Eli Guell, left, and Kevin Thull, owner of KT Organic
Farms near St. Michaels,
pose outside the farm Monday.
Gay Griesbach/For the Daily
ST. MICHAELS — When Brent
Schultz was killed in a car accident three
years ago, Kevin and Lynn Thull lost a son
and a way to pass on their organic dairy to
Thull, who owns KT Organic
Farms near St. Michaels, was the first
operation outside of the LaFarge Organic
Valley core to be accepted into the
organization. The transition plan they had
in place with Brent would have kept the farm
Five or six years ago, the
Thulls hired two high school kids to help
Today, Eli and Matt Guell are
working toward their own future on the farm
using a transition plan that will gradually
turn over control starting Jan. 1, 2020.
Matt Guell said he and his
brother are banking sweat equity that will
go toward the price of the cattle. At first,
the Guells will rent the equipment and land,
which will gradually be phased over to the
“It’s a long progression, but
we wanted to make it affordable,” Kevin
said. “At the end of that time, I keep
saying, ‘I’ll retire, but I’ll probably work
for them.’” To put the transition plan
together, Thull worked with Frank Friar, an
economic specialist in the Department of
Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s
Wisconsin Farm Center.
The Farm Center has been
around since the 1980s. It was initially
formed to help farmers work through
financial situations during a farm crisis.
Friar said over time, the agency expanded
its scope to include farm viability analysis
and transition planning.
For the past five or six
years, transition plans have come to the
forefront. Friar said they help about 150
operations per year with transitions that
can take as much as two or three years to
put a plan together.
Kevin Thull power washes
the wall of a calf hutch Monday at KT Organic Farms in
Gay Griesbach/For the Daily
While they don’t pretend to
be attorneys, Friar said the Farm Center
addresses practices they see out in the
Kevin rented the farm for
seven months before his father died and for
another three years from his mother before
he could afford to buy it.
He worked hard to ensure the
225 heads of cattle and 450 acres he farms
Matt and Eli, now 24 and 21,
worked on their uncle and grandfather’s farm
since they were in elementary school, but
knew taking over the family farm wasn’t
While the family farm used
conventional practices, the Guells found
themselves drawn toward Thull’s way of doing
things, especially organically.
“Kevin always said there were
opportunities here,” Matt said.
One night he called a meeting
with the Guells and asked if they still
wanted to farm.
“We always knew we wanted to
farm together,” Matt said. “We never talked
about anything else.”
Thull presented the
transition offer and the Guells agreed to
“He’s treating us as if we
were his own kids,” Matt said.
They are now transitioning
from farm hands to owners.
“It’s like an apprenticeship
— we’re learning all the tricks in his book,
but it’s a big learning curve,” Eli said.
“They’re still young, but
they’re learning. If I can help them, maybe
won’t make same mistakes I made,” Kevin
said. “They’re good listeners, ambitious,
and not afraid to do anything.”
For more on the Wisconsin
Farm Center, visit
https://datcp.wi.gov/Pages/Growing_WI/FarmCenterOverview.aspx or call the Wisconsin
Farm Center hotline at 1-800-9422474.