A few months ago there came about a rare event in the field of agricultural education: touring several farms in the same region in one day. That wasn’t an event I was about to pass up! How often do you get to tour seven different farms virtually at the same time?
Soil Sisters farm tours is an endeavor put on by MOSES Organic and the Rural Women’s Project. All the farms on the tour were either solely run by women, or in partnership with a significant-other. The tour was open to everyone, but the focus was more on offering an example of operating farms run by women. (If you haven’t guessed, women in agriculture are kind of a rare thing, unfortunately.)
Attending workshops and conferences has been indispensable in educating myself for my future farm endeavors. But, field days offer such a wealth of information it’s impossible to encompass in any one write up. Being right there on these farms, listening to the farmers, and witnessing first hand their place of employment is… priceless.
So, this past August 10th I drove around the countryside of south-central Wisconsin in pursuit of the various farms on the tour. It was something akin to a parade of homes, where all the locations on the tour are open only for certain hours. And you can come and go from one or all of them during the course of those operating hours.
I ended up not stopping at all seven farms as I was starting to run out of time. These are the five I made it to that day. Even though the information I gained that day was tremendous I decided to focus on the pictures I took of the farms while I was there.
Kinkoona Farm, Brodhead, WI
The first stop was at Kinkoona Farm. Run by Suellen Thomson-Link, along with her 3 kids, raises sheep and grass-fed lamb in a permaculture setting. The wool they produce is processed right on the farm and sold as chemical-free batting in bedding material. They also do sunflower sprouts for restaurants in their hoophouse greenhouse, and have a small aquaponics system attached to the main barn.
Scotch Hill Farm, Brodhead, WI
Scotch Hill Farm is run by Dela and Tony Ends. Dela sounds like she’s very active in local agriculture, including being on the board of Fair Share CSA Coalition. Dela and her husband run a certified organic vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture; receiving a box of vegetables every week), and make a significant amount of handmade soap.
Inn Serendipity, Browntown, WI
Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko are owners and operators of Inn Serendipity, a farmstead and bed & breakfast that is entirely powered by the wind and sun. The list of eco-agri-rural-sustainable-organic-foody endeavors that Lisa is a part of is staggering! She has been a significant figure in forwarding everything from rural renewal and local food systems to independent entrepreneurship and women in agriculture. Having their farmstead on this tour was a significant reason for me to trip it down to southern Wisconsin.
Thank you, Lisa, for all you do! (I’m kicking myself for not getting Lisa and her husband in any of my pictures.)
Sandhill Family Farms, Brodhead, WI
Sandhill Family Farms is not one, but two farms (their other location is in Grayslake, IL and not on this tour). Peg and Matt Schaefer have aptly named their farm as the local soil is very sandy. That makes it well adapted to growing such things as tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, melon, potatoes, eggplant, and zucchini. Between their Wisconsin and Illinois farms they produce over 350 CSA vegetable shares, along with dairy, egg, and meat shares.
They have a very clean, well-organized, and professional operation — I was highly impressed. They even had an innovative approach to cooling their fresh veggies: a heavily insulated room in their shed with a couple window air conditioners out the back (it was difficult to get a picture of so I didn’t even try). This looks like a great way to cut costs on constructing a commercial type walk-in cooler.
Some of the other highlights at their farm:
Lucky Dog Farmstay, New Glarus, WI
Even though Lori Stearn & Leanne Powers run a farmstay in their 150-year-old farmhouse at Lucky Dog Farm, they have a few goats & chickens and many pigs they raise for market. The area they raise the pigs in (a forested area out back) is rotated every year so as not to put a lot of grazing/rooting pressure on one area for too long. The moveable shelter they built for the pigs looks very durable and serviceable.
Heading for Home
It turned out to be surprisingly tiring driving all over the countryside from farm to farm. By the end of the day I was looking forward to the drive home. I knew that doing a write up on this day would take some time, so I kept putting it off. This turned out to not be such a bad thing as this has given me a chance to relive that day through my memory. I’m glad I went, and I’m very glad the Soil Sisters organized this great day…. and for ordering such fabulous weather!