Renewing the Countryside

Renewing the Countryside has pulled together a team of specialists to help you navigate the complexities of the various plans you need to have in place as you age: estate planning, retirement planning; succession, transition planning – we’re here to help.

The process is simple. We can sit down with you and your family and work through an assessment that will map out the steps you need to take. We then will provide some “coaching” to help you move along with your plan and can help you access the additional expertise and resources you need. We’re able to offer this service for free through the fall of 2013, thanks to support from USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

If you would like assistance in planning your farm’s future and assuring that your hard-earned assets are protected, please contact the Farm Transition Team at 612.910.7601 or


Jan Joannides is most at home in the countryside, and after many years of city life is happy to now call southeastern Minnesota home. She has spent the last couple of years learning about the complexities and challenges that farmers face as they consider their later years. Jan has a master’s degree in natural resources from the University of Minnesota. She helped co-found the Center for Integrated Natural Resources and Agricultural Management, directed the Community Assistantship Program in its early years, and served as an administrator at the University of Minnesota’s Children,Youth and Family Consortium. Jan has been the managing editor of eight books focusing on sustainable rural development, helped launch Green Routes, a sustainable travel initiative, and works to find innovative ways to build vibrant rural communities.


Brett Olson grew up in small rural communities throughout the Midwest. Summers were often spent at the wheel of a windrower on neighbors’ farms. Brett works for Renewing the Countryside who’s mission is to findactive strategies for building sustainable rural economies and enhancing the quality of place for the people who live in them. Brett has presented on sustainable tourism, family farms and local food both locally and nationally. He has worked directly with farmers in designing business strategies and discovering direct markets for their products. As one of the founders of Renewing the Countryside, Brett has been involved in much of the development, planning and organizing since it’s inception. Brett and his family recently moved on to a former dairy farm in Zumbro Falls, Minnesota.


John Mesko is the Executive Director of the Sustainable Farming Association, a Farmer-to-Farmer Network designed to enhance and promote sustainable agriculture. In this role, John develops local food networks, helps beginning farmers succeed, and expands the capacity of farmer networks. He and his family also own and operate Lighthouse Farm, producing grass-fed beef and pastured pork.


Kent Solberg and his wife, Linda, have a diversified pasture-based livestock farm near Verndale, MN. They raise dairy, pork, eggs and beef. Kent serves as Livestock and Grazing Specialist, and Dairy Initiatives Coordinator through the Sustainable Farming Association. He is also adjunct faculty at the community college in Fergus Falls as a livestock, forage and farm skills instructor.


Robyn Ingber joined Renewing the Countryside as its Staff Attorney in July 2012. She grew up on the plains of Oklahoma, then later attended the University of Kansas, where she received a B.A. in Political Science. Robyn comes from a long line of Southern farmers, so she is thrilled to combine her passion for law and family tradition in the work she is doing with the Farm Transitions program. Robyn is a Certified Farm Succession Coordinator, which means she is trained in the particular issues that farm families face when doing estate planning andfarm succession planning. Robyn graduated from William Mitchell College of Law in 2008 and spent the past three years practicing in an estate-planning firm in Minnetonka. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, Marc; 19 mo. old daughter, Ella; and 75-pound lapdog, Otis. She is known among her colleagues and friends for making delectable pecan pies.


Jason Walker is Communications Coordinator for the Sustainable Farming Association. After a decade in the newspaper business, Jason joined SFA in summer 2011 and handles social media, newsletters, website and member management for the organization. He works with the Farm Transitions project in several aspects of communications and outreach. Jason is also a staff writer for the Heavy Table and contributes to Growler magazine. He lives with his family in Minneapolis where he likes to can, build things in his shop and attempt to play and sing classic country songs.

Farm Transitions is made possible through a grant from the USDA Risk Management Agency.