Women make up one of the fastest growing groups of new farmers today, increasing over twenty percent in the last ten years alone. More than mounting numbers, these women rock fresh ideas when it comes to agriculture, farming and – ultimately – what’s on America’s plates.
These women-led operations prioritize local food, sustainable agriculture and land stewardship and do it via a diversification of ways, from serving up pizza and pies to offering farm stays powered by renewable energy, like at my own farm in Wisconsin, Inn Serendipity.
More than looking for a “job” and something to pay the bills, these women farmers and food business owners, educators and activists see their farmsteads as a tool for change, a canvas on which to both express their passions, earn an honest livelihood and change the world.
A tall order, indeed, but as you’ll see in the pages of my new book, Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers, these females with a drive for food and farming serve up exactly that.
Soil Sisters is the first collaborative and comprehensive start-up guide to support the record-breaking number women wanting to start farms, compiling ideas and inspiration from over 100 successful women in sustainable agriculture.
Joel Salatin kindly called it, “A truly wonderful guidebook. May I be a Soil Sister? Wrong anatomy, you say? Too bad. I found more in common with this book than the ones written by most men. Go, Lisa. Girl power never sounded as authentic and needed as in the pages of SOIL SISTERS. I wish all my neighbors were SOIL SISTERS. Better farmers, better food, better fellowship — what's not to love?”
Beyond the business plan and tractor, these women are those inspiring souls you want to linger with over a cup of coffee – or farmstead cocktail!
After my research for this book along with leading the Rural Women’s Project, a venture of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) providing women farmer training, I personally draw so much good energy and ideas from these women who wear collaboration on their sleeve. Breaking roles, shaking up stagnated ideas, amplifying diversity and sprinkling in DIY creativity in everything they do, this movement of women in sustainable agriculture will serve as your buddy system and “big sisters” cheering you on, no matter where you may be on your own journey as a female with a farm business dream.
I’m looking forward to launching this new book at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Asheville, North Carolina, this weekend with a Soil Sisters workshop on Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 am and other fabulous MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIRs this year.
Here’s a sneak peak summary of what I’ll be speaking on at the FAIRS: Three ways women today are cultivating food system change:
Feel like you have a million different ideas for your farm and don’t know where to start? Savvy female farmers take that idea overload and strategically slice it down.
For example, Cathy Linn-Thortenson of Wise Acres Farm outside Charlotte, North Carolina. How did she transform from the corporate cubicle in Chicago to successful farmer in just a few years? By focusing on one specific crop: organic strawberries.
“Nobody else in this area of North Carolina was doing this so there would be interest from moms to bring kids to the farm to U-Pick,” shares Cathy. She also saw that strawberries often pop up on the “top ten items to buy organic” lists because of pesticide spray, another reason to focus in on one item with market demand.
“By being in touch with your feminine side, however you define that, you can express yourself and importantly be yourself in your farm business,” declares Gabriele Marewski, owner of Paradise Farms in Homestead, Florida, raising specialized crops like micro greens and oyster mushrooms and also on-farm dinners. “For example, I wear skirts every day. This may not be typical farm gear, but it’s who I am and what I like.”
It’s the proven quilt circle philosophy: We women amplify everything done together. We can take things only so far on our own, but knowing you have a tribe of kindred spirited women who have your back? That’s some quality fertilizer.
I know this one first-hand when two women farmer pals and I took on the fact that Wisconsin has the most restrictive cottage food law in the country: We’re suing the state. Definitely out of my usual territory of tricks, but needed to move this issue forward and I feel much stronger about moving into knowing this trifecta of female spirit is in it together.
I look forward to dialing into these ideas further and sharing more of these women farmer and food entrepreneur stories with you via this MOTHER EARTH NEWS blog. Stop by for continued practical information and resources from a female perspective, a viewpoint that until now hasn't been championed in most farming resources.
Find Soil Sisters in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store.
A national advocate for women in sustainable agriculture, Lisa Kivirist is a Senior Fellow, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota, focusing on identifying opportunities to champion leadership development among female farmers and rural women. She founded and leads the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service, an award- winning initiative championing female farmers and food-based entrepreneurs. When she isn’t speaking and writing, she is running Inn Serendipity in Wisconsin.