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Soil Sisters (PDF)
A Toolkit for Women Farmers
Women in agriculture are sprouting up in record numbers, but they face a host of distinct challenges and opportunities. Blending What Color is Your Parachute-style career advice with sustainable agriculture practices viewed through a gender lens, Soil Sisters provides a wealth of invaluable information for fledging female farming entrepreneurs.
The first manual of its kind, this authoritative and comprehensive blueprint presents practical considerations from a woman's perspective, covering everything from business planning to tool use and ergonomics to integrating children and family in farm operations. Key topics include:
- Finding your niche: mid-life encore careers, young & beginning, boomerangs and more
- From concept to crop: diversified farm start-up basics
- Resources, grants & loans for women farmers.
Soil Sisters also contains case studies, inspirational ideas and savvy advice nuggets from over 100 successful women farmers and advocates. Targeted specifically to members of the fastest-growing demographic in local agriculture, this highly readable guide is practical and pragmatic "Chick Lit" for today's food scene.
Lisa Kivirist is a Senior Fellow, Endowed Chair in Agricultural Systems at the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and a national advocate for women in sustainable agriculture. She founded and directs the Rural Women's Project of the Midwest Organic Sustainable Education Service, an award-winning initiative championing female farmers and food-based entrepreneurs.
Together with her husband, John Ivanko, Lisa is co-author of Homemade for Sale, Farmstead Chef, ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance. Lisa and her family run Inn Serendipity Farm and Bed & Breakfast, completely powered by the wind and sun in the rolling green hills of southern Wisconsin.
"I wish all my neighbors were SOIL SISTERS — better farmers, better food, better fellowship — what's not to love? Appreciating and leveraging women's distinctives, Soil Sisters empowers and guides feminine farmers to full expression. A truly wonderful guidebook."
Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm
"Reading these pages feels more like sitting across from Lisa and friends at a kitchen table, where you quickly come to realize that every female farmer was once an apprehensive beginner and that you're not alone — you are among sisters."
MaryJane Butters, MaryJanes Farm, from the Foreword
"Lisa Kivirist's Soil Sisters is a book with perfect timing. The past seven hundred years of settler colonialism have worked to crush women's knowledge of farming and agriculture. But knowledge is hard to kill. It lives in first nations, in urban gardens and, nurtured by the soil of her farm, on the pages of Lisa's book. With more and more young women looking for a future on the farm, this book couldn't be more timely or useful. Buy it along with your first shovel and hat."
Raj Patel, author, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System
"This isn't a "how-to-farm" book; there are plenty of books out there on raising sheep or growing garlic. Instead, Soil Sisters provides something much more valuable — support and encouragement and concrete tips for those women courageous enough to step into a new life as a farmer. Kivirist brings together a chorus of voices so powerful that it's like being surrounded by women neighbors willing to lend a hand. Their voices — and what they've learned — get me excited about farming all over again."
Catherine Friend, author, Hit by a Farm and Sheepish: Two Women, Fifty Sheep, and Enough Wool to Save the Planet
"This isn't your grandma's view of farming anymore. Soil Sisters sheds light on the new wave of women farmers. From growers to entrepreneurs, from the fields and inside kitchens; this must-have book has anecdotes, advice, tips and stories for women who want to start a business, learn a craft, or dare to dream big. If that's you, this book is for you."
Karen Washington, Founder, Black Urban Growers; and farmer & co-owner, Rise&Root Farm
"All over the globe, women farmers and gardeners are leading the way to healthier lives and landscapes. Soil Sisters celebrates the critical role they play in putting good food on the world's table while offering a hearty serving of information and inspiration for the next generation of female growers."
Roger Doiron, Founding Director, Kitchen Gardeners International
"This book is just what's needed to inspire women new to farming, and it's a great read for those who have been farming for years. The book is full of real life stories, and Lisa writes from the heart about what she knows best: the inspiring spirit of the women farming movement. With authenticity and seasoned experience, Soil Sisters provides the much-needed road map for women with organic farming dreams today."
