Meet the Agriculture Development Division Team

Leadership Team

Jamie Zmitko Somers

Jamie Zmitko-Somers, Division Director

Jamie has worked for MDARD since 2001 with more than a decade working in the International Marketing area. She serves on the Mid-Michigan Global Business Club Committee and has served on the Food Export Association of the Midwest's Board of Directors.

Jamie grew up on her family's cash crop farm in Owosso. Her family currently resides on a 2,400-acre farm growing corn and soybeans and remains an active member of the Shiawassee County Farm Bureau.

Jamie attended Michigan State University and received her B.A. in Business Administration Pre-law in 2000.

Jamie Zmitko-Somers' LinkedIn Profile


Heather Throne

Heather Throne, Grant and Commodity Program Manager

Heather is Grant and Commodity Program Manager for the Agriculture Development Division at Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. She oversees a large portfolio of grants, including Value Add & Regional Food Systems, Specialty Crop Block Grant, Food and Ag Investment Fund, and Rural Development. Heather also represents the Division with Commodity Checkoff groups.

Heather has worked at MDARD since 2002, most recently as the Deputy Public Information Officer before joining the AgD Team in 2016. 

Heather grew up on a small farm in Shiawassee County and was actively involved in 4-H and FFA.

She received her B.S. in Agriculture and Natural Resource Communications from Michigan State University.

Heather Throne's LinkedIn Profile


Jeff Haarer

Jeff Haarer, Producer Security and Ag Products Manager

Jeff is a Program Manager with the Producer Security Team at Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. Prior to his time at the department, Jeff, worked on warehouse receipt projects for Ukraine and Serbia, In association with USAID and FAO contracts. He also audited insurance companies for Michigan Insurance Bureau to gain experience required for certified public accounting license.

Jeff is an Inaugural board member for Ag Law Section of State Bar and Director for Michigan Youth Livestock and MSU Livestock Scholarship funds. He is author and administrator for Farm Produce Insurance Fund which indemnifies producers from financial failures at Michigan Grain Dealers.

Jeff studied at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Holland through MSU Business Law Program and received his B.A., J.D. from Michigan State University, Thomas M Cooley Law School.

Jeff Haarer's LinkedIn Profile


Jenelle Jagmin

Jenelle Jagmin, Director of the Michigan Craft Beverage Council

Jenelle manages the Michigan Craft Beverage Council program at MDARD and has been with the department since 2016. In this role, Jenelle supports the mission of the Council, as well as marketing initiatives within the Agriculture Development Division. Prior to this, Jenelle served as an Economic Development Analyst and Promotion Specialist for the Michigan Grape & Wine Industry Council.

She has a background in agricultural and community development non-profit work and is a certified Farmers Market Manager.

Jenelle graduated with a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Michigan State University.

Jenelle Jagmin's LinkedIn Profile


Producer Security Team

David Hall

David Hall, Auditor

David is an auditor with the Producer Security Team at Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. He specializes in Working Capital Audits and has 20 years of experience working with grain merchandisers in Michigan, including Lansing Trade Group, Michigan Agricultural Commodities and Chelsea Grain Co.

David is married and has 2 adult children attending MSU and Hope University.

David received a BA in Communications at Michigan State University.


Denise Studders

Denise Studders, Auditor

Denise is an Auditor with the Producer Security Section. She performs audits on all Michigan licensed grain dealers, as well as oversight reviews on PA 232 commodity marketing groups. She also assists with any producer related complaints/concerns both grain and non-grain related.

Denise has worked with the State of Michigan for more than 18 years. She has worked as an Accounting Assistant in the Finance Division for MDARD and as an Accountant for Department of State. She has been in my current position since 2011.

She grew up on a centennial farm in Kawkawlin, Michigan and currently resides in Pinconning, Michigan - which is an Ojibwe word that translates to Potato Place. Pinconning is also well known for its cheese.

Denise received a BA in Business Management from Northwood University.

Denise Studders' LinkedIn Profile


Dominic Perrone

Dominic Perrone, Auditor

Dominic is an Auditor with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, specializing in regulation and communication. He has worked for MDARD since 1998 and has worked in the Producer Security Services area since 2008. He serves as a board member of the Association of Grain Regulatory officials.

Dominic grew up on his family's cash crop farm in Eaton Rapids. He enjoys playing soccer and driving people around in limousines.

Dominic attended Michigan State University and received his Bachelor of Science degree.


Johnathon Schweda

Johnathon Schweda, Producer Security Department Technician

Johnathon joined the Agriculture Development Division in 2019 as a member of the Producer Security Program under the Farm Produce Insurance Authority. In addition to this role, he assists all Division Teams with technical support, item procurement, web maintenance, and office organization.

He started in the MDARD Animal Industry Division's Animal Disease Traceability and Livestock Markets & Dealers Programs in February 2016. Two years later he began assisting the Privately Owned Cervid Program with regards to Chronic Wasting Disease.

Johnathon is a former executive board member of the MSU Horsemen's Association for four years (2012-2015) and Treasurer of the American Collegiate Horsemen's Association during the 2013 academic year.

Outside of the office, he enjoys working with MSU students to plan, organize, and run the MSU Horsemen's Green & White Fuzzy Show held each November.

He received a BS in Animal Science from Michigan State University.

