Brian Bates

Bear Creek Organic Farm

Brian Bates owns and operates Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan with his wife Anne Morningstar and son, Griffin. Brian is passionate about small farm finances, making a living doing what you love, and savvy marketing. With no secrets, a lot of ideas, and some serious elbow-grease, Bear Creek has grown dramatically in five years adding 7 employees, 9 greenhouses, dozens of wholesale accounts and being honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year and Local Foods Heroes by their community. When not on the farm, you can find Brian eating, napping, beaching, and traveling.

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Nia Becker

Conservation District Forester

Nia is the Conservation District Forester for Clare and Gladwin counties under the Forestry Assistance Program. She provides information and one-on-one technical assistance to private landowners and local governments about forest management, health, and game and non-game wildlife habitat. She has been with the district for almost 3 years and her free services are supported by grants from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

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Daniel & Whitney Belprez

Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy

Dan and Whitney are beginning their 8th season as owner-operators of Two Sparrows Farm & Dairy where they produce fresh milk, grassfed beef, pastured pork and poultry. Starting out on a 12 acre farm in West Michigan, they scaled up to 40 acres and now live on a picturesque 80 acre farm in the middle of the Mitten. Through direct marketing, Two Sparrows Farm was able to double their annual sales every year for the first 6 years of their business. In addition to farming full time, Dan and Whitney are annual presenters at the MSU Student Organic Farm and Farmer Field School in addition to hosting various educational events and tours at their farm.

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Marguerite Bolt

Purdue University

Marguerite is the Hemp Extension Specialist at Purdue University in the Department of Agronomy. Marguerite received her M.S. in Entomology from Purdue University, and her B.S in Entomology from Michigan State University. Her research has focused on hemp-insect interactions and plant chemistry. She is interested in the secondary compounds that hemp produces and how they affect insect pests, although she has had to shift her focus to agronomic production questions surrounding hemp. Her position is new to Indiana and she is serving as a catalyst to link growers to production facilities and the research community through online resources, field days, and workshops.

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Katie Brandt

MSU Student Organic Farm

Katie teaches the MSU Organic Farmer Training Program for aspiring and beginning farmers at the MSU Student Organic Farm. Half the time is spent in the field with hands-on farmwork and farm walks with the balance in classroom activities and guest speakers. Katie also organizes Farmer Field School, workshops on farms, taught by farmers. She co-owned Groundswell Community Farm for 10+ years and enjoys hiking and playing with her son Leland.

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Phil Britton

Fresh Systems

Phil is the Chief Ruckus Maker at Fresh Systems, LLC, an endeavor focused on creating niche projects designed to catalyze, strengthen, and grow the local food economy. These projects often serve as the “connective tissue” between different pieces of the food system. The main project Phil has been involved in for the last 7 years is the Michigan GroupGAP Network, a statewide collaborative food safety certification program for small/mid-scale producers.

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Rowan and Shailah Bunce

Rock River Farm

Rowan and Shailah both grew up in the Upper Peninsula. They established Rock River Farm in 2009 as a market farm growing produce and raising livestock. The farm has evolved in many ways over the years including the introduction of cut flowers in 2011. In 2019 Rock River Farm made the complete transition to specialty cut flower production by planting two acres of perennials with an additional two acres for annual production. They are the largest cut flower farm in the Upper Peninsula.

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Nate Buning

GreenStone Farm Credit

Nate Buning has been a traditional lender in Cadillac, MI for 2 years, working primarily with full-time farmers. Prior to that, he worked as a Credit Analyst for GreenStone in the Grand Rapids office. He graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Agribusiness Management in 2016. Nate grew up on a 600 cow dairy farm in Falmouth, MI. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and cheering on the Spartans.

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James DeDecker

MSU Extension

James is Director of the MSU Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center and a Specialist in the MSU Extension Community, Food and Environment Institute. He earned a BS in Environmental Studies and Anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, as well as MS and PhD degrees in Crop Sciences from the University of Illinois. James specializes in soil health and fertility, integrated pest management and the human dimensions of agriculture. 

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William Derouin

Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

After developing agricultural programming at Western Michigan University's Office for Sustainability, William Derouin moved to the Grand Traverse region to become involved in the area’s diverse agricultural production. Will now is developing the agricultural programming with the GTB community. With degrees in Illustration, Geography: Natural Resource Management, and Environmental Studies, Will offers the ability to visualize, facilitate the development of, and provide boots-on-the ground experience for sustainable land use changes related to agriculture and property management.