Faye Jones, Executive Director, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES)
"This toolkit for women farmers is a must-read for any woman currently involved in or looking to get involved in agriculture. Women have always played an imperative role in agriculture, nurturing the land and the livestock, but have had minimal resources built to fit their needs and their specific roles. With Soil Sisters, women farmers and ranchers can learn from each other in a practical and unique way."
Marji Guyler-Alaniz, Founder & President, FarmHer Inc.
"A long overdue tribute to and toolkit for women farmers, Soil Sisters is a priceless slice of strength and power for women of the land. I have never felt more like a woman than the day I first dug my hands into the soil, and digging into this book is a joyful and much-needed affirmation of that day."
Natasha Bowens, author, The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming
"As the title suggests, Lisa Kivirist puts two critically important topics together — women and soil — to express the change we are all working so hard for in agriculture today. In the past year, it has been confirmed, the dominant agricultural input, glyphosate, known as Round up, indeed does cause cancer, is building up in our environment and in our bodies. Soil Sisters, through stories and reflections, shows solutions: Women in agriculture are instrumental in leading the much needed change. I am inspired as I read the creative approaches, thoughtful management, tireless work ethics. Yes, women are nurturers and much more. Women who are struggling with leadership in all categories — you are not alone! This book represents the "can do" attitude of extraordinary women who are modeling courage and determination. We will make a difference."
Theresa Marquez, Mission Executive (ME), Organic Valley Family of Farms
"At last we have a roadmap for women that want to launch or improve their farm business. Soil Sisters uniquely compiles the rich wisdom of successful female farmers and serves it up in an accessible and inspiring way. It's like having a cup of coffee with 100 seasoned women farmers at once and being able to pick their brains about what works and what doesn't."
Temra Costa, author, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat
"As Lisa Kivirist reminds us in Soil Sisters, husbandry ain't just a job for husbands. Women farmers are at the forefront of creating a more just, sustainable and profitable relationship with the land, and Soil Sisters is here to speed the plow."
Curt Ellis, co-creator, King Corn and co-founder, FoodCorps
"Women are getting into farming in unprecedented numbers and they are changing the face of American agriculture. The current food scene — artisanal, direct-to-consumer, local food — is flourishing with the energy and creativity of women farmers. As the publisher of Growing for Market magazine for the past 25 years, I have met thousands of amazing women who are either full farming partners with their spouses or running their farms single-handedly. They manage to juggle the hard physical work of farming with raising children, running a household, and maintaining social connections. They lead lives of intensity and fulfillment. In Soil Sisters, Lisa Kivirist has brought many of these women to life for her readers. She shares their insights and success stories and, in the process, provides inspiration for women everywhere to consider farming as a career and a lifelong passion."
Lynn Byczynski, editor and publisher, Growing for Market
"Lisa Kivirist learned to succeed in farming and now she wants you to as well. You're not just another woman dreaming of the rural life, you're a Soil Sister to her. Lisa offers a unique voice to the perspective of women in the agricultural movement while encouraging, inspiring and instructing in a way only she can do."
Maria Miller, Women in Ag Advocate and former Executive Director, NFU Foundation
"Inspiring, practical and powerful, Soil Sisters provides the needed catalyst to keep our women in sustainable agriculture movement growing strong. I've known Lisa for years and she exemplifies from the heart what women farmers are all about — heartfelt collaboration — and Soil Sisters captures that spirit with every page."
Denise O'Brian, founder of Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN)
"This practical, accessibly-written, and well-researched treasure will teach you everything from how to choose tools and equipment to how to connect with other women farmers. Through stories of other women farmers as well as her own experiences, Kivirist will guide you on how to get access to land, host farm dinners, take care of your body, and take the lead in "cultivating new approaches to farm-based livelihoods". This book should be on the nightstand of every woman farmer, farmer wannbe, and friends of women farmers."
Carolyn Sachs, Professor of Rural Sociology and Women's Studies and co-author of the forthcoming book: The Rise of Women Farmers and Sustainable Agriculture, University of Iowa Press
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