters and food banks. Having access to those opportunities led her to want to really dig in and learn more about the entire food system–the seeds, farms and growers. The Farmer Training Program stood out as a great way to learn about all of the above. “To have the chance to do morning field walks, look at the books of small and large scale farming operations, use a potato digger while getting schooled on integrative pest management all in the same week is really a great experience. And to be able to share that experience with a couple dozen beautiful strangers from completely different backgrounds and parts of the country is such a privilege.” Elizabeth now manages the Wholesale Program at High Mowing Organic Seeds, a 100% Certified Organic independent, farm-based seed company. Her team is responsible for getting organic seeds out to coops, farm stands and nurseries across the country. She credits the Farmer Training Program for introducing her to High Mowing Seeds and getting her involved in the organic seed world.

Riv Gallagher (2015)

Riv Gallagher Rewind to a hot garlic field in Arizona was Riv’s “aha!” moment. With such gratitude for the simplicity of the task, the straw hat on his head, and the elemental connection to the heat, sun, soil, he knew that organic agriculture was the lifestyle he wanted to explore and the Farmer Training Program is where he landed. FTP was one of the best experiences of his life, “It prepared me to think more about diverse styles of farming and ways of establishing my own future farm and bringing it to fruition. Whether farming berries like Adam’s Berry Farm, or something more diversified with large scale CSA like Intervale Community Farm, it allowed me to have a clearer idea of what I want to do.”  Riv sees a clear future ahead, “Farming is definitely what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. Human to human, human to land, human to self-connections are ignited. It is the essence of getting back to the roots, and there is space for everyone, people of all races, genders, and abilities can come together over food.”

Kimberlee Rich (2014)

Kimberlee RichOld Soul Farm

After completing the Farmer Training Program together, Kim and her partner, Matt Systo, purchased a 13-acre property in Barre, VT that was previously a dairy farm. There they created Old Soul Farm, a market garden consisting of one acre of vegetables, two hoop houses, and a continually increasing number of berries, fruit trees, and perennials. They also have a cut flower field and a medicinal herb garden located just outside their on-site farm stand. The farm stand is located in the barn where they also keep their flock of 55 laying hens. They sell a variety of canned goods and value added products in their farm stand due to the recent addition of a production kitchen on the property. First and foremost, they operate their farm as a homestead, striving to produce and preserve as much as possible for their own consumption and sustainability. With a heavy focus on permaculture principles, they plan to continue to design, plant, and graze as many of their remaining 12 acres as possible. They credit FTP for giving them the knowledge necessary to start and successfully operate their own farm within 6 months of graduating.

Andrew Bahrenburg (2013)

Andrew BahrenburgAndrew Bahrenburg is a legislative assistant for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), working on agriculture and climate policy in the Senator’s Washington, DC office. Previously, he served as the policy director for the National Young Farmers Coalition during the organization’s 2018 Farm Bill campaign. Andrew graduated from the Farmer Training Program in 2013 and served as the farm assistant and educator for the two subsequent seasons on the farm before becoming an organizer and advocate for Rural Vermont. For Andrew, the Farmer Training Program helped provide the practical farming skill-set necessary to understand and advocate for small-scale farmers and local food systems at both the state and federal policy level.

Ryan Demarest (2013)

Ryan DemarestNaked Acre Farm

From Oregon to Vermont, Ryan found his way to the Farmer Training Program in 2013. Prior to a transition to agriculture, Ryan was deep in the backcountry leading wilderness trips with youth. He is currently the sole farmer and owner of his business Naked Acre Farm. Ryan began farming immediately after he graduated from the program. Naked Acre Farm is featured on menus at Hen of the Wood and other high-end restaurants in Northern Vermont.  He attributes a lot of his initial success to his time spent learning from mentors and other farmers in the Farmer Training Program. For 2017, he is expanding to two acres. “After three seasons, I feel like I have a touch of farming wisdom, developed systems, established relationships with my markets, and a strong support system largely derived from my amazing FTP cohort who come help me weed and harvest garlic when the work seems too much.   In addition, I am looking to purchase land this year and to find my permanent Naked Acre to call home.”

Hadley Kreitz (2013)

Hadley KreitzToluma Farms

Hadley started her farming career in 2012 after years of living in New York City.  She moved to Vermont and joined FTP community in 2013 in hopes to achieve a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture.  Her experience with FTP was invaluable.  It gave her the confidence and comprehensive knowledge she needed to take on even the most intense farming situations.  After her time at FTP, she moved to Marin County in California to work as an apprentice and then eventually a manager at a goat and sheep dairy farm and creamery (Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery).  For the last three years, she has been involved in all aspects of the farmstead – kidding / lambing, milking, land management, cheese making, etc.   In January of 2016, in the middle of lambing season, she gave birth to her daughter, Una (Gaelic for lamb) and has continued working on the farm with her in tow.

Todd Heyman (2013)

Todd HeymanFat Sheep Farm

Todd got into farming through a CSA workshare program at Green Gate Farms in Austin, TX.  He had quit his Boston lawyer job and was looking for a fresh start.  After a brief stint taking culinary classes and studying agricultural and food law, he decided to dive into farming full time and enrolled in FTP.  He loved the program’s comprehensive approach to all aspects of a farm business, and the great network of farmers he was introduced to through the program (a network he still relies on today).  After a couple years working on different farms in Massachusetts, Todd and his partner, Suzy Kaplan, started Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins in Hartland, Vermont in 2016.  They sell produce and eggs at area farmers markets and to local restaurants, and plan to start making sheep’s milk cheese soon.  In 2017, they will also open five rental cabins on the farm allowing their guests to enjoy all the farm’s offerings while enjoying amazing views of the surrounding hills and woodlands.  The farm is located near Woodstock and Quechee, and they hope to offer a unique agri-tourism experience to the area’s many visitors.

Caitlin and Jason Elberson (2013)


Caitlin and Jason own Sobremesa, an artisanal fermented foods company based in central Vermont with her husband Jason (also FTP ’13). Sobremesa is a Spanish word that refers to the time spent lingering around the table after a meal. This name is at the heart of why they grow and make food. Sobremesa is a time to digest and savor food, family, and friendship. The Elbersons enjoy selling their products at the Burlington and Stowe Farmers’ Markets and a number of local farm stands and stores. In fall of 2014, they moved to Marshfield, VT where they purchased a 7.5-acre homestead that they named Wild Rhythms Farm. They grow vegetables, herbs, berries, and are excited to establish perennials. They tend to a diversified flock of laying hens and Chocolate Muscovy ducks, and raise a small flock of Icelandic and Border Leicester sheep. Before attending the Farmer Training Program in 2013, Caitlin and Jason were living in Pennsylvania, where Caitlin worked as Director of Development at a Waldorf School and Jason worked as a mechanical engineer. After FTP, they spent one season milking cows at Stony Pond Farm in Fairfield, VT. Caitlin manages the Stowe Farmers’ Market and both Jason and Caitlin work part-time seasonally at High Mowing Organic Seeds. Caitlin and Jason began FTP with the goal of beginning their own business, and the two are grateful to FTP for helping them feel prepared to dive right in.