Soil Sisters: Increasing women farmer-led education and opportunities through local network building and learning circles

Final report for ONC20-072

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2020: $39,976.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Renewing the Countryside
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Jan Joannides
Renewing the Countryside
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Project Information


In this project, Soil Sisters, a program of the Minnesota-based non-profit Renewing the Countryside (RTC), will launch eight new women-led local networks and learning circles in Minnesota and Wisconsin alongside creating a Toolkit for women farmers anywhere interested in establishing such a peer-based network. 

Soil Sisters originated in southern Wisconsin in 2012 thanks to an NCR-SARE Youth Educator Grant as a single tour day championing women farmers. It has grown to one of the largest and longest running sustainable agriculture women farmer networks nationally  with over 240 members and was awarded the 2019 Top Rural Development Initiative by Wisconsin Rural Partners. Renewing the Countryside is now the fiscal agent for Soil Sisters and that original tour day is a full annual weekend of on-farm events on women-owned farms.

Given Soil Sisters’ successful track record, this project will support the eight-member Farm Partner team to replicate this Wisconsin network concept in their local communities, collectively hosting 24 meetings involving 400+ women farmers.  This project will also create a Toolkit curating best practices to support additional network launches, stemming from the dozens of women farmers beyond our partner team wanting to start a Soil Sisters group and asking RTC for resources.


Final Report (10/31/22)

Once the Omicron COVID-19 wave subsided in spring of 2022 and we headed into the warmer/safer season for gathering outdoors, we were very excited to finally have a window to move forward with the in-person women farmer pilot network meetings that were an integral part of the original proposal.  Our team of seven women farmer new network leads each held a minimum of two events, with several hosting more and, importantly, already planning additional events past the cycle of this grant. This is an important result to see the self-organized and self-motivated aspect of farmer network building in action, and we are very pleased to see evidence already of the potential longevity of this one project.

Highlights include (more detail in More details in Educational & Outreach Activities):

  • With final movement of the in-person events, we were also able to finalize the Toolkit, which we were able to expand and include an additional twelve farmer case study stories compiled from members of the founding Soil Sisters group in southern Wisconsin, providing grassroots organizing ideas and inspiration. We see this Toolkit as a strong start for a larger, on-going outreach effort to support additional networks (we already have six interested) and will as a next step review and develop a plan for areas to expand.
  • Additionally, thanks to the return of in-person events, we were able to reboot our Soil Sisters weekend event Aug. 5-7, 2022 which included a day-long women farmer educational event based on the learning circle/peer-based learning which attracted over 70 women, the vast majority not only beginning farmers but this was the first ag event they attended.
  • The Soil Sisters August event also provided a great opportunity to amplify this project's story through the media, including a feature on Wisconsin Public Radio/Larry Meiller Show along with a front page article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal (the largest circulation newspaper in Wisconsin), A network of Wisconsin women farmers preach the value of sustainable agriculture and living connected to the land — and each other. Article PDF uploaded (online article is behind MJS paywall) MJS article.  Additionally, our women farmer network building story was featured in an Around the Farm Table Show produced by PBS Wisconsin

Again, we are very grateful to NC-SARE for support and understanding as we facilitated this project during the COVID-19 pandemic, clearly not the ideal timing for a project based on multiple in-person gatherings. But thanks to what became an opportunity to creatively reinvent, our farmer team could draw on and adapt with various different project components and people to collaboratively create something even better. Bottom line, we met our original project objectives by this adaptation and adding and experimenting with new elements, which brought in even more new learning and insight to create an even stronger end product.

Progress Report Update (3/1/22)

The unfortunate reality of COVID-19, particularly the Delta and Omicron waves, again delayed and detoured this project in ways not initially planned nor expected. We appreciate NC SARE's understanding in extending the timeline for this grant as now, heading into summer, 2022, we finally feel comfortable and safe with outdoor gatherings and can fully immerse in and wrap up this project, while creating tangible resources and tools that will live beyond this grant cycle.

