PICTURE A FARMER...

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. 

Our Mission


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.

MIFarmLink Staff

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.

  • Jill Dohner | Washtenaw County Conservation District

    MiFarmLink Specialist

    Jill Dohner

    Washtenaw County Conservation District

    MiFarmLink Specialist

    Jill is working with a group of passionate agricultural advocates from across Michigan to grow the MiFarmLink program, an effort started in Ottawa County that helps preserve farmland by connecting agricultural landowners looking to sell/lease land with beginning farmers looking for land to farm.
    She graduated from Michigan Technological University with a Master's in Forest Ecology and Management. Jill owns Rustic Roots Farm where she tends honeybees, poultry, goats, a fruit orchard and garden, greenhouse production, and woodworking. Jill has served on the Washtenaw County Conservation District board for 10 years prior and now is a Farm Bureau member in District 3. She has experience in forestry, including tree planting organizations, agriculture, and working with a diversity of farmers. 

    She is eager to assist new farmers in linking them to farmland, while preserving farms for legacy landowners.
  • Becky Huttenga | Ottawa County

    Economic Development Coordinator

    Becky Huttenga

    Ottawa County

    Economic Development Coordinator

    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. 

Advisory Committee

The MIFarmLink advisory committee is comprised of passionate farmland preservations, food systems leaders, legacy farmers and begining farmers; each of whom are an expert in their field and trusted member of the agricultural community. 
  • Barry Lonik | Legacy Land Conservancy / Treemore Ecology & Land Services Inc

    Founder / President

    Barry Lonik

    Legacy Land Conservancy / Treemore Ecology & Land Services Inc

    Founder / President

    Barry Lonik has led the effort to establish the model farmland and natural area protection programs in Washtenaw County—some of the most successful in Michigan—for 32 years.  Barry started Legacy Land Conservancy and served as its first executive director for six and a half years, developing it into an effective, durable nonprofit organization.  He was the catalyst for public funding of land preservation in Washtenaw and has been involved with 14 ballot campaigns—thirteen of which won—that will raise over $200 million for the acquisition of land and conservation easements.  He is currently President of Treemore Ecology and Land Services, Inc., consulting with nonprofits, local governments, private landowners and conservation buyers toward the protection of natural and agricultural lands.  Through Barry’s direct involvement, over 8,450 acres of land have been permanently protected in and around Washtenaw County, and he has attracted over $23 million of State and federal matching grants for farmland protection.
     
    Barry completed a Master's degree in resource policy from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources, following up on a Bachelor’s degree from Albion College in a self-designed environmental studies curriculum.
     
  • Hannah Weber | Green Things Farm Collective

    Farmer & CoFounder

    Hannah Weber

    Green Things Farm Collective

    Farmer & CoFounder

    Hannah Rose Weber is a co-founder of the Green Things Farm Collective, a small-scale community farm with a deep commitment to organic no-till and other conservation practices, located on conserved land in Ann Arbor Township. With an upbringing deeply tied to the woods and farms of Northern Michigan, and a background in photography and writing, Hannah found her way to a career in small-scale farming through her love of food and art making.

    ​She cut her teeth by way of intensive training in organic farm management through Michigan State’s Student Organic Farm, and after running The Land Loom as a sole proprietor for five years, joined forces with Green Things Farm and Ann Arbor Seed Co. Hannah currently serves on ALPAC, is an Associate Director of WCCD and is excited to share her perspective as a first generation farmer on the MIFarmLink advisory committee.
     
  • Julius Buzzard | Growing Hope Urban Farm

    Executive Director

    Julius Buzzard

    Growing Hope Urban Farm

    Executive Director

    A native Michigander, Julius found his home in Ypsilanti in 2013 and never looked back. He spent the formative years of his career within the local nonprofit and education sectors. He always created ways to tie his passion for growing and environmental justice into each context. Developing meaningful and intentional relationships with the community is at the core of everything Julius does—knowing that together, we can foster a safe, caring, and just food system and community as a whole. Whether it was gardening with his grandparents, participating in community gardens, teaching students how to grow and harvest, or tending his own garden, Julius has lived a life with his hands in the dirt. These experiences have formed three basic principles: relationships matter, food is for everyone, and the land will be our liberator. Julius has a deep spirit of curiosity, hopes to listen and learn daily, and believes in the art of storytelling. Julius recharges by spending time with his wife and daughter, running, bicycling, writing, and being active in the community.
  • Kathy Sample | Argus Farm Stop

    Co-Owner

    Kathy Sample

    Argus Farm Stop

    Co-Owner

    Kathy is co-owner of Argus Farm Stop, an everyday farmers market in Ann Arbor.
     
    In her role at Argus, she interacts with many farms, potential farmers, and people interested in farming.  She and her husband have conserved a farm in Dexter; they leas that farm to a young farmer, and farming is part of her everyday conversation.  In talking to farmers, the number one issue for new and young farms is access to land.
     
    Kathy has a degree in Chemistry from MSU, and MBA from the University of Michigan, and worked in the corporate world before starting Argus in 2014.
     
     
  • Lauren Marquardt | MIFFS

    Co-Executive Director

    Lauren Marquardt

    MIFFS

    Co-Executive Director

    Lauren Marquardt is the Co-Executive Director at Michigan Food and Farming Systems (MIFFS), where she has supported the statewide nonprofit since 2017 overseeing operations, finances, fund development, Board engagement, and the annual Michigan Family Farms Conference. She also sits on the Washtenaw County Food Policy Council and serves on the Organizational Council for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. Previously, she worked for American Farmland Trust in Seattle leading community outreach and advocating for public policy that supports farmers and protects farmland, and as a case manager for a nonprofit international adoption agency. Lauren has a Masters of Public Administration from the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance with a focus in food and agriculture policy and a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Social Science and Mandarin from Michigan State University.  
  • Shiloh Maples | Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance

    Program Manager

    Shiloh Maples

    Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance

    Program Manager

    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.

  • Trilby MacDonald | Agricultural Lands Preservation Advisory Committee

    Chair

    Trilby MacDonald

    Agricultural Lands Preservation Advisory Committee

    Chair

    Trilby MacDonald is a nonprofit fundraiser, content writer, and journalist with the Ann Arbor Observer. She launched the Observer’s weekly news publication a2view, and has published and edited a diverse range of articles in a dozen print and digital publications. Trilby has raised millions of dollars through grants, annual appeals, and major gifts for the arts, and environmental, agricultural, and social services organizations.

    Raised in New York City by a psychotherapist and a documentary filmmaker, Trilby was exposed to a progressive world view, traveled widely, and produced and directed documentaries before moving to Brazil to pursue social science research and sustainable development initiatives with international nonprofits. She has a Bachelor's in Anthropology from Bard College and a Master's in Geography from Michigan State University, and following the completion of her graduate work in 2009, settled in Ann Arbor to raise a family on a four-season CSA farm she owned and operated with her husband until 2018. Trilby co-founded the Michigan Flower Growers’ Cooperative, a wholesale flower market in Ypsilanti, to support the sale of locally grown flowers. Frustrated by the difficulties she and others in the farming community have had buying land, she became the catalyst and primary fundraiser behind the MIFarmLink project in Washtenaw County. Trilby Chairs the Agricultural Lands Preservation Advisory Committee (ALPAC) where she has served since 2016.

Funding Sources

These generous organizations provide the grant funds which provide the staff, infrastructure and outreach necessary to make MIFarmLink successful. We appreciate their continued support in the preservation of Michigan farms and farming.
  • The Carls Foundation

    Bill Carls immigrated to the United States from Germany at the age of 21 and started his company, Numatics Inc, out of his garage in 1945. The Carls Foundation was founded in 1961 as a way for Bill and his wife Marie to give back to the community through charitable grants. The Carls Foundation has broadly defined charitable purposes, but today the principal purpose and mission of the Foundation as outlined by its donor-founder and its Trustees is children's welfare and preservation of natural areas. MIFarmLink is lucky to have received over $80,000 in support from The Carls Foundation.
  • Towsley Foundation

    We would like to thank our supporters at the Harry A & Margaret D Towsley Foundation, who have generously granted MIFarmLink $20,000 worth of support. Started in 1959, the Towsley Foundation partners with other charitable organizations to support creative, strategic, effective and sustainable approaches to improving the lives of people and communities in our ever-changing world.
  • The Americana Foundation

    MIFarmLink is very lucky to have received $30,000 of financial support from The Americana Foundation. This organization, established by Michigan farmers Adolf and Ginger Meyer, continues their legacy of philanthropic investment in the community by supporting the development of sustainable agriculture and community food systems, the protection of natural resources and conservation of early American heritage. To learn more about The Americana Foundation, visit the Meyer's historic farmstead now known as MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center.
  • USDA Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program

    Financial support to launch MIFarmLink came through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). In her role as Agriculture and Economic Resources Coordinator for Ottawa County,  Becky Huttenga applied for the BFRDP grant which resulted in the county being awarded $45,000 to develop, launch and pilot the website through 2022.

Partner Organizations

Collaboration with these partner organizations has been key to the successful development of MIFarmLink, and will continue to be a priority as we work together to increase the adoption of MIFarmLink to help protect Michigan agriculture as a way of life, industry and land stewardship practice.
  • Koffi Kpachavi

    Koffi has been a leader in the non-profit sector for over 25 years. Much of his career has been with the YMCA, leading camps and youth programs in various parts of the country: Camps Mason, Ockanickon, Matollionequay in New Jersey, Camp Colman in Washington State, Camp Loma Mar in California, and Camp Echo in Michigan.
    Most recently he worked at True North Community Services in Fremont, Michigan, where he supervised an after-school program for several local school districts. The program was funded through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a federal grant administered by the Michigan Department of Education. Koffi holds a BA in English and French literature from the University of Lome in West Africa.

    Koffi and his wife, Teresa, have three boys: Arnaud, Ian and Yannick. Arnaud, the oldest, is a Conservation Officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Ian started graduate school in Fall 2020 at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and Yannick studies information technology systems at Ferris State University. Teresa works remotely for Stanford University managing online courses for the Continuing Studies program.

    When he is not working, Koffi is passionate about environmental issues and is involved in Agriculture. He is the founder and former president of the Fremont Area Bee Club. He is also anenology enthusiast with a focus on geology and wine-grape growing around the world. He co-leads educational sessions in France and the U.S.
  • Ottawa County

    The birthplace of MIFarmLink, Ottawa County government continues to support this effort by providing outreach, training and staff support as the program makes the transition to the Southeast Michigan Hub. Additionally, Ottawa County will continue to serve as the Hub in Western Michigan.
  • Washtenaw County Conservation District

    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.

  • Legacy Land Conservancy

    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.

  • MIFFS

    Michigan Food and Farming Systems is a statewide nonprofit with a mission to connect beginning and historically underserved farmers to each other and resource opportunities; ensuring social justice, environmental stewardship, and profitability.  A supporter of MIFarmLink since its inception on the West side of the state, we are lucky to partner with a statewide organization that works diligently to strategically and collaboratively create and enable networks of small-scale urban and rural farms that give rise to a resilient local food system.