April Prusia's five key ingredients of growing local resilience: Befriend your backyard. Befriend your front porch. Build kindness and empathy. Know, connect and support your farmers. Shop local.
By April Prusia, Dorothy’s Range (Blanchardville, WI)
I started my farm venture while being a vegetarian and thinking it would just be a temporary job. After a couple years of managing 40 acres of diverse organic land, I was immersed and my destiny was decided. No longer a vegetarian, I raise heritage breed hogs. I am a farmer, activist, collaborator and community advocator.
During COVID-19 and the ongoing pandemic, my farmer mindset keeps coming back to resiliency and how can we cultivate and build it in our community, country and world. Resilient soil grows healthy crops and can better fight natural disasters. A resilient Green County community can come together collaboratively and together be even stronger. Here are five key ingredients in my “recipe for resilience” and ways we can cooperatively cook up vibrant connections that will get us through tough times: 1. Befriend your back yard Take time to get grounded. It might sound silly but there are numerous studies that indicate barefoot connection to the earth has medicinal properties. Furthermore, spending time with your hands in the earth can decrease stress and depression.
What’s growing in your yard? Many common medicines are likely feet away from your door step. Plantain is commonly found in yards. This friendly plant has antihistamine and antifungal powers. Got a scratch? Plantain might help that itch. We all know that dandelions are edible, bitter for the American palate for sure, but nonetheless all parts of the plant are edible and medicinal and it has some super nutritional powers. Our ancestors brought many of the seeds of common weeds to this country for their medicinal powers. To think that dandelions seeds taking the Mayflower ride and now they are feeding the bees and making medicine all over the USA. Take time to get to know them. You might find a fun project or medicine in your backyard!
2. Befriend your front porch I remember a community connection growing up centered around a few things including time spent on the front porch because it gave you an opportunity and invitation to engage with your neighbors. Building community can be as simple as talking to the people that live around you. We are living in some divisive times. We can always find some commonalities. I challenge us all to start working with each other in our communities, and lift each other up.
3. Build kindness and empathy How can we grow compassion through attempting to understand each other via our whereabouts? We all have our “stuff” — history and beliefs that come from our upbringing and environment, some of which we didn’t really have a choice in. I try to give folks the benefit of the doubt. We all have bad days, I think. If we practice kindness, it has the potential to magnify and enrich our community. Honestly, we could all use some positive vibes, right?
4. Know, connect and support your farmers This might sound elementary, yet many folks still don’t have a connection to their food source. How can you connect? Stop by the many farmer’s markets in the Green County area. Ask your friends, your neighbors, your restaurants, butcher shops and grocery stores about their buying power. Take time to connect with your food. What steps were involved to bring food to your plate? Who does the work to make the food?
I learned that most of our beautiful beef cattle leave our state to be fed out, processed then combined with other less quality meat and shipped back here. Who cuts that meat? Did the farmer get a fair price for their efforts? How was the animal treated? And the environment, how was it impacted? Find and support a farmer and pay a fair price for your food. Ask more about what you are putting in your body. It’s a simple approach and can make a world of difference.
5. Shop local This has gained a lot of ground in the past decade and holds a lot of power in what increasingly feels like a powerless world. This goes beyond shopping for local food. The more you invest in your local community the more your build a demand for local products and then the components that are attached to that local investment. It easily dominos and builds.
When you think about political funding and big lobbying power houses, realize that voting with our dollars can counter these super powers.
It isn’t always easy to make a choice between paying twice as much for your food that is grown, processed and made here in our community, but think about what that value is really providing. It is providing jobs, infrastructure, opportunities, tax dollars for our future, and accountability.
6. Support community cooperative investment Put simply: corporations operate separate from their owners, while cooperatives voluntarily cooperate for the promotion of mutual social cultural and economic benefits. The more we cooperate, the further we push the cooperatives values, which are inclusive to a greater number of people. Make your voice heard by joining a cooperative that share your values. — April Prusia is the owner and operator of Dorothy’s Range, a farrow to finish pastured heritage hog farm in Blanchardville. She has been involved with the annual Soil Sisters event and local women in sustainable agriculture network since it started. More info at dorothysgrange.com. This Soil Sisters column originally ran in The Monroe Times on 8/30/20.