We left the 3/1/21 updates in this report right now for a history and reference point for our team as to where things started and evolved due to the pandemic. In our final report once the summer activities take place, we will be able to better merge and collect these updates into a more cohesive, helpful final report. While we still will definitely meet our overall project deliverables and outreach goals, as we've all been experiencing during COVID-19, we're needing to pivot and embrace new tools beyond the original proposal, such as the virtual space which we didn't even refer to in the original proposal and have found a very helpful tool.  Fortunately, building these resources off an existing vibrant founding Soil Sisters network in south central Wisconsin has enabled us to test various outreach and engagement strategies using Zoom and various partnerships.


Progress Report Update (3/1/21)

The onset of COVID-19 right as this project was originally scheduled to caused us to regroup and reevaluate our strategies and timeline for fulfilling the goals and deliverables of this project. While the pandemic felt like a curve ball at the time (especially for a project originally rooted in face-to-face connections in person), the reality is today's situation adds up to what will be in the end an even stronger project in ways we couldn't have imagined originally. 

Two key updates to the project include:

•  An extension request through 8/31/22 (currently being processed), which will enable our team to fully achieve the intended outcomes and impact of this project both in the virtual COVID-19 space with increased opportunity to incorporate in the original in-person component as safety protocols allow into late 2021 and more realistically into 2022.

In April, 2020, we originally requested and received a six-month extension which would have had this original one-year grant wrapping up 10/31/21. Although we didn't realize it when we made the request in April, 2020 (as we like many thought this wouldn't last this long!) this original extension deadline would have caused us -- given the unknowns of gathering during summer, 2021 -- to reinvent the whole project in the virtual space.  This new and final extension gives us the needed time and space to both utilize virtual as we have been while moving toward returning (gratefully and enthusiastically!) to in-person components.

Additionally, this enables us to tie in this project to our larger, annual Soil Sisters August in-person event, now realistically scheduled for August 5-7, 2022.  The original 2021 event was canceled due to COVID-19 and we are currently researching possibilities for some form of broader virtual education/outreach for August, 2021, given the uncertainties of events and gatherings during vaccine distribution.

We very much appreciate NCR-SARE's understanding, support and ideas on how to best manage this project under these unprecedented times and look forward to the final result being an even strong product and outcomes.

•  Continuing to research, incorporate and test various networking components in the virtual space. As we navigate the pandemic-motivated virtual space, we have been employing a strategic lens on decisions and focus on creating tools and elements that will last beyond COVID-19.  Utilizing the virtual space can be a very successful element of on-going networking. In-person gatherings in the winter, for example, have historically been a challenge due to unpredictable weather and geographic distance to travel in rural areas.  By curating and learning about virtual spaces and how to create interactive, safe spaces via Zoom (versus just webinar/lecture formats) and incorporating this learning into the final Toolkit will create resources that last and grow long into the future.




Project Objectives:

• Establish 8 new women-farmer led networks (5 in Wisconsin; 3 in Minnesota).

• Facilitate 24 learning circle educational network meetings. Each of the eight women farmer partners will lead 3 sessions, providing feedback and input.

• Directly involve 400+ women farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This will be accomplished by each of the 8 new networks reaching 50 women farmers in their region, roughly an hour radius.

• Capture best practices and ideas from the Soil Sisters Wisconsin group and our Farm Partners team into a downloadable Toolkit that will compile curriculum/meeting topic, agendas, tour day ideas, outreach learnings.


Final Report (10/31/22)

Thanks to the creativity and commitment of the farmers involved with this project and our full team, we were able to both achieve our original deliverables amidst a pandemic as well as add in multiple additional educational and outreach elements to this project not planned for in the original grant, like virtual events and print/newspaper column. Please see Educational & Outreach Activities for details.

In the spirit of these Partnership Grants, we are pleased to have been able to involve 19 farmers in a paid capacity who directly provided input, insight and collaborative leadership in this project.

Additional impact of this project beyond the original grant:

  • We have both strong interest and commitment from our pilot farmer network team to continue gathering for networking, farm tours and resource sharing already beyond the official 8/31/22 project end date with events planned through the rest of 2022 and beyond. Additionally, these groups have self-organized their own on-going local farmer communications channels, from listservs to Facebook groups, to keep the learning circle education going. 
  • We are very excited to also have over six additionally women farmers ready to organize networks beyond our pilot project, representing the continued need and interest both across the US and internationally (we have a woman farmer from Slovania wanting to organize!). The Toolkit is a strong starter resource, which we will keep adding to and refining. Our next steps with RTC in an organizational support role is to use the next six months to determine the best on-going structure and administration process for RTC to collaboratively amplify and collectively bring together these new network initiatives.
  • The final new pilot network farmer team represented young and aspiring leadership beyond what we had originally planned for, which wonderfully added strong organizing energy. For example, two of the farmer team members in the original grant (Kathy Zeman & Mariann Holmes) intentionally stepped aside and identified a new, young women farmer in their community to take on this role (Theresa Bentz & Erin Link) -- with them now in a support role.  This collaborative support demonstrated the importance of mentoring and identifying new leadership in cultivating strong farmer communities running financially viable businesses.

