Mike Ross

RMG Family Sugar Bush, Michigan Maple Farms, CDL of Michigan 

Mike started making maple syrup in 1988 as a hobby producer with 25 taps. RMG Family Sugar Bush currently taps 12,500 trees on 140 acres of private land north of Rudyard. They also produce many value added products from their own syrup and syrup purchased from other producers. Mike also owns and operates CDL of Michigan, one of the largest maple equipment and supply businesses in the Midwest. Mike and his staff have been involved in setting up maple operations ranging in size from 50 to 250,000 taps. They recently expanded their operation with the addition of a new automated bottling line capable of packaging 60 containers a minute at their USDA approved facility.

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Amanda Kik
Leah Sandler

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute

Leah is the Education Director/Research Agronomist at the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute in East Troy, WI. She earned a B.A. in International Agriculture at Truman State University, M.S. in crop management at the University of Missouri, and a PhD in Botany from Purdue University. Her prior work experiences include the Greenely Research Farm, a 1000 acre research farm in Northeast Missouri, vegetable production in Emilgia-Romagna, Italy, and before undertaking her doctoral degree, a position with AgriCorps in Eastern Region Ghana working in agricultural development. The last four years Leah has dedicated her work to the agronomics of industrial hemp conducting field research on hemp production and working with farmers to strengthen their understanding of the crop.

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Amanda Kik
Daniel Seggebruch

MSU Student Organic Farm

Daniel is the Special Projects Manager at Michigan State University's Student Organic Farm. After taking their Organic Farmer Training Program in 2016, he was excited to join the staff team and take over management of their Farm Stand and some of their specialty crops.

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Amanda Kik
Michelle Shackleford

Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers

Michelle owns Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers in Cedar, MI. She has been growing cut flowers for seven seasons now.  Her life-long obsession for flowers and plants lead her to a degree in plant science with a certificate in Landscape and Nursery. She truly enjoys teaching others about growing flowers commercially.

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Amanda Kik
Allison Stawara

Michigan State University Extension 

Allison has worked on several farms throughout Michigan, and her love for the Mitten State brought her all the way to Chatham, where she manages vegetable production and research at Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center.

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Amanda Kik
Dion Stepanski

Presque Isle Farm

Dion and Molly have owned and operated Presque Isle Farm in northeast Michigan since 2014. Presque Isle Farm is a small, certified organic farm that focuses on direct to customer and restaurant sales. Both Dion and Molly had little farming experience before getting started but have used their entrepreneurial drive to build a successful farm business in rural Michigan. While Dion manages and oversees all the production needs of the farm, Molly leads the way in marketing and sales. Molly also works for Taste the Local Difference, coordinating and building the local food system throughout northeast Michigan.

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Jeremy Sweeten

Sweeten Farm/Cisco Seeds

Jeremy is a first generation farmer and also a Forage Agronomist for Cisco Seeds. He and his family live on a small forage-based farm in the eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They produce about 500 acres of hay, as well as custom graze grassfed beef. Jeremy has a passion for raising improved forages, helping fellow producers, and educating others.

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Amanda Kik
Craig Waldron

Far Hills Maple Syrup LLC

Craig is a third generation syrup maker who started sugaring with his father in 1976. He currently owns and operates Far Hills Maple Syrup LLC, a 20,000 tap operation on 560 acres located between Indian River and Petoskey. 2019 was their 44th season and they processed 550,000 gallons of sap into 9,300 gallons of pure maple syrup. Craig recently purchased Drost's Chocolates in Indian River where they retail syrup as well as incorporate it into various products such as truffles, brittle, fudge and a custom made ice cream. Craig is also the Chairman of The Commercial Maple Syrup Producers of Michigan.

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Amanda Kik
Chris Wendel

Northern Initiatives

Chris is a Business Advisor with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial institution based (CDFI) based in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives provides funding and assistance to businesses throughout Michigan. Wendel has worked with hundreds of business owners in the areas of finance, marketing, and management. A native western New York and a graduate from the University of Colorado, Wendel has direct business experience in retailing, publishing, and manufacturing. He previously worked with a business consultant with the Michigan Small Business Development Center and is a regular contributor to the Traverse City Business News and other regional business publications.

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Amanda Kik
Delora D. Wilson

Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

Delora has worked for several years to develop community garden spaces within the GTB community. When the new GTB Agriculture & Food Sovereignty Dept was formed in the spring of 2019, the GTB Human Resources Department allowed Delora to be hired as a trainee as part of the Agriculture & Food Sovereignty Department. Since being hired she has been involved with the annual crop management, has learned how to safely and confidently operate farm equipment, and she has witnessed how organically grown produce items can be distributed to the tribal community.

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Ken Zebarah

Harvest Energy Solutions

Ken has a bachelor's degree in mathematics with a physics minor from Eastern Michigan University. He started working for Harvest Energy Solutions six years ago as an engineer, and now is part-minority owner and manages all of Michigan and Indiana. He has built a great reputation helping farms and rural businesses implement solar energy projects.

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Amanda Kik