Our Community


Love for the land, our families, our friends and our food – that’s what fuels our CommonGround community. Scroll down to learn where our volunteers are located, or Contact Us to get involved.

CommonGround Iowa

Kellie Blair

Dayton, Iowa

Our Farm: beef cattle, corn, pigs, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, watershed coordinator

My Hobbies: blogging, movies, reading, yard work

Ask Me About: biotechnology, sustainability and conservation, family farms vs. corporate farms

About Me: On our farm, my husband and I strive for continual improvement of our soil and water quality. I think it is great that consumers want to know where their food comes from. Eating healthy is important to me and how I feed my family. I believe we have safe sustainable choices in the U.S. While I devote a lot of my free time working with numerous agriculture organizations and initiatives, my favorite thing to do is spend time with my family and play with my kids.

Website: Home Again Finnegan

Facebook: Home Again Finnegan

Twitter: @BlairKellie

Cristen Clark

Runnells, Iowa

Our Farm: alfalfa, corn, pigs, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom

My Hobbies: baking, cooking, blogging, cross-fit, riding horses, showing pigs

Ask Me About: animal agriculture, nutrition and welfare, animal antibiotics, food prices

About Me: My husband and our children, my parents and sister are very proud to farm the land that has been in our family for over 150 years. I love to share how we are striving to safely and efficiently raise animals in order to provide food for both our family and consumers.

Facebook: Food & Swine

Twitter: @foodswineiowa

Instagram: @foodswineiowa

Shannon Latham

Sheffield, Iowa

Our Farm: alfalfa, chickens, corn, meat goats, pumpkins, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, marketing director

My Hobbies: baking, cooking, writing, blogging, arts and crafts, travel, reading

Ask Me About: biotechnology/GMOs, local and organic foods

About Me: In addition to our crops and animals, I also own and manage a pumpkin patch, where we host visitors to see the animals, participate in cooking classes and, of course, pick pumpkins! My husband and I, along with my brother-in-law, are owners of our family-owned seed company, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. I enjoy helping consumers sort through food labels and common food terms to help everyone feel more comfortable about the food in their shopping carts.

Website: Enchanted Acres

Facebook: Enchanted Acres

Twitter: @3nchantedAcres

Julie Van Manen

Kellogg, Iowa

Our Farm: beef cattle, corn, pigs, soybeans, sweet corn

My Work: farmer, wife and mom

My Hobbies: baking, reading, flower gardening and having lunch with friends

Ask Me About: animal nutrition and welfare, hormones in meat and milk, family farms vs. corporate farms

About Me: Our farm has been in my husband’s family since 1927. We’ve been married for 25 years, and we still enjoy working side-by-side to finish daily chores. While we have chores that we have to complete daily, there are no two days that are the same, and that is what makes farming so great.

Website: Farm Life In Black And White

Facebook: Farm Life in Black and White

Joan Maxwell

Donahue, Iowa

Our Farm: beef cattle, corn, dairy cattle, pigs, soybeans, wheat

My Work: farmer, wife, mom

My Hobbies: biking, travel, reading

Ask Me About: hormones in meat and milk

About Me: I work alongside my husband and our daughters on our farm. To milk our dairy cows, we use robots and, as a result, host many on-farm tours each year to see how it all works. We love to have groups visit us and are passionate about helping inform them while demonstrating our use of modern technology to better care for our land and livestock.

Website: Cinnamon Ridge Farms

Facebook: Cinnamon Ridge Farms

Val Plagge

Latimer, Iowa

Our Farm: corn, pigs, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, consultant for ag and community groups

My Hobbies: cooking, photography, blogging

Ask Me About: family farms vs. corporate farms, GMO foods, animal welfare, food safety

About Me: My job on the farm includes keeping farm records, assisting with field work and running into town for parts. Off the farm, I spend time working with many agriculture and non-agriculture associations. I am passionate about working with the Make-A-Wish foundation, 4-H, FFA and the county chamber of commerce.