Progress Report Update (3/1/22)

Key focus areas & updates (again, we will merge all of this in a more helpful/cohesive final report):

  • We are currently editing the Network Toolkit content, including feedback and insight from the pilot networks as they launch in-person events this summer. The Toolkit will graphically model a past RTC project, Amplify Our Voices, that was a Toolkit for media awareness and engagement for organic women farmers.  The different downloadable PDFs on network building topics (learning circle formats, communication strategies, start-up challenges/opportunities, longevity, community engagement, farm tours/ag education, etc) will enable us to readily edit and expand past this grant's life cycle.  The Toolkit will also include case studies of the new networks including their insight and advice as well as input from peer-learning experts such as Jean Eells of E Resources, the leading researching nationally on learning circles.
  • The eight new networks are being rebooted with a plan to host events this summer. Our original team member, Kathy Zeman of Simple Harvest Farm Organics (MN) has generously stepped down from the team in order to give a farmers newer to organizing and enthusiastic on bringing women farmer together in her region: Theresa Bentz of Get Bentz Farm.  She has been a great addition to the team.


Progress Report Update (3/1/21)

We will continue to work toward these original objectives and will readily meet the 400+ final deliverables, with this now hybrid of both in-person and virtual space.  While the original proposal focused specifically on outreach via the eight local networks, we now can embrace a wider educational platform that is still based on the women's learning circle, collaborative model.

A big component of this that we have focused on the past six months has been researching and learning about creating more intimate/safe space and "conversations" in the virtual space that enable peer-to-peer information exchange between women farmers. While a creative challenge to facilitate such spaces, as platforms like Zoom garner wider acceptance this is much more of a reality that, again, we see creating tools and resources that will be used long past the pandemic.

We will be piloting a series of "virtual potlucks" for the original Green County Area Wisconsin Soil Sisters group launching in March, 2021 and continuing through December with various women farmer hosts doing a skill-share and farm tour and utilizing Zoom's growing list of features such as break-out rooms for networking and connections. When safety protocols allow, hopefully at some point into later 2021, we will switch back to in-person formats. This process will be documented via surveys and informal farmer feedback on what is working (or not) and added into the Toolkit.  We have already surveyed the farmers on meeting preferences, finding Zoom the strongly preferred platform over ones like Google Meet.  There was no consistent answer on the best days/times of days to gather so we will let the farmers hosting each session decide what is best for them. An interesting challenge (with learnings documented in the Toolkit) is both the Green County group and other new start-ups will intentionally seek out and have a diverse group of women farmer participants, from younger/beginning farmers that are quite online savvy to older and more seasoned farmers in the field, but newer to the tech components.

The learnings from these virtual gatherings will be in the Toolkit that the farmer team will use to launch the eight new networks into later 2021/2022, depending on COVID-19.

We have also done one-on-one interviews and communications with the project Farmer Team (the eight women farmers who will be launching local networks) to explore virtual alternatives and other communications options before we can return to in-person.  While our Farmer Team is deeply committed to network organizing and connecting local women farmers, doing so exclusively in the virtual space will be challenging, per farmer team input.  As we develop the Toolkit and move to returning to in-person gatherings, we are exploring other creative ways to tap into/collect and share the expertise of the our Farmer Team through interviews and case study story collection which can be used in various educational outreach and online.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • FL Morris (Educator)
  • Dr. Jean Eells (Educator and Researcher)
  • Katy Dickson (Educator)
  • Bethany Storm (Educator)
  • April Prusia (Educator)
  • Victoria Solomon (Educator and Researcher)
  • Noreen Thomas (Educator)
  • Rachel Sannerud (Educator)
  • Theresa Bentz (Educator)
  • Molly Waisman (Educator)
  • Betsy Manteufel (Educator)
  • Erin Link (Educator)
  • Clare Hintz (Educator)
  • Dela Ends (Educator)
  • Pat Skogen (Educator)
  • Betty Anderson (Educator)
  • Erica Roth (Educator)
  • LindaDee Derrickson (Educator)
  • Ashley Wegmueller (Educator)
  • Alicia Gasaway (Educator)
  • Heather Lynch (Educator)
  • Kriss Marion (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

