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Soil Sisters: Strong and secure in abundance and diversity

Like the generations of farm families that came before us, we Soil Sisters are committed to helping each other succeed, even when we run businesses that compete with each other. We know that a thriving regional farm economy lifts all of us, and grows our business opportunities.






10/29/20

Monroe Times
By Kriss Marion, Circle M Farm (Blanchardville, WI)

As the weather changes and the colors across our rolling hills and patchwork fields deepen, we celebrate the abundance and busyness of harvest season. Southwest Wisconsin is blessed with a rich diversity of agricultural operations, and this time of year we can see farmers of many kinds laboring across our landscape. Dust rises from soybean fields as the combines roll through, stripes are carved across hillsides as the corn comes in, panel trucks loaded with pumpkins lumber along the county highways, and our Farmers Markets fill up with fall favorites. Weaving through it all are the gentle cows that provide our signature product in every season.

What a place to live, work, and play! As a founding member of the Soil Sisters, I’ve had the privilege for over a decade to witness personally some of the incredible hustle that goes into creating this diversity, and the camaraderie that supports it. Like the generations of farm families that came before us, we Soil Sisters are committed to helping each other succeed, even when we run businesses that compete with each other. We know that a thriving regional farm economy lifts all of us, and grows our business opportunities.

I’m a great example. When my kids moved away and I decided to open a bed and breakfast on my organic vegetable farm in Blanchardville, Lisa Kivirist of Browntown’s Inn Serendipity welcomed me to spend a day and a night and a morning at her bed and breakfast to talk through how she ran her business. She taught me everything she knew. I opened my bed and breakfast, to great success, and I have helped five other hospitality operations open in and around Blanchardville. Whether my farm is published in a magazine, or Lisa’s is, or one of theirs is, the region is getting publicity and that helps every one of our businesses — and our Main Streets — get traffic.


We think this collaborative ethic is one worth propagating in this modern age. With the exception of this year of COVID, the Soil Sisters bring thousands of people from other regions, states, and even countries to visit our farms every year and explore opportunities to make money on a piece of rural property. Every year after our August Soil Sisters Tour of Farms, we connect with families who have attended and are now looking for places to buy in the region and start their own farm enterprises. But of course, none of this innovation and collaboration will build a thriving farm economy without customers. Customers are always half of the farm balance sheet equation. For a regional farm economy to stay vibrant, customers have to be committed to their neighbors’ success. One of the silver linings of COVID is that consumers in Wisconsin rallied around their farmers, and rediscovered local sources for many things they’d grown accustomed to buying from large out-of-town stores. Hopefully, that interest will continue when COVID is gone.

This is truly a blessed land of milk and honey — of commodity producers and cottage food makers, of cheese factories and cookie ladies. This season, take some moments to appreciate the privilege of living in an agricultural community of such diversity, strength and potential. Make a plan to support more local farmers in 2021, and play a part in building a more strong and secure local economy. As local cheese artisan Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese Company said in a recent interview on Wisconsin Foodie, “Use us, or lose us.” Please enjoy a Maple Dunker with coffee or whiskey and raise a toast to our hard-working farmers of every stripe — from Soil Sisters to soybean brothers and everything in between. — Kriss Marion runs Circle M Farm, a field to table bed and breakfast in Blanchardville, Wisconsin and serves as a Lafayette County Supervisor. This Soil Sisters column originally ran in The Monroe Times on 10/29/20.



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