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Ann Edgecomb
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GreenStone Farm Credit

Ann has worked for GreenStone Farm Credit Services for 10 years. She started as a traditional lender out of the Cadillac office, working primarily with full-time farmers. She has been in her current role as Regional Vice President of Sales and Customer Relations for the North Region for 2 years. Annie graduated from Michigan State University in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in Animal Science. She grew up on a dairy farm in Traverse City, MI. Ann currently resides in Cadillac, MI with her family, where they enjoy spending time camping, kayaking and other outdoor activities.

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Julie Engel

The Coney Garth

Julie is the creator of "The Coney Garth," an alternative method of raising meat rabbits in a cage-free, hare-pen-free, pellet-free, Management Intensive Grazing pasture colony. She was awarded a SARE grant in 2010 to refine her system and continues to experiment with different pasture settings, recording the effect on rabbit performance. She is the owner/operator of The Pasturage, LLC, a diversified grazing operation in Claybanks Twp, Oceana County that produces rabbit, lamb and pork.

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Jacob Farley

Circle F Ranch

Jacob is the fifth generation to farm on his family's land in Fowler, MI. Having grown up farming, Jacob attended the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm OFTP in 2013, and began Circle F Ranch the same year to raise pastured and grass fed livestock.

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Michelle Ferrarese

Birch Point Farm

Michelle began farming just outside of Traverse City in 2007 after working on farms in Massachusetts, SE Michigan, and managing the MSU Student Organic Farm. Her farm, Birch Point, is a CSA and market farm that specializes in heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs. When she's not farming, Michelle shares her passion for food, serves as a board member of Crosshatch and enjoys time with her husband and their 4-year-old.

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Paul Gross

MSU Extension

Paul has been an MSU-Extension Field Crop Educator for 28 years and has published extensively in bioproducts and bioenergy as well as food and animal systems. His expertise spans multiple crop systems and all regions in Michigan. Paul has maintained a keen interest in, and written about, conditions affecting the viability of Michigan farmers. He has been an active contributor to the MSU-Extension Farm Stress team.

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Troy Hanes
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Superior Kettle Corn, and Haynes Dairy Farm                                                                

Troy’s family owns and operates a second-generation dairy farm near Middleton MI. They milk 200+ cows and grow crops on approximately 650 acres. In the fall of 2016, they made the decision to start making Kettle Corn as an income supplement. What started as a sideline business has become a large part of their summer and fall schedule. Their farm and business is operated with one employee and minimal other part-time labor and enjoy the opportunity to work with their four children.

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Abigail Harper
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MSU Extension

Abigail is a Community Food Systems Educator with MSU Extension based in Ingham County. She has worked at the nexus of agriculture and public health for over 10 years, spending 4 years on a diversified vegetable CSA farm. Her current areas of focus include farm to school and farm to institution, local food policy councils, and urban agriculture support and education.

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Ana Heck

Michigan State University

Ana joined Michigan State University in January 2019 as a Research Technologist to support pollinator education initiatives, honey bee research, and implementation of policies to protect pollinators. Heck learned how to keep bees in Nicaragua while apprenticing on an organic farm and working with a women's beekeeping cooperative from 2011 through 2013. She joined the University of Minnesota Bee Squad in 2014, where she managed apiaries, provided hands-on and classroom training to beekeepers, and managed Bee Squad outreach and Extension programs. Heck holds a B.A. in Philosophy and Spanish from Creighton University and a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Minnesota.

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Scott Hughley

USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service

Scott is the district conservationist for the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service in the Bear Lake Field Office, serving Benzie and Manistee Counties. Scott assist farmers and other landowners with conservation on their land. He has worked for the agency for 18 years, the last 10 in the Bear Lake Field Office. NRCS specializes in one-on-one technical assistance at no cost to the landowner, right on their  farm.

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Dr. Adam Ingrao

Bee Wise Farms

Dr. Ingrao has a rich professional and research background in commercial agriculture, and is nationally recognized for his efforts to assist military veterans in entering the ag industry. He holds a BS in Agriculture and Plant Science from California Polytechnic State University and a PhD in Agricultural Entomology from Michigan State University. As the previous owner/operator of MMI Apothecary in California and current owner/operator of the HI Hemp Co. in Michigan, Ingrao has extensive experience working professionally as a grower and operator in the medical marijuana and industrial hemp sectors over the last 12 years. Ingrao and his wife also own and operate Bee Wise Farms LLC in Newberry, MI where they keep bees and produce cut flowers. Additionally, Ingrao is the Veterans’ Liaison and an agricultural entomologist at MSU Extension.

Amanda Kik