96 Consultations
1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
20 On-farm demonstrations
12 Online trainings
14 Published press articles, newsletters
20 Tours
12 Webinars / talks / presentations
20 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

410 Farmers participated
35 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

Final Report (10/31/22)

Events & Field Days

A key element of this past year was the ability to have in-person events, which included:

On-Farm Events

Network On-Farm Events

17 additional in-person, on-farm events in 2022, with 14 of those hosted by our seven-member farmer team launching new pilot networks held between May-August, 2022.  Each event included a farm tour/educational component along with a potluck/shared meal providing ample time for networking and community building.  Importantly, these new network events that the members of our farmer team initiated sparked strong interest in continuing to gather with scheduled events into the fall and after the completion of this grant cycle. This longevity interest exemplifies the core goal of this project to establish local community network building that continues to support thriving women-farmer led businesses championing sustainable agriculture.


Soil Sisters Share:  A Buffet of Resources, Support & Inspiration for Women Farmers

On 8/5/22 we hosted a day-long field day for beginning women farmers that focused on our networking/learning circle model and shared learning. The event, which kicked off the return of the full Soil Sisters weekend, attracted over 70 women, most beginning farmers and many their first agriculture event they attended.  The event was held at Christensen Farm in Browntown, WI where host farmer, Katy Dickson, gave a detailed tour of her CSA organic vegetable operation including discussion on lifestyle issues such as integrating family and kids as well as her high tunnel funded through an NRCS EQIP grant. 

Ten organizational partners attended (see below) and shared information during a unique "networking lunch" format where attendees sat at tables based on where they were on their farming journey (i.e., "looking for land" or ""farming 5-10 years").  The organizational reps then had about 8 minutes to talk at each table and share resources which worked really well as they could tailor their messaging based on audience. This opportunity to partner with other groups enabled us to both strengthen RTC's on-going collaborative partnerships as well as specifically increase funding resources to this event beyond this grant's budget, such as a separate RTC grant with FSA and NRCS could cover porta-potty/tent rentals and farmer honorariums. 

Organizations represented:
Green County Soil & Water Conservation/NRCS: Tonya Gratz & Meaghan Rafftery
Farm Service Agency/FSA: Katie Demrow & April Prusia/Dorothy’s Range
Wisconsin Women in Conservation & Michael Fields Agricultural Institute: Esther Shekinah
Midwest GRIT & Artisan Grain Collaborative: Christine Johnson
North Central SARE: Diane Mayerfeld
Heartland Threads Fibershed: LindaDee Derrickson
FairShare CSA Coalition: Tess Romanski
Wisconsin Farmers Union: Mary Kluz
UW Extension: Jackie McCarville


We worked with Wisconsin Governor Tony Ever's office to officially designate this first week in August as "Wisconsin Women in Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Week" -- complete with official proclamation document.  This both generated excitement and awareness and amplified the story to the media.  080122_Proclamation_Wisconsin Women in Sustainable and Organic Agriculture Week

Based on this event's success, we are planning another Soil Sisters Share in August, 2023 featuring another women-owned organic farm:  Chelsea Chandler of Plowshare & Prairie Farm in Argyle, WI, which will additionally incorporate an agritourism component. 

