Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors

Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors

Thanks to an NCR-SARE Partnership Grant, we were able to connect 46 mentees with mentors from March 2021 to Dec. 2023. Although the program is not currently active, you can still access other mentorship programs or check out toolkits & curriculum to start a mentorship prorgam in your region. If you're farming, clink one of the links in the section below to find an active mentor program that is the best fit for you.


Connect with a Mentor!


Resources for Mentees & Mentors


Successes of the Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors Program


Resources for Mentorship Organizers

What was the Michigan Sustainable Farm Mentors Program?

For Beginning Farmers (have farmed for 10 years or less):

For each of the 5 focus areas below, mentees scheduled a meeting (either remotely or in person) with your experienced farm mentor for an hour. Then, you will schedule a time with a Beginning Farmer Peer to share your insights. 

  1. 'Farm Tour' Meeting to describe or show your mentor your farm (zoom with video running to show your farm, or with photos or a tour of your website & social media).
  2. Financial viability Confidential financial discussions and financial document  reviews.
  3. Environmental sustainability to connect beginning farmers with cost-share opportunities and production insights to improve soils, crops and stewardship.
  4. Social responsibility  topics include work-life balance, fair employment, food access, network connections and regionally-relevant community engagement.
  5. Wrap up Meeting to answer any more questions you might have.

Mentor also review farm documents to share insights on financials, your crop rotation, your livestock records or your plan for managing pests & disease.

For Aspiring Farmers (ready to start farming!):  

For each of the 2 focus areas below, mentees scheduled a meeting (either remotely or in person) with your experienced farm mentor for an hour. Then, they scheduled a time with an Aspiring Farmer Peer to share insights with each other. 

  1. Land and credit options to find ways to get your farm started
  2. Farm production and business training opportunities and resources to gain the skills you need to be a great farmer and a skilled business owner.

Mentors also reviewed documents to share insights on a land lease, navigating FSA loan applications, looking at soil tests or soil survey maps for potential farm sites, etc.

Photo - Mentors Matter for New Farmers - Joannee, Sara and Melissa.jpg
Mentees Melissa W. and Sara H. with their mentor Joannée DeBruhl




Who were the Mentors?



Jill Johnson (Grazed Livestock Mentor)
Crane Dance Farm, Barry County, Michigan
Ms. Johnson also focuses on Animal Welfare Approved certification and farmers’ markets.

Joannée DeBruhl (Vegetable Mentor)
Stone Coop Farm, Calhoun County, Michigan
Ms. DeBruhl also has CSA, business/non-profit and infrastructure experience.

Rachel Cross (Cut Flower/Intensive Vegetable Mentor)
Spirit of Walloon Farm, Charlevoix County, Michigan
Ms. Cross also excels in creative land and credit access strategies, hoophouse design and farm-to-school.

Alex Cacciari (Cut Flower & Tractor-scale Vegetable Mentor)
Seeley Farm, Washtenaw County, Michigan
Ms. Cacciari also uses marketing cooperatives and has transitioned from farmworker to incubator farmer to farm owner.

Andy Chae (Urban Vegetable Mentor)
Fisheye Farm, Wayne County, Michigan
Andy grows for CSA, restaurants and on-farm sales on multiple urban lots in the city of Detroit. He has expertise in accessing credit, marketing and small-scale production.

Lindsay Daschner (Cut Flower Mentor)
Forget Me Not Farm, Monroe County, Michigan
Lindsay is a talented cut flower producer with expertise in bulbs, annuals, woodies and perennial cut flowers. She markets mostly through wholesale channels and produces outdoors, in hoophouses and in a gutter connect greenhouse.

Melissa Holohan (Beekeeping and Livestock Mentor)
Chubb E. Acres, Oakland County, Michigan
Melissa is a veterinarian, a beekeeping mentor with SEMBA (SE MI Beekeepers Association) and an award-winning sheep breeder.

Eli Ghaffari (Urban Farming, Vegetable/herb/cut flowers Mentor; Schoolyard Gardening Mentor)
Magnolia Farms, Ingham County, Michigan
Eli manages a successful urban farm in Lansing, Michigan and has managed 4 schoolyard gardens in the past.


Former Mentors

Jeremy Grey Cloud Sparks (Grazed Livestock Mentor)
Waishkey Bay Farm, Bay Mills Community College (1994 Land Grant), Chippewa County, Bay Mills Reservation, Michigan
Mr. Sparks is also experienced in novel fruits and tribal food sovereignty.

Jim Koan (Organic Orchard Mentor)
Almar Orchards, Genesee County, Michigan
Mr. Koan also has expertise in livestock management, transitioning to organic, value-added products and on-farm stores.

Lance Kraai (Urban Vegetable Mentor)
New City Urban Farm, Kent County, Michigan
Mr. Kraai also specializes in youth employment and pizza farming.