Facebook: Corn, Beans, Pigs, and Kids

Twitter: @PlaggeVal

Blog: Corn, Beans, Pigs and KidsVal Plagge

YouTube: Valerie Plagge

Sara Ross

Minden, Iowa

Our Farm: alfalfa, beef cattle, corn, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, marketing manager

My Hobbies: baking, cooking, photography, blogging, running, arts and crafts, travel, movies, reading, overall fitness

Ask Me About: biotechnology/GMOs, animal nutrition and welfare, food safety, family farms vs. corporate farms

About Me: Having grown up in town, I had a lot to learn about farming after I married my farmer husband. I love living on a farm and am so glad that we can raise our family here. My favorite things to talk about are family, food and life on the farm. We feel so fortunate to be the sixth generation living on our farm, and raising the seventh generation!

Website: Sara’s House

Facebook: Saras-House-HD

Twitter: @sarashousehold

Instagram: @sarashousehd

Alicia Schmitt

Nora Springs, Iowa

Our Farm: pigs

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, district technician for the USDA-NRCS

My Hobbies: baking, cooking, writing, photography, blogging, running, arts and crafts, travel, overall fitness

Ask Me About: biotechnology/GMOs, sustainability and conservation, food safety, family farms vs. corporate farms

About Me: I grew up on a cattle farm, so raising pigs is a new adventure for me. We all work together to make sure we are raising quality pork for our consumers. When my husband and I are not busy in the barns you can find us in the fields helping our family with their corn and soybean crops.

Website: Fit & Farm

Facebook: Fit & Farm

Twitter: @fitandfarm

Instagram: @fitandfarm

Suzanne Shirbroun

Farmersburg, Iowa

Our Farm: corn, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, agronomist, co-manager of a seed dealership and precision-agriculture business

My Hobbies: cooking, arts and crafts, travel, hiking, gardening

Ask Me About: biotechnology/GMOs, sustainability and conservation, food safety, family farms vs. corporate farms

About Me: My husband and I farm on the same land that my ancestors started farming in 1873 in Farmersburg, Iowa. Because of our families’ long history with farming, we are extremely mindful of protecting the environment in order to ensure that the land is improved for future generations. I believe that the United States is fortunate to have natural resources and farmers to produce safe, economical, quality food for the world. I love to share that story!

Facebook:  2 Farmers and Their 3 Sprouts

Twitter: @NEIAFARMER

Blog: Suzanne’s Common Ground

YouTube: Suzanne Shirbroun

Jan Stillman

Emmetsburg, Iowa

Our Farm: corn, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, retired elementary-school teacher and speech therapist, owner of a soy candle business

My Hobbies: arts and crafts, travel, movies, reading, overall fitness

Ask Me About: biotechnology/GMOs, sustainability and conservation, food safety

About Me: Coming from an education background, I think it’s important for children to know where their food comes from and for parents to understand the commitment farmers make to produce safe food. Water and soil conservation are a priority on our farm, as we hope to leave the land in good condition for the future generations. Our children are grown, and now we are teaching our grandchildren about farming, as well as other young people in our area.

Jill Vander Veen

Hartley, Iowa

Our Farm: beef cattle, corn

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, loan officer

My Hobbies: spending time with family, photography, traveling, scrapbooking, outdoor activities

Ask Me About: animal care and welfare

About Me: Farming gives me the opportunity to support the lifestyle that I love. I am very passionate about my family and working to keep our small town alive. That is why I am involved in the community as a 4-H leader and board member of the athletic boosters.

Website: Corn Fields and Tractor Wheels

Facebook: Iowa Farm Mom 

Twitter: @iafarmmom

Instagram: @jcvanderveen

Nicole Yoder

Leon, Iowa

Our Farm: beef cattle, corn, pigs, soybeans

My Work: farmer, wife, mom, marketing and social media specialist

My Hobbies: baking, blogging, cooking, gardening, reading

Ask Me About: animal welfare, antibiotics and animal health, farm ownership, GMOs foods

About Me: I graduated from Iowa State University in 2014 with a degree in agricultural education, focusing on communications. My husband, Andrew, and I got married in 2014, and we have one daughter, who was born in 2015. In addition to being a new mom, I’m passionate about God, health and ag education.

Website: Farm Girl Facts of Life

Facebook: Farm Girl Facts of Life