Soil Sisters Share Networking LunchSS Share - Aug 5 - AgendaSoil Sisters Share Aug 5: Farm Tour/High Tunnel Soil Sisters Share Aug 5: Farm TourSoil Sisters Share Aug 5: Farm Tour/Host Farmer Katy DicksonSoil Sisters Share Aug 5: Farm Tour/Networking Lunch


Winter Virtual Series

We hosted a four-part virtual "Soil Sisters Share" series via the Green County based group that utilized the Learning Circle Model covering topics from transplants to compost mental health resource connections. Through these virtual aspects of this project, we developed strong virtual facilitation skills on Zoom and these on-line sessions during the winter months are something we plan to continue, thanks to the enthusiastic response and ability to bring in more and different people virtually who are not able to attend in-person events due to various other commitments (child care, farm, etc.). Additionally, given so many still unknowns with the future of COVID-19 and potential new variants, having on-line network facilitation skills will be an important aspect of network building.  We found the new SARE publication, Reaching Women in Agriculture: A Guide to Virtual Engagement, very helpful


Women Farmer Newspaper Column

Continued Monroe Times columns, adding seven more columns for a total of 28 produced during this project. This partnership was a "win win" between area farmers and a local rural newspaper:  The newspaper received authentic, free content they needed to remain solvent and keep our small town papers alive along with an opportunity to amplify the voices of women farmers in sustainable and organic agriculture and the importance of building networks in a region still primarily male and conventional dairy dominated. We plan to continue this monthly column partnership beyond this grant cycle and is an idea we included in the Toolkit for other networks to consider. 

See end of this Education & Outreach Description section for a full log of Monroe Times columns.


PBS Wisconsin Around the Farm Table Feature Show

Soil Sisters and the power of women farmer networks was featured on PBS Wisconsin's Around the Farm Table with Inga Witscher first airing July 7, 2022.  This show featured the stories of three area women farmers sharing both their sustainability mission and the importance of women farmer networks. The final scene in the show included over 25 Soil Sisters who came to the shoot at Inga's Farm in Osseo, WI in August, 2021, in which Inga hosts a potluck demonstrating the power of women farmer networks.  Our team had been working with PBS Wisconsin throughout the grant cycle to bring this show together, which provides a large public reach through the show's national syndication to amplify the stories of women farmer collaboration in sustainable agriculture.  We hosted a public special screening of the event in partnership with PBS Wisconsin on 6/30/22 at Wegmueller Dairy with over 100 people attending the event/potluck and Ashley & Dan Wegmueller hosted a farm tour  Full show here.


PBS Wisconsin Around the Farm Table
PBS Wisconsin Around the Farm Table Show featuring Soil Sisters & the power of women farmer networks first aired 7/7/22
Women farmers at Aroudn the Farm Table Shoot
Over 25 women farmers took part in a potluck scene for the Around the Farm Table scene


Other Organizational Partnership Support:  Cohort Model

Another example of the power of women farmer network organizing (beyond this project's original deliverables) was for us to help amplify and increase other projects led by other organizations in which those projects needed to connect with women farmers and we could help. 

In addition to the partnership with Farm Well Wisconsin (see 3/22 Progress Report), we partnered with the Wisconsin Women in Conservation/WiWiC, a NRCS initiative led by four sustainable agriculture partner groups (Michael Fields Agricultural Institute/project lead, Marbleseed, Wisconsin Farmers Union & RTC) to support women landowners by recruiting 23 women in the Green County Area to work with the local Soil & Water Conservation Department to develop land conservation plans.  As the total land plan deliverables for the full three-year WiWiC project is 53 plans, we offered a significant contribution because these women already knew each other and built trust and could readily and quickly come together for this opportunity.

This effort then received further amplification through RTC's partnership in a new NRCS CIG grant led by the Women, Food and Agriculture Network/WFAN, supporting and training women landowners to be "Conservation Ambassadors" and go through public speaking training to share their story. RTC identified three women farmers also Soil Sisters who went through this conservation land planning process with WiWiC, and are now on their way to together speak at a total of nine events in 2023, including the Soil Sisters Share in August, 2023.  All connected and cross-pollinated and we look forward to future such cooperative efforts this specific Partnership grant has sparked.

Other presentations & outreach:

Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) Sustainable Agriculture Colloquium class presentation 10/14/22: Cultivating Change One Potluck at a Time -- overview of women farmer networking movement.

Glynwood Center for Regional Food & Farming: 12/16/22 & 12/17/22:  Served on organizing committee for pilot virtual event bringing together women from various organizations and backgrounds who themselves were involved with bringing together women farmers/network building.



Progress Report Update (3/1/22)

We continued embracing the virtual space to pilot different approaches/topics to garner learning for the Toolkit. Now, with the opportunity to finally safely gather (outdoors), our new networks will be launching their gatherings this spring/summer.  These learnings from both the virtual and in-person space will be gathered in the Toolkit. 

