The Soil Sisters represent a movement, of sorts. Women owning 20 Wisconsin farms and food operations have risen together and organized a grand celebration overflowing with classes, fresh and artisan food, farm visits and family activities. EcoGo applauds their initiative and agritourism draw.
Soil Sisters: A Celebration of Wisconsin Family Farms and Rural Life
By Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko
Agritourism, culinary travel and ecotourism converge with Soil Sisters, a community-wide event held in South Central Wisconsin, July 31 through August 2, 2015. Soil Sisters offers numerous, hands-on and on-farm workshops, farm tours and culinary events, all led by women farmers. From heirloom tomatoes to emus, sheep to solar energy, bed & breakfasts to beef, the farmers and artisan food producers share a unique diversity of farm experiences showcasing the summer’s bounty.
The event capitalizes on the growing interest in savoring farm-to-table meals, experiencing farm life, and supporting organizations that are preserving and restoring what travelers have come to enjoy. The three-day event is unique in both its approach and collaborative nature since more then twenty women-owned farms and food operations are involved. The event is made possible by the Wisconsin Farmers Union Foundation (WFU), the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and Renewing the Countryside, with major funding support coming from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
As it turns out, women farmers are among the fastest growing segment of farmers in the United States. The number of women-owned farms tripled over the past three decades, from 5 percent in 1978 to 14 percent in 2012, bucking the national trend of declining family farms. Added to this is the growth of farm stays nationally. Three of the twenty participating Soil Sisters farms operate, in part, by providing farm stay experiences for their bed & breakfast guests. Inn Serendipity’s Farm and B&B is even completely powered by the wind and sun. The Soil Sisters’ farms are committed, in various ways, to sustainable agriculture.
“This will be a celebration of the summer harvest from our amazing group of Soil Sisters farmers here in our Wisconsin community,” says Lori Stern, owner of Cow & Quince, hosting the Taste of Place on August 1st. “Come meet our local farming community and connect with the faces behind your food at Taste of Place.” There is also a Dinner on the Farm, August 1st, that is family friendly, with a meal prepared by the Underground Food Collective served “picnic style” at the Inn Serendipity Farm; guests will be entertained by the band, Moo-grass.
Besides getting a “backstage” pass to the inner-workings of these women owned farms, visitors can milk a goat, build a bouquet or preserve the harvest, depending on what workshops attendees sign up for. While the August 2nd Tour of Farms is free, the workshops and culinary events on July 31st and August 1st are ticketed.
Travelers can join in one event or spend the entire weekend learning new skills or expanding their knowledge of farming and food production, renewable energy and green building design, or launching a cottage food business from their kitchen or opening up a farm stay. They can learn how to raise emus, chickens, goats, ducks, sheep and numerous other livestock. On the farm, ripe produce, frozen meats, fresh-cut flowers, handmade crafts and numerous books will be available, boosting the local economy and supporting these family farmers who prioritize soil health.
Honoring our soils
The event celebrates the importance of soil, the living foundation upon which all terrestrial life thrives. It’s highlighted by the fact that the 68th United Nations General Assembly declared 2015 as the International Year of Soils.
“There are more soil microorganisms in a teaspoon of healthy soil than there are people on the earth,” according to the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service. “Millions of species and billions of organisms—bacteria, algae, microscopic insects, earthworms, beetles, ants, mites, fungi and more—represent the greatest concentration of biomass anywhere on the planet!”
Soil Sisters celebrates the role family farms play in America’s food supply, shares the summertime abundance and draws attention to the growing number of women farmers who are committed to improving the soil on which they farm for generations to come.
Lisa Kivirist and John D. Ivanko operate the Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B and are co-authors of numerous books on sustainability, including Homemade for Sale, Farmstead Chef, ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance.