Farmer Training Program

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 DeSantisS’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 StievaterRachel 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.

Jenna Hardesty, Instructor

After graduating from the 2015 Farmer Training Program, Jenna moved back to Ohio. She began working at a 10-acre diversified vegetable farm called Green Edge Organic Gardens in the foothills of Appalachia. She became the Harvest and Pack-Room Manager on this year-round farm that specialized in growing unique products such as winter greens, mushrooms, microgreens, ginger and turmeric. After Green Edge, Jenna moved on to become the Produce Buyer at the oldest (and one of the last remaining) member-owned grocery cooperatives in Ohio. She is excited to be returning to FTP as an instructor! Jenna loves meeting new people, snuggling her dogs, biking, going to shows, swimming, double dutching, and dancing.

 

Ava Murphey, Instructor

Amidst a host of experiences in various fields, ranging from international education to the non-profit sector to plumbing, Ava uncovered a latent desire to be more connected with the natural world and reclaim responsibility of her relationship with the land. She worked as a farmhand in Northern Michigan and developed a true passion for farming. In 2017 Ava enrolled in the Farmer Training Program to pursue these interests further and to dive into some deeper questions she had about the meaning of a sustainable and just food system. In her free time, you will find her hiking, backpacking, swimming, biking, and generally spending as much time as possible outside. Since graduating from FTP, Ava has spent the winter working at a small raw milk dairy, a horse barn, and learning to play hockey… she’s looking forward to your arrival and working with all of you!

Guest instructors:

  • Ann Hazelrigg – Plant pathologist for UVM Extension and instructor
  • Chelsea Frisbee – Intervale Center’s Development Coordinator
  • Ginger Nickerson – UVM Extension and Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Coordinator for Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)
  • Janet Carscadden – Physical therapist and yoga instructor, co-owner of Evolution Yoga and Physical Therapy
  • Josef Gorres – Associate Professor in Plant and Soil Science at UVM, soil scientist
  • Kimberly Hagen – Grazing Specialist with UVM extension and Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Laura Williams – previous farm manager of Catamount Farm
  • Maggie Donin – Intervale Center’s Beginning Farmer Specialist
  • Mark Canella – UVM Extension, Farm Business Management Specialist
  • Michael Good – Community Food Security Program Assistant at the Northeast Organic Farming Assoc. of VT
  • Michael Sundue – Research Assistant Professor Lecturer in Plant Biology
  • Nicole Dehne – Vermont Organic Farmers Administrator, Owner of City Chicks Farm
  • Richard Wiswall – Owner of Cate Farm, Farm Business Workshops
  • Sid Bosworth – UVM Extension and Professor, Weed Management
  • Sona Desai – Intervale Center’s Food Hub Manager
  • Stacy Burnstein – Intervale Center’s Land Access Specialist
  • Terry Bradshaw – Director of UVM’s Horticultural Research Center, Research Associate for Plant and Soil Science
  • Vern Grubinger – UVM Extension, Berry & Vegetable Specialist / NE SARE Coordinator
  • Vic Izzo – Entomologist, Adjunct instructor at UVM, Champlain College and Johnson State
  • Wendy Sue Harper – WSH Consulting, Soil Scientist and previous Professor at UVM