Other key educational outreach include:

  • Presentation at Women, Food & Agriculture Network/WFAN Annual Conference (virtual; 90 minutes):

Soil Sisters: Cultivating Rural Resilience through Local Networks

Presenters: Kriss Marion, Circle M Farm; Dela Ends, Scotch Hill Farm; Lisa Kivirist, Inn Serendipity Farm & Renewing the Countryside


  • We were able host three in-person potlucks in South Central Wisconsin during the summer of 2021; however, when the Delta variant hit we were back in the virtual space. We are very much looking forward to focus on in-person gatherings within the new networks with a focus on safer outdoor gatherings once the weather warms up May - August.  In the meantime, we continue to embrace the virtual space and hosted several different styles of peer-based learning events including a "Lunch & Learn" series in the learning circle format on different topics including transplants and compost. 
  • Through a partnership with Farm Well WI, we had the opportunity within our south central network to pilot a mental health awareness program called The Water We Swim In, a four-part pilot series bringing together women farmers and other women in the local rural community for engagement and and using story-sharing as a portal for more engaged discussion around mental health issues.  We had over 20 women engaged in this four-part series and received strong feedback on the need to support women in sustainable agriculture to connect and engage in the mental health support space and will be partnering with  Farm Well WI and Wisconsin Extension on another new initiative, We COPE,  for more tool building in this arena.
  • We are excited to -- after a two year COVID-19 hiatus -- reboot our larger Soil Sisters weekend Aug. 5-7, 2022.  This includes a larger women farmer day-long educational event on Friday, Aug. 5, hosted at Katy Dickson's Christensen Farm in Browntown, WI.  This event will showcase the launch of this project's new Network Toolkit as well as bring together over 12 partner groups bringing different resources and perspectives with a focus on a beginning farmer audience, including NRCS, FSA, Artisan Grains Collaborative and more.  The learnings from this collaborative larger women farmer educational event will be included as an element in the Toolkit.
  • Inga Witcher, one of our new network hosts and organic dairy farmer in Osseo is also host of the Wisconsin Public Television Show, Around the Farm Table.  She and her crew filmed a show focused on Soil Sisters and the importance of women farmer networks over summer, 2021, that will premiere in late May or early June, 2022.  We are planning a premiere community event around this show with lots of educational and media outreach opportunities to bring all these educational project pieces together.
  • Continued Monroe Times column; see below for full list


Progress Report Update (3/1/21)

Our primary focus the last six months has been on the research and investigation phase of various aspects of understanding virtual best practices and how these can be applied in our upcoming test "virtual potluck" pilot.  Lead Lisa Kivirist has participated in various Zoom/virtual training, has interviewed professionals in this arena for input and has attended various virtual settings for ideas. 

With our underlying goal of creating women-farmer driven content that lasts past the pandemic, we facilitated a monthly women-farmer led column in our local newspaper, The Monroe Times.  This now collection of over twelve columns has been both well-received by our community and enables a direct channel to amplify local women farmer voices, leading to both awareness and increased marketing/economic vitality for their businesses. 

Additionally, we worked with female journalism students from the University of Wisconsin to do interviews with several women farmers resulting in an article in the 2020 issue of CURB:  Reduce, Reuse, Revolutionize:  Female Farmers cultivate sustainability and equality.

Soil Sisters was also cited as a leading example of rural, grassroots networking in the Rural Voices for Prosperity: A Report of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Rural Prosperity (pg. 60).  Lisa Kivirist is working with the commission on additional ways we can help connect our learnings and experience state-wide.

Lisa Kivirist is currently working on a longer-term plan to create a new/updated web page under the main Renewing the Countryside page that better organizes our various existing women farmer resources more cohesively and user-friendly and create a portal for more timely/current updates like these types of columns. 


Soil Sisters:  Monroe Times Column Log


Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Building community resilience
By Pat Skogen


Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Taking Time to Know
By Chris Frakes


Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: We Can Do It
By Ashely Wegmueller

Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Come Unity: A call to build community
By Grace McLaughlin

Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Building Community Resilience
By Sue Nelson


Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Connecting to your passion
By Katy Dickson, Christensen Farm (Browntown, WI)


Monroe Times
Soil Sisters: Using farm generosity to build our rural communities
By Kriss Marion, Circle M Farm (Blanchardville, WI)



Monroe Times

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

Soil Sisters:  Our mental health is worth fighting for




Monroe Times

By Danielle Zimmerman

Soil Sisters: Enjoy Local Food In The Winter & Stay Alpaca Warm




Monroe Times

By Penny Molina

Soil Sisters support economic development through agricultural tourism




Monroe Times

By Danielle Matson

Soil Sisters: Building community resilience through connections




Monroe Times

By Pat Skogen

Soil Sisters: Reflections on aging in a rural community



Monroe Times

By Sarah Kyrie, Mushroom Holler (Argyle)

Soil Sisters: The Mycelium of Forest and Friends



Monroe Times

By FL Morris, Grassroots Farm (Monroe)

Soil Sisters: Action beyond envisioning



Monroe Times

By Heidi Hoff, Solbakken (Mt. Horeb)

Soil Sisters:  Following switchbacks to climb mountains



Monroe Times

By April Prusia, Dorothy's Range (Blanchardville)

Soil Sisters: Perennial partnerships build healthy local meat market



Monroe Times

By Patty Grimmer (Wonkas Harvest, Hollandale)

Soil Sisters: The support network every new farmer needs



Monroe Times

By Dela Ends, Scotch Hill Farm & Innisfree Farmstay

Soil Sisters nourishing spirit in the pandemic



Monroe Times

By Roberta Barham, Barham Gardens (Blanchardville, WI)

Soil Sisters:  Leaning in and Lifting Up



Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Inspiration for Growth

By Erica Roth, Ewetopia Hil Farm (Albany, WI)



Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Making it happen in good times and in bad

By Betty Anderson, The Old Smyth Place (Brodhead, WI)



Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Growing safety nets with soil brothers and sisters

By LindaDee Derrickson, Bluffwood Landing Farm (Monticello, WI)




Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Working together are two words with huge impact

By Marci Hess, Driftless Prairies (Blanchardville, WI)




Monroe Ties

Soil Sisters: Strong and secure in abundance and diversity

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




Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Life is about food, family, faith and forest

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




Monroe Times

Soil Sisters:  A recipe for local resilience

By April Prusia, Dorothy’s Range (Blanchardville, WI)




Monroe Times

Soil Sisters: Finding importance in eating, cooking local

By Ashley Wegmueller, The Dairy” Farm Stay and Bo & Olly’s Produce (Monroe WI)




Monroe Times

Looking forward to seeds, local food, sisters

By Katy Dickson, Christensen Farm (Browntown, WI)



Monroe Times

By Lisa Kivirist, Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B (Browntown, WI)

Rhubarb and resilience - Women share inspiration







Learning Outcomes

120 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Project Outcomes

75 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
6 Grants received that built upon this project
12 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Final Report (10/1/22)

We see this project contributing to the future of both sustainable agriculture as well as farm vitality and viability in the following ways:

Building local communities for the long-term

The fact that this project materialized during COVID-19 only further increased the importance of developing strong, local ties between farmers, especially women championing sustainable and organic agriculture and often isolated in rural areas. Women often came to our events and commented "I feel like I finally found my people," exemplifying the need to continually be nurturing such support connections. While today's world of digital communications and connections play a role in farmer education and organizing, the Pandemic highlighted the need this project focused on: bringing together local farmers to build long-term, in-person relationships.  When a time of crisis comes, as exemplified in many of the case study stories in the Toolkit, having a nearby network to lean on keeps farms going and viably moving forward.


Shared learning for farm vitality

The "learning circle" model of this project worked very well amongst women farmers, creating spaces to ask questions and share resources. Again, while there are multiple very valid sources of education online, there is a power behind meeting a neighbor who walks and talks you through something along with that underlying message of "You can do this; I support you; Call anytime with questions."  While such shared learning opportunities in theory don't cost financial resources, there is a large time component that goes into developing these relationships to continue and strengthen for the long haul, including navigating potential future pandemics.


Women-identifying role models

While women make up one of the fastest-growing new populations of farmers, it is still a small slice of agricultural representation. The more projects like these that can showcase and champion the stories of women farmers brings the message to the public along with providing inspiring mentors and visuals for younger women to consider farming careers.  Our project intentionally garnered strong media support -- from the PBS Wisconsin Around the Farm Table show to the on-going Soil Sisters column at the local paper providing women farmer perspectives -- and is something we aim to continue moving forward.



