Is this person you imagined a little older? That’s not surprising. Almost a third of farmers in Michigan are over age 65. Less than 10% are under 35.
In the 21st century, few choose farming as their livelihood. It’s hard enough for a daughter or son to take over for aging parents; it’s exponentially harder for someone without a farming background to break into the business. The good news is there’s a slew of resources available to help those who want to farm.
MIFarmLink arose out of a need for additional ways to address the the changing demographics of farming and rapidly disappearing farmland. The program aims to help preserve Michigan farms and farming by shepherding prime farmland from its current stewards into the hands of the next generation, and help these new farmers fill this vital role and be successful.
Mission: To protect Michigan farmland and agricultural heritage by connecting farmers seeking land with farmland owners looking to sell, lease or create another type of tenure arrangement.
Vision: MIFarmLink plays a vital role in preserving Michigan farming as a lifestyle, industry and land stewardship practice by helping to bridge the divide between farming generations and connecting farmland with its next farmer.
The individuals listed below work for the organizations involved in overseeing the development and implimentation of MIFarmLink. They are all dedicated Ag-vocates with wide ranging areas of expertise all brought together by a desire to support the continuation of Michigan farming across generations.
A lifelong resident of Ottawa County, Becky grew up as a 4-H kid on a 24-acre hobby farm in Spring Lake Township before heading off to Michigan State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science.
After college, she developed a diverse resume, including nutritional sales at Purina Mills and Program Assistant for MSUE’s 4-H program. In 2011, she became Executive Director at the Ottawa Conservation District, which set her on the path of bridging the worlds of natural resources and agriculture. She continues this vital work today leading Ottawa County's brownfield redevelopment and farmland protection initiatives.
Becky is a Farm Bureau member, currently serving on the Promotion and Education Committee. She currently resides in the City of Grand Haven. In her free time she enjoys volunteering at local festivals, fostering rescued puppies, watching Spartan basketball, reading, and playing league soccer.
Shiloh Maples is an Anishinaabe community organizer, seed keeper, and storyteller.
Shiloh has a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan, where she specialized in community organizing. She has completed certificate programs in organic farming and permaculture design. During her time as a student, Shiloh recognized the powerful potential of food systems to heal and transform communities. Since then, Shiloh has been committed to serving the Indigenous food sovereignty movement and revitalizing her own ancestral foodways. For nearly a decade, Shiloh worked within Detroit's Indigenous community to create a food sovereignty initiative that increased access to ancestral foods, offered culturally-based nutrition education through community cooking classes, and created opportunities for the community to practice their cultural foodways in the urban landscape.
In 2021, Shiloh was a writer-in-residence at Denniston Hill in upstate New York. In 2022, Shiloh partnered with Whetstone Media to launch her podcast, Spirit Plate--which discusses the social, political, and historical reasons the Indigenous food sovereignty movement is necessary and uplifts the voices of seed keepers, chefs, historians, and community members from across the movement.
Shiloh is currently the Program Manager for Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance.
The WCCD, stated in 1948, serves residents within Washtenaw County and is a local unit of government and resource management agency created by concerned landowners and administered by a publicly elected, five-member, board of directors. This board hires and guides qualified staff in the programming, planning and facilitation of activities that assist residents with the conservation, management, and wise use of natural resources in Washtenaw County. For a minimum of the next two years, WCCD will serve as the fiduciary manager of MIFarmLink and the home of the Southeast Michigan Hub that is piloting this land-linking platform on a larger scale before hopeful implementation across the state.
Founded in 1971, Legacy Land Conservancy is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Michigan’s oldest organization dedicated to the voluntary conservation of locally important land. Legacy’s mission is to secure for current and future generations a land base for nature, agriculture, freshwater and recreation in Washtenaw, Jackson, and Lenawee Counties and beyond. In order to help preserve Michigan farms, Legacy is working with MIFarmLink to help keep farmers out on the land they’ve stewarded for generations.