In Her Boots Workshop: Sustainable Agriculture for Women, by Women

Tools & Machinery, Dairy & Diversification

Thursday, June 21, 2018 


Wylymar Farms
Monroe, Wis.


In Her Boots at Wylymar Farms: Five Things I Learned

By Lisa Kivirist, In Her Boots Coordinator

The sky may have been gray, but we made our own sunshine with all the ideas and good energy shared at our first In Her Boots workshop of the year for women farmers. This session, “Tools & Machinery, Dairy & Diversification,” took place June 21 at Wylymar Farms, an organic dairy north of Monroe, Wisconsin, owned and operated by Emily and Brandi Harris.  With a focus on machinery, Emily shared her wealth of knowledge and experience from tractors to tools, from attending construction mechanic school in the Navy to running her own farm since 2010.

“Emily is an inspiration for any women farmers wanting to run their own operation,” shared Nicole Allison, Farm Loan Manager with the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Green County. “She has a deep love for the land and her cows and is incredibly resourceful in asking questions and creatively getting the job done.” Working with Nicole, Emily received an FSA loan to purchase her farm and has utilized various USDA programs such as the first time farm buyer loan program and an NRCS grant to put in rain gutters and the cattle walkway through the pasture.

With a team of women representing resources from a variety of agencies and organizations including AgrAbility, the National Farm Medicine Center, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Angelic Organics Learning Center, Green County Economic Development Corporation, Adunate, Soil and Water Conservation and more, we had opportunity to dial in with our specific questions as well as explore new areas and resources.


Here are five takeaways from this In Her Boots day:

1. Break It

“I learn the most when I break things and have to fix them and that happens a lot,” Emily laughed. As we heard her stories of how she uses various tools and equipment, it became clear that the most important resource goes beyond the technical manual, it’s nurturing the confidence in yourself over time that you can figure something out. “Time plays an important role, too, because if you need something to work for milking in an hour, you just figure it out.”

2. Divide & Conquer

“Emily fixes things and I make sure we have all our paperwork in order,” Brandi said. These two have learned to identify their own personal strengths and to capitalize to make the whole farm operation stronger. With her MBA, Brandi is savvy on the business and record-keeping side and manages the organic certification process, which gives Emily the opportunity to focus on what she loves and does best: working with the animals.

3. Walk Around the Tractor

“I always do a quick visual walk around before I get on him,” Emily explained as she gave us a “tour” of her 1206 International, running strong since 1966. “It’s important to really look closely and know how to spot if anything is off or not right.” Emily also shared the importance of maintaining hydraulic fluid, as just about everything in the tractor—from steering to brakes—needs hydraulic fluid to function. “I’ve had problems with hydraulic pumps going out in the past and, trust me, that is not fun.”

4. Sometimes Walk Away

“A few years ago, I was looking for a new tractor and actually had saved up 10 grand cash to pay for it. I went to a local dealer and said I was looking for a tractor and the guy there says to me, ‘who is asking?’” She walked out and took her business to a shop that did recognize and respect her as a female farmer business owner. “I ended up saving some money, too,” she added.

5. Welcome & Share

This may have been the first field day Emily and Brandi have hosted, but you would never have known that as they really put the warm welcome mat out, especially generous on the wet and muddy day we had. When it was raining hard in the morning just as we were about to start, Emily started up her skid loader and picked up and moved the porta-potty and placed it closer to the tent so attendees wouldn’t need to cross the field and get drenched.

It’s that welcoming attitude of our farm hosts that always creates an open and safe environment at our In Her Boots workshops, a space where anyone can openly ask questions and learn—especially with topics like tractors and machinery, which for many

women are outside our wheelhouse.



We look forward to seeing you at our other two sessions this year: July 26 in Decorah, Iowa and August 3 in Brodhead, Wis.



Emily Harris, Wylymar Farms
Emily Harris is a fourth-generation farmer. She has been running her own organic dairy operation since 2010. Emily and her wife, Brandi Harris, milk 50 Jersey cows, care for 105 cows and sell their milk to area cheese factories. Savvy on the mechanic side, Emily attended construction mechanic school in the Navy.




Lisa Kivirist, MOSES In Her Boots Project
Lisa coordinates the In Her Boots Project, an award-winning woman-farmer training initiative of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES). She is the author of Soil Sisters: A Toolkit for Women Farmers, along with Homemade for Sale, Farmstead Chef, ECOpreneuring, and Rural Renaissance and is an Endowed Chair at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Lisa and her family run Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B outside Monroe, Wis., which is completely powered by renewable energy.

Dr. Josie Rudolphi, National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic
Josie Rudolphi is an associate research scientist at the National Farm Medicine Center in Marshfield, Wisconsin. Josie earned her PhD in Occupational and Environmental Health – Agricultural Safety and Health from the University of Iowa and loves working with female farmers to help them have the knowledge and confidence to operate machinery while also recognizing and mitigating the hazards. She grew up on a corn and soybean farm in eastern Iowa and is still active on the family farm.


Organizations in attendance:

  • Angelic Organics Learning Center
  • Wisconsin Farmers Union
  • FairShare CSA Coalition
  • National Farm Medicine Center
  • AgrAbility
  • Renewing the Countryside
  • Legacy Hemp
  • USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA)
  • Farm & Industry Short Course at UW-Madison
  • Green County Land and Water Conservation
  • Green County Economic Development Corporation


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