Project Report Update (3/1/22)

With our ability to return to outdoor, in-person events this summer, we are looking very forward to rebooting the potluck/learning circle core component of the next six months to full wrap up this project and meet our original goals.  We appreciate NC SARE's flexibility and understanding in extending the deadline.

The extra time of this grant during COVID-19 enabled us to expand developing strong partnerships and collaborations. These continue to be a theme in this project, and we're documenting these networking and collaboration ideas for the Toolkit, including multiple ways to partner with other organizations and projects to strengthen their women farmer outreach, resulting in a true "win-win." 

For example, the new NRCS-funded Wisconsin Women in Conservation initiative/WiWiC (a partnership between RTC, Wisconsin Farmers Union, MOSES and Michael Fields Agricultural Institute as the lead) needed to connect with women landowners to encourage them to write Land Conservation Plans with their county conservationist.  Because our county conservationist was already a Soil Sisters network member and we had this existing network of connected women, 18 women are now working on their land conservation plans, to be completed by June, 2022.  For most of these women, it is the first time they took such strategic conservation action on their land. The total Land Conservation Plan deliverable for the three-year WiWiC project is 40, so this is a significant contribution.

Progress Report Update (3/1/21)

The bulk of our project outcomes will be coming up within the next 18 months, as we take our research and learning from the past six months and put that into action (and new learning!).  Lisa Kivirist has been working on a draft of the Toolkit that will ultimately grow into the resource for the new networks to utilizing (and give feedback to) as the farmer partners on this project start to organize locally into late summer/early fall 2021.

The collaborative connections of this project enable us to continue to amplify outreach and outcomes of this project.  New women farmers joining the Green County list serve gain knowledge, new connections made for new grant applications applied for and received (including a recent SARE Farmer Rancher grant that has an expanded farmer team:  FNC21-1282/Resources & Recipes to Support Farmers to Diversify Income through Value-Added Bakery Product Sales."

Success stories:

As someone new to this rural community, having a welcoming group of women farmers connect me locally made all the difference in my having a successful start of my business. Not only did I have people to ask local recommendations for anything from seed suppliers to conractors, these women came out and supported me and bought products from my farm. I look forward to doing the same in connecting and sharing with new women that come to our area.

Vegetable farmer in southern Wisconsin


Bringing together women farmers from a variety of backgrounds and ages really strengthened our gatherings. There was much learning back and forth as we as cultivating a shared safe space to ask any questions and know you'll receive support.  Women lingered way longer and beyond the original set end time for our events to continue these needed conversations.

Women farmer in Minnesota organizing new networks


Final Report 10/31/22:

Two areas we see of interest for the future:

  • A continued challenge with the completion of grants like these that launch new, longer-term initiatives is how they can be potentially funded into the future. While the things we created provided great resources and we are fortunate to have a very motivated farm partner team self-motivated to continue this project, we are assessing how to do that as simply and cost-effectively to our organization. It's a challenging "chicken & egg" scenario as we needed this Partnership grant to create the basics and assess interest -- and then are in the fortunate situation where we determined that, indeed, there is interest that ideally would need additional funding and resources we don't currently have.


  • In today's world of importantly having increasing dialogue on gender, there is much more to explore and discuss in how this can impact and hopefully enhance agricultural programming and projects like ours. We used the term "women-identifying" when did public outreach for events as well as asking for personal pronouns during registration. While this generally worked well for us to create welcoming spaces for people identifying with different places within gender fluidity, there is still much work and research to be done here to continue to build an inclusive, welcoming farming community within sustainable and organic agriculture.

Progress Report 3/1/22:

The content of this Toolkit we are working on could very readily evolve into an official SARE publication, if there is interest.  It would be a strong companion and build on the recent Reaching Women in Agriculture: A Guide to Virtual Engagement.

Thank you to NCR-SARE for their understanding and full support of the need for creative reinvention under COVID-19 and, as in our case, the need for extensions and re-evaluations along the way.  This spirit of collaboration and partnership will make all the end results even stronger.  The Virtual Field Day Tips and Tricks resources were particularly helpful -- much appreciated!



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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.