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.

Rachel Stievater

Director, Farmer Training Program

Rachel StievaterRachel Stievater was turned on to the idea of farming while being a student at Oberlin 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 was excited to return to UVM in 2015 as the Catamount Farm Manager and an FTP instructor. She moved into an FTP Co-Directorship role in 2017 and Director in 2020.

Jay Hardesty

Catamount Farm Program Coordinator and FTP Lead Instructor

Jay Hardesty sitting on a rock by a lakeJay graduated from the Farmer Training Program in 2015 and then continued her farming career in Ohio, where she gained experience in management, winter growing, microgreens and mushrooms. She’s been working with FTP since 2018 as one of the core instructors. Along with daily farm tasks, she also works with students in the greenhouse, during harvest and at a weekly Farmer’s Market. In her free time, Jay mostly loves to eat and sleep. She also loves friends, dancing, bike rides, beach swims, smooching her dog Carrot, and growing flowers.

Ava Murphey

Catamount Farm Manager and FTP Lead Instructor

Ava Murphey holding a chickAmidst 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 started her farming journey as a farmhand in Northern Michigan working at a diversified veggie farm/bakery and a poultry farm. 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. Since becoming a part of the FTP staff team in 2018 Ava has relished in the opportunity to strengthen her relationship with the farm, get to know the endlessly inspiring students that pass through this program, and develop and facilitate the program’s food and social justice curriculum.

She has spent her winter seasons primarily working with animals at a raw milk cow dairy, a horse barn, and a goat dairy in New Mexico. She has also spent time working with UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative (ALC), maple sugaring, and exploring an agricultural gift economy project with a small herd of cows and flock of sheep in Huntington, VT. Ava looks forward to many seasons of continued learning!

Guest instructors:

  • Ann Hazelrigg – Plant pathologist for UVM Extension and instructor
  • Andrea Solazzo – Agriculture and Community Outreach Manager at the Vermont Foodbank
  • Annie White – Plant and Soil Science Lecturer
  • Don Stevens — Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation
  • Ernesto Mendez – Plant and Soil Science Chair and Professor, Co-Director of UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative
  • Hans Estrin – Produce Safety Accreditation Program Coordinator
  • Jacob Mushlin – Owner of Compose Design Build
  • Janet Carscadden – Physical therapist and yoga instructor, co-owner of Evolution Yoga and Physical Therapy
  • Josh Faulkner — Plant and Soil Science Research Assistant Professor, Farming and Climate Change Program in UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Kimberly Hagen – Grazing Specialist with UVM extension and Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Marita Canedo – Migrant Justice
  • Michael Sundue – Research Assistant Professor in Plant Biology
  • Nicole Dehne – Vermont Organic Farmers Certification Director
  • Rebecca Maden – Vegetable Nutrient Management Specialist
  • Richard Wiswall – Owner of Cate Farm, Farm Business Workshops
  • Sid Bosworth – UVM Extension and Professor, Weed Management
  • Sam Smith – Intervale Center Farm Business Director
  • Terry Bradshaw – Director of UVM’s Horticultural Research Center, Research Associate for Plant and Soil Science
  • Vic Izzo – Entomologist, Adjunct instructor at UVM, Champlain College and Johnson State
  • Wendy Sue Harper – WSH Consulting, Soil Scientist and previous Professor at UVM