The HVADC Cultivator
HVADC welcomes Avalon Bunge to our team as our newest program associate. Bunge has years of experience in agriculture and environmental management and administration. Not only is Avalon well suited for the job but also her love of farming, outgoing personality, and life experience makes her a perfect fit.
At HVADC, Avalon will be involved with most of the programming, communications and day-to-day operations.
A lifelong New Yorker, Avalon was born in Ithaca. She attended Colgate University, getting her degree in geology before receiving her master’s degree in ecosystem restoration from SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse.
“I’ve always been interested in food and farming,” Avalon said. “HVADC combines a lot of things I’ve been passionate about my whole life. I’m really excited to get into the nuts and bolts of the farm business.”
While in college, Avalon worked on seven farms throughout Canada through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) volunteer farming program. Having the opportunity to get her hands in the dirt at a wide variety of farms gave her unique industry insight. In those early years she gained direct experience with produce, livestock, in a daylily nursery, beekeeping and more.
Avalon’s graduate studies focused on urban agriculture and forestry. As part of her work, in 2017, she was sent to tour the research projects of other students. She made a trip into the Hudson Valley to Arnow Farm in Elizaville and met a fellow student, Eli Arnow. Arnow was running a program on his family’s multi-generation farm, studying abandoned field restoration and native species. The two are now married. “I fell in love with the area long before the guy,” Avalon said with a chuckle. “While in school we started spending weekends here and started projects on the farm, including a quarter acre garden.”
After college Avalon worked at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk in Connecticut. There she was the lead STEM educator of the Sound Resilience program. Made possible by a large National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant, the research and education program, aboard the Spirit of the Sound research vessel, focused on climate change impact research and education. Avalon gained experience in grant management, volunteer coordination and got her sea legs. That project happened to end just as the COVID pandemic started. Avalon and Eli decided to direct their focus to the family farm, living in a camper as they built a house nearby. While they used a general contractor, they did much of the work themselves.
Once she was full time in the Hudson Valley, Avalon immediately started looking into how she could plug into the local agriculture and food scene. While working on her land she also spent time volunteering with the Glynwood Center for Regional Food and Farming, the Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, and more.
“I’m just so glad to find out a place like HVADC exists, so to work for with them is a thrill. There are so many programs out there to teach farmers how to grow food but not nearly enough that provide Business Technical Assistance,” she said.
In what little spare time she has, Avalon also operates her own ceramics business, creating gorgeous and functional pottery. Her work can be seen online at her website hayesclay.com.
“We are so pleased to be able to bring Avalon onboard,” said Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Deputy Director. “Not only does she have the right skills for the job and a deep institutional knowledge but she has the right mindset. Also her ability to talk to program clients farmer to farmer is an incredibly valuable asset.”
© January 2022