In Her Boots Workshop

Success Strategies from the Soil Sisters
Friday, August 2, 2019

See some advice from the Soil Sisters!

 

Five Things I Learned Soil Sisters Advice
By Angela Rivers, Organic Vegetable Farm Manager/Apprentice at Springdale Farm Plymouth, Wis.

The workshop, which kicked off this year’s Soil Sisters weekend, was hosted by Jen Riemer and her family who are now the third generation on her husband’s family’s land in Brodhead, Wis.

Jen, her husband, Bryce, their three daughters, his parents, and a few employees take care of 280 acres, home to sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, hens, and a herd of 100 cattle. The herd is comprised of mostly Angus, according to their summer crew leader, who has been moving the herd twice a day into new pasture paddocks to graze. The pasture is planted with a variety of grasses, clovers, and alfalfa. The cattle are 100% grass-fed and finished and sold directly by the cut to customers via their online store at riemerfamilyfarm.com.

This event also focused on exploring the impact of cover crops on soil health, how to incorporate marketing into a farm business, and the importance of building a good team that can accomplish the needs of both the farm and the business.

MOSES, FairShare CSA Coalition, REAP, Green County Economic Development Corp, County Conservation, Adunate Word & Design, NRCS, Wisconsin Farmers Union, USDA FSA and other organizations were on hand to share resources and offer advice.

There were many valuable and helpful takeaways from the day. I will touch on five of them that stood out to me as key:

  1. Importance of Soil Health

The soil is its own ecosystem and needs to be treated as such in order to properly, sustainably and regeneratively produce vegetation for feed. The use of cover crops in between plantings is one way to effectively help take care of the soil’s health by providing a source of organic matter.

Cover crops limit water runoff and allow more water to infiltrate into the soil. It gives the soil more resilience to withstand weather extremes, which in turn leads to a better crop yield. Constant ground cover helps keep the ecosystem cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

We covered the four main principles of soil health:

  • Reduce disturbance to the ecosystem through less tillage
  • Increase cover
  • Diversify plant species
  • Maintain living roots

Managed grazing was the bonus fifth principle. I saw all of these in action at Riemer Family Farm.

  1. “The world goes to those who show up.”

Farmer Jen Riemer said this during the event. This phrase stood out because Jen had been talking about the lack of people who attend official meetings that take place on behalf of things like farming practices, water regulations, state policies, etc.

As a firm believer in positive communication leading to positive outcomes, I could not agree with this more. Women from NRCS agreed with Jen when she said meetings were largely unattended. I think that the changes needed within our agricultural and farming practices can only take place once more of us start actively using our voices to reach those who decide the laws, regulations, and budgets on the topics that matter to all of us.

  1. Abundant Resources

The resources are available and you just need to find them, connect with them and utilize them because they are here to help. I myself am just shy of being completely new to farming and if there is one thing I have noticed, it’s that the organic farmers network is one that reaches far and wide. If you are willing to do the research and reach out to the ones who resonate with whatever it is you may need, you will find so many people with a lot of knowledge.

  1. Eat the strawberry!

When the opportune time presents itself, it’s important to take that opportunity. At the beginning of the event, Lisa and Anastasia Wolf-Flash of Riemer Family Farm had a small skit that focused on how nature and time are ultimately in control and that we need to take the opportunities that come our way, or eat the strawberries, when they are right before us.

  1. Work with what you have.

It’s helpful to be realistic about your unique farming situation. Jen and Anastasia both stated in so many words that starting small can also mean starting smart. From a business standpoint, it’s a good strategy to build a great foundation for your farm as a business.

Different platforms for your business work better than others, and Jen stated that social media is nice but the key to the customers is through their inbox. If you can have an email subscription, it is a useful farm business tool. It’s also important to have a targeted audience because you are not going to reach everyone.

Overall, the In Her Boots workshop was a great day that left me feeling more empowered and educated in my farming journey!

 

Soil Sisters’ Advice

We had an inspiring team of Soil Sisters facilitating this Aug. 2 In Her Boots workshop. Here’s some of the advice they shared:

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable and become the best teachers. In farming I’ve make countless mistakes. It’s all been part of the joy of this journey. And in our spirit of cooperation and collaboration a quote from Paul Wellstone, “We all do better when we all do better.”

Dela Ends, Scotch Hill Farm & Innisfree Farmstay, MOSES Board Member (Brodhead, WI)

 

You will be challenged and lifted, emptied and fulfilled. You will question everything, and work through to some of the answers. Your farm, your land, your animals or crops will be your best teachers—listen to them. In all instances, just keep doing the Next Right Thing. This hangs on my refrigerator: “The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.” ― Thomas Moore

Brandi Bonde, Harmony Farm (New Glarus, WI)

 

Farming doesn’t have to be all or nothing—unless you want it to be! Small acreage, small operations, working and learning on someone else’s farm, part-time farming with a full-time day job, full-time farming with a part-time day job—all of these are options for getting started … or forever. If you grow food and share it with your community in some way, you are farming. And you get to decide how it works best for your family, finances, goals, and life.

Molly Placke-Silver, Silver Springs Farm, (Monticello, WI)

 

Learn from your mistakes but celebrate your successes (even the stuff that seems little). Don’t be afraid to ask for help—you’d be surprised how many others have been in your shoes (or boots!) at some point. Lean on others but be there for others to lean on when they need it. But most of all, stay true to yourself.

Ashley Wegmueller, Bo & Olly’s Produce / Wegmueller Farm (Monroe, WI)

 

When farming takes root in your soul, you’ll never be the same. And that is a good thing. Listen to your instincts, even when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. You’ll be surprised.

Erica Roth, Ewetopia Farm (Albany, WI)

 

It doesn’t have to be perfect, sometimes good enough is good enough. “Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength.” ― Corrie Ten Boom

Jen Riemer, Riemer Family Farm (Brodhead ,WI)

 

As a beginning farmer myself, I would say the most important thing you can do is find a mentor, and then find another, and another, but keep them all. Farming is about community and you cannot do it alone! The more bridges you build with those around you, the quicker you will arrive to success. People are your greatest resource! And take guidance from those you’d least expect. Just because someone farms different than you doesn’t mean they don’t have good advice to offer you.

Anastasia Wolf-Flasch, Riemer Family Farm (Brodhead, WI)

 

The best advice I can give (and I give to myself often) comes from a quote by Annie Dillard on writing: “Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place… Give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill up from behind, from beneath like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.”

Betty Anderson, The Old Smith Place (Brodhead, WI)

 

Kudos if you have a biological sister with whom you’re on the same page and tightly connected. As an only child, I’m often asked, “Weren’t you lonely growing up?” No, I reply, despite coming from a small family with barely any female relatives aside from my mom. Motivated by the lack of sisters or female blood relations, I sought out women outside my family ties, creating my own “sisterhood” of kindred spirits. It’s a powerful force to know you’re not alone and someone has your back. You feel empowered when you can expand this definition of “sister” to other women who support you and will catch you when you fall, female friends who will dust you off, give you a hug, and set you back on the tractor.

From Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers by Lisa Kivirist, Inn Serendipity (Browntown, WI) & the MOSES In Her Boots Project

 

 

 

 

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