Michigan Sustainable Mentors

Connect with a Mentor

Whether you are a Beginning Farmer - someone who has access to land and has farmed for under 10 years - or an Aspiring Farmer just getting ready to start your journey, you can earn a stipend to connect with an experienced Farmer Mentor. 

Not only will you meet directly with an experienced Farmer who can offer insights on financials, records, pest or disease issues, and more - you will also have the opportunity to connect with other beginning and aspiring farmers like yourself.

Click here to apply!

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

A remote Zoom Meet and Greet will take place in June, 2022 Noon to 1pm. You will have the opportunity to meet all of the mentors as well as fellow Beginning Farmers in the program. 

For each of the 5 focus areas below, you will schedule 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.

Your mentor can also look at any documents you want to share to give you insights on your financials, your crop rotation, your livestock records or your plan for managing pests & disease.

For Aspiring Farmers (ready to start farming!): 

A remote Zoom Meet and Greet will take place in June, 2022 Noon to 1pm. You will have the opportunity to meet all of the mentors as well as fellow Beginning Farmers in the program. 

For each of the 3 focus areas below, you will schedule 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. 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.
  3. Wrap up Meeting to answer any more questions you might have.

Your mentor can also look at any documents you want to share to give you insights on a land lease, navigating FSA loan applications, looking at soil tests or soil survey maps for potential farm sites, etc. 

A woman and a man kneeling in a hoop house, discussing crops.
Photo credit: USDA

 

 

 

 

 

Who are 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.

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.

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.