Johnathon Schweda's LinkedIn Profile


Grants Team

Amy Bearss

Amy Bearss, Grants Analyst

Amy Bearss is a Department Analyst with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. She has more than 30 years of administrative support experience working for various departments in the State of Michigan, as well as legal secretarial work for the state and a private law firm.  

As an analyst, she assists with the administration of federally funded specialty crop (fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture) block grants, Value Added/Regional Food Systems grants, and Rural Development grants.

Amy Bearss' LinkedIn Profile


Sherri Goodreau

Sherri Goodreau, Grants Assistant

Sherri is a Departmental Analyst with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. She has more than 15 years' experience with MDARD.

Sherri started within MDARD as a field worker for the Emerald Ash Borer Project, then moved to a program assistant with the former Grape & Wine Industry Council and is currently with the Grants Team. As an analyst, she assists with the administration/financial reviews of the grant funding programs within the Agriculture Development Division: The USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, the Rural Development Fund Board Grant Program, Value Added Regional Food Systems grants, Michigan Craft Beverage Grant. She is also the contract administrator for the department.

Sherri received the Governor's coin for customer service in 2017, a recognition for her excellent customer service skills and in 2020 received the Governor's  Symbol of Leadership coin for her role in the Covid-19 Response Team at the TCF Building in Detroit.

Sherri volunteers with the Grand Equestrians, a therapeutic horseback riding facility for children with disabilities.

Sherri graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI.

Sherri Goodreau's LinkedIn Profile


International Marketing Team

Kathryn Kendall, International Marketing Program Coordinator

Kathryn Kendall, Program Coordinator

Kathryn is a program coordinator with the International Marketing Program at MDARD and has been with the department since 2018. Prior to this, Kathryn worked in marketing with AgroLiquid. She is a member of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA).

She graduated from Michigan State University in 2015 and received her B.S. in Animal Biology. Kathryn also received her Master of Agriculture from Sam Houston State University in 2017.

Kathryn is a leader for a local 4H club and enjoys riding horses in her free time.

Kathryn Kendall's LinkedIn Profile


Economic/Community Development Team

Jodi Gruner

Jodi Gruner, Economic & Community Development Specialist

Jodi is an Economic & Community Development Specialist with MDARD and has been with the department since 2013. She specializes in dairy and hops, with a keen interest in emerging food trends and agriculture innovations.

Formerly, Jodi worked at The Right Place and Grand Rapids Community College as Sales & Marketing Manager. She received a Marketing & Communications degree from University of Michigan.

Jodi grew up on a hobby farm and enjoys any activity outdoors or on the water.

Jodi Gruner's LinkedIn Profile


Donna LaCourt

Donna La Court, Economic/Community Development Specialist

Donna is an Economic/Community Development Specialist with the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. In this role Donna works with agriculture, food processing and forest product businesses to support their development needs related to supply chain, funding and financing, policy and regulatory, and international trade. 

Donna holds a BS in Resource Management and Forest Biology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and a M.S. and Ph.D. in Forestry from North Carolina State University.

Prior to this position, she was an International Trade Development Manager with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation where she worked in both international trade and bioenergy business development. From January 2007 to May 2008, Donna was Michigan's State Forester and the Assistant Chief of the Forest, Mineral and Fire Management Division within the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Prior to joining the DNR, Donna worked for International Paper for 13 years in a variety of forest resources management and staff positions in the United States, and international assignments in Brazil and Russia. Donna is both a Certified Global Business Professional and an Economic Development Finance Professional. She is also a board member of the Michigan Forest Biomaterials Institute and the American Hardwood Export Council.

Donna spent several summers during college either picking green beans or cutting, throwing, and stacking pulpwood.

Donna LaCourt's LinkedIn Profile


Terri Barker

Terri Barker, Economic & Community Development Analyst

Terri is an Economic & Community Development Analyst with Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development. In this role, she is the Agriculture Development Division's food and agriculture innovation lead and is also the business development lead for the Quality of Life Aquaculture Team (a DNR, EGLE, MDARD collaboration).

Terri previously worked as a Policy Director in the State Legislature, Food Programs Manager at The Food Bank Council of Michigan. Through the years, she has worked in various places throughout the food supply chain; as a buyer for a multinational grocery chain and a local co-operative, and on permaculture, organic and biodynamic farms.

Terri is on the Michigan State University's AgBioTech Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Advisory Committee, the Eriehack 2.0 Advisory Board, and the MSU Center for Regional Food System (CRFS) Advisory Board. She has worked with the Bafokeng Kingdom in South Africa to develop their agriculture sector, and has publishing credits in Veterinary Medicine and Pediatric Dentistry Journals.

Terri received her degree in Linguistic Anthropology from University of Michigan.

Terri Barker's LinkedIn Profile



Marty Saffell

Marty Saffell, Statistician Specialist USDA-NASS East Lansing

Marty is a Statistician Specialist assigned to USDA-NASS East Lansing and supports the Agriculture Development Division at MDARD. He has served as Economist for United Dairy Industry Association, and as a Statistician with Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Marty is an avid reader with a preference for history. He also enjoys archery and bicycling.

He graduated from Kansas State University, BS, Agricultural Economics, University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, MS, Agricultural Economics, Michigan State University, MS, Statistics, and Lansing Community College-Quality Engineer training.