What started as random interactions at local events and joining a listserv for women in sustainable agriculture has evolved into much more. The Soil Sisters is a body of women who exchange advice, buy, sell and trade equipment, plants and animals, work through agriculture and food system issues, help each other out in time of need, and work to strengthen the role of women in agriculture.
By Katy Dickson, Christensen Farm (Browntown, WI)
There are many things that I love about Christmas. As a child, there was one item in particular that came before Christmas which I couldn’t get enough of. If you were like me, the day that the JCPenney Christmas catalog came was a special day that wishes and dreams were made of.
That catalog hasn’t come in a long time and I am now the one in charge of Christmas wish and dream completion for my children.
I do, however, have a new version of the JCPenney catalog that excites and inspires me. Catalogs that seem to come earlier each year and even when there is snow outside, give the promise of a bountiful growing season. Johnnys, Fedco, High Mowing and Seed Savers are just several of the seed catalogs which arrive in my mailbox in December. While I drink my tea and the winter winds blow, I can page through them and look at the new varieties, old standards and cool equipment that get me itching to be working outside in the dirt.
I grew up on the dairy farm across the road from where I currently farm seven acres of organic vegetables and fruit. After graduating from Monroe High School, I was off to college and then to multiple other places around the globe. Following graduate school, the time for my husband’s and my first child to arrive approached. We both have a love for the outdoors and growing things, and at the time we were living in Northwest New Mexico — it wasn’t easy to grow things there. We decided it was time to move closer to family and find a place that we could grow our own food.
In the 13 years since we began our farming adventure, we have gone from a 30-foot by 30-foot garden to over seven acres in certified organic produce. Instead of just feeding our family we sell at two farmers markets and have a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in which people purchase shares in our farm and then receive a weekly delivery of produce during the growing season. This venture, Christensens Farm, has become my full-time job and there isn’t much else I would rather be doing. I think growing up on a farm instilled in me that farming is not a job but a way of life. The list of tasks never ends but I am never bored and don’t need a health club membership.
I am thankful to be my own boss, who determines what needs to be done and when. On a daily basis, during the growing season, I can walk through my fields and see the literal fruits of my labor. All of those seeds and tubers and slips that I excitedly purchased months ago are growing and producing. I farm with my husband, who is also a full-time high school science teacher, and our three children who continue to assist more and more each year. We have a unique way of life that does not go by a “regular” work week schedule but rather by seasons and weather. There are not many people who have a similar lifestyle or can understand the struggles and challenges of our daily routine during the growing season. At least that’s what I thought until I became involved with my other Soil Sisters.
What started as random interactions at local events and joining a listserv for women in sustainable agriculture has evolved into much more. The Soil Sisters is a body of women who exchange advice, buy, sell and trade equipment, plants and animals, work through agriculture and food system issues, help each other out in time of need, and work to strengthen the role of women in agriculture. The Soil Sisters celebrate and promote women in agriculture annually the first weekend in August; however due to COVID-19 we have postponed our series of workshops, dining events and farm visits to 2021.
We all need something to look forward to and since the JCPenney catalog won’t be coming this winter it’s going to have to be my seed catalogs and the 2021 Soils Sisters weekend in August. Until then, please remember that by spending your dollars on locally produced fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, and fiber you are supporting your neighbors and the local economy.
— Katy Dickson, with her husband Mark and three children, have run Christensens Farm, a diversified organic produce farm in the rolling hills of Jordan Township for 13 years. Visit christensensfarm.com for more information about what they grow and how to be a part of eating locally. This Soil Sisters column originally ran in The Monroe Times on 6/28/20.