A group of women stand together in a farm field.

All-new ‘Around the Farm Table’ visits the Soil Sisters – read a Q&A!

June 30, 2022 Alyssa Beno Leave a Comment

Join PBS Wisconsin for an all-new Around the Farm Table as host Inga Witscher travels to southwestern Wisconsin to visit with members of a grassroots network of women farmers called the “Soil Sisters.” 

It premieres 7 p.m. Thursday, July 7 on PBS Wisconsin. You can also stream the episode online on at pbswisconsin.org and on the free PBS Video App. 

In the episode, Inga visits with three Soil Sisters including Lisa Kivirist­, a Green County farmer, bed and breakfast owner and founding member of the group.

“Soil Sisters started when a group of us area women farmers started getting together for potlucks and getting to know each other,” Kivirist said. “Our group grew because when women who are committed to the land, sustainability and local food get together, good things happen. So now we’re growing new networks and outreach to help support more women who want to get back to the land and start their own farms and really renew our countryside.”

In the episode, Witscher also meets with Soil Sisters members April Prusia, a Blanchardville pig farmer and owner of Dorothy’s Range, and Marci Hess, a conservationist working to restore natural habitats and native prairies in the Driftless area. Inga then hosts a group of Soil Sisters on her own farm for a giant potluck celebration. 

“The Soil Sisters have been an inspiration to me on my own farm,” Witscher said. “They are showing people that women farmers can do great things when we get together to share ideas and support each other.” 

Ahead of the all-new Around the Farm Table, PBS Wisconsin spoke with Prusia about farming heritage pigs and finding community through the Soil Sisters.

PBS Wisconsin: Tell us about Dorothy’s Range.

Prusia: My partner Steve’s mom is Dorothy, and she passed away last year so now we can officially