Meet the Mentors

The Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) offers a unique opportunity to receive guidance from seasoned farmers and producers. Meet some of the Mentors that are currently active within the TOPP Mentorship Program.

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Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) Mentors


 

Jack Fehr

Jack Fehr

Status: Available
Location:
Kossuth County, Iowa

Jack Fehr of Clear Creek Acres in West Bend, Iowa has been farming for over a decade. Jack is an integral part of the 4thgeneration farming operation which produces organic corn, soybean, and oats. He believes a successful mentorship is developed through shared experiences. This Jack-of-all trades has a diverse range of skills that he would love to share with his farming community. Jack is a master planner, has extensive experience in the day to day running of a farm, and genuinely enjoys the organic certification process. Innovation and commitment are two qualities that Jack hopes to nurture in his mentee. In his free time, Jack enjoys spending time with his sons!

 

AW Farms

Noah Wendt & Caleb Akin

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location: Story County, Iowa

Noah and his farm partner, Caleb Akin, started A&W Farms in 2006. Their farm is located near Cambridge, IA. As a farm team, they feed cattle, produce conventional corn and soybeans on 1,100 acres and also grow a variety of organic grain on 1,800 acres. Noah has been active in organizations such as IOA, PFI, Rodale Institute and OFA. Noah owns a farm real estate brokerage and crop insurance agency in Huxley, IA, where he resides with his wife, Erin, and their two children, Harper and Daphne. In his spare time, Noah enjoys working out, attending kid's events, fishing, gardening and boating.

 

Kim

Kim Andersen

Status: Available
Location:
Jefferson County, Iowa

Kim is an organic farmer at Zihlman Family Farms and Blueberry Bottom located in Southeast Iowa, near Brighton, Iowa. Kim is a long-time educator currently teaching for Southern New Hampshire University. Kim and her husband, Steve, grow organic corn, soybeans, oats, hay, blueberries, chestnuts, hazelnuts, paw paw and persimmon.

 

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Mitch Ramsey

Status: Available
Location:
Clarke County, Iowa

Mitch grew up and resides in Clarke County, Iowa andhas a lifetime of farm experience. He and his son have organically farmed four hundred acres of corn, soybeans, rye and oats for almost a decade as Mitch started conventional farming in 1981 and transitioned to organic in 2015. Mitch is excited to share his advice on soil health practices, cover crops, manure management and composting.

 

Scott

Scott Ausborn

Status: Available
Location:
Ida County, Iowa

Scott Ausborn grew up on a small diversified farm near Ida Grove, Iowa. He currently raises organic and conventional row crops. Scott is an alumni of the Environmental Science program at Iowa State University. Working as the Central Region Sales Manager for Albert Lea Seed House has given Scott a good understanding of the market. Knowledge of the market and industry connections are but two traits Scott brings to the table. Multiple successful seasons in organic farming by his mentee is how Scott would define a successful mentorship. Scott enjoys fishing, camping, and various outdoor activities with his wife, Melissa. We think Scott would be wonderful mentor for an advanced farmer!

 

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Michael McNeill

Status: Available
Location:
Kossuth County, Iowa

Michael McNeill is a PhD agronomist trained at Iowa State University. His work following graduation included working as a plant pathologist with the U.S. Army and later managing a corn breeding research station for Funks Seeds International. In 1983 he started Ag Advisory Ltd. as an independent agricultural consulting service providing genetic, agronomic and economic consultation for farmers.

 

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Nelson Smith

Status: Available
Location:
Washington County, Iowa

Nelson was raised on a farm and took over the management of his family's 1000 acre farm in 1996, and started certifying organic crops in 1997. On their farm, they have 200 acres of Forest Reserve, 300 acres in row crops and alfalfa. The farm’s Conservation Reserve Program acres include 44 acres of Pheasant Habitat Restoration with food plot, 25 acres of Pollinator CRP, Riparian CRP planting of 11,000 trees and shrubs, with 4 tiled terraces, 6 ponds, 7 water retaining basins and 5 dry basins.

 

Bryce

Bryce Irlbeck

Status: Available
Location:
Carroll County, Iowa

Bryce Irlbeck of B&B Irlbeck Farms runs a 4,000 acre organic operation with his dad where they grow alfalfa, corn, soybeans, peas, barley, canola, and rye. Recognizing that his organic farm was succeeding while many others struggled, Bryce founded AgriSecure in 2018 to help farmers in his community and beyond learn how to profit from organic farming too.

 

Paul

Paul Mugge

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location: Cherokee County, Iowa

Paul Mugge is an organic farmer as well as a winner of the Spencer Award and Master Researcher Award in Iowa. He grew up on the farm where he now lives and works. Paul attended Iowa State University and worked as an engineer before returning to the family farm in 1976. He is a life-long environmentalist and his farm management has been a progression from conventional, to sustainable, to completely organic since 2001. In addition to farming, Paul substitute teaches at a local high school and is active in his local church and many organic, sustainable ag and environmental organizations. He has been married to Karen Mugge for over 40 years and has three children and seven grandchildren.

 

Jack

Jack Knight

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location: Winneshiek County, Iowa

Jack grew up in Postville, IA working with his father in the farm co-op. Jack is a University of Northern Iowa graduate in sociology. After a career in many aspects of farming, horticulture, and forestry, Jack became an NOP inspector in 1999 in the upper Midwest. He sits on six county and regional boards and three non-profit boards, including work as a soil and water commissioner in Allamakee County.

 

Denise

Denise O'Brien

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location:
Cass County, Iowa

Denise is an organic farmer at Rolling Acres in Atlantic, Iowa. Denise and her husband, Larry, have been involved with organic production and cultivating local food for over 36 years. Denise is also founder of Women’s Food and Agriculture Network, was a candidate for Iowa Secretary of Agriculture in 2006, and former agriculture adviser in Afghanistan, and founder of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

 

Gary

 

Gary Welsh

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location:
Allamakee County, Iowa

Gary and his two sons Clay and Clinton own and operate Welsh Family Organic Farm in Lansing. The Welsh family raises approximately 120 beef cattle and 12,000 turkeys while farming 600 acres of crops in one of Iowa's leading organic family farming operations. Gary organizes a monthly organic farmer meetings sponsored by the Iowa State University Extension Office. These meetings are roundtable discussions on organic farming practices and techniques to learn what is working and what is not working through this network of organic farmers.

 

Francis

Francis Thicke, Ph.D.

Status: Assigned to Mentorship
Location:
Washington County, Iowa

Francis with wife Susan, owns and operates an 80-cow, grass-based, organic dairy near Fairfield, Iowa. They process milk on the farm and market dairy products through grocery stores and restaurants in Fairfield. Francis has a Ph.D. in soil fertility and served as National Program Leader for Soil Science for the USDA-Extension Service in Washington, D.C. They process milk on the farm and market dairy products through grocery stores and restaurants in Fairfield.

 


Requesting a Mentor

If you wish to be part of the Mentorship program, please fill out the form below.  

Please include:

  • Name of Mentor you wish to connect with (optional)
  • Location of your farm
  • Description of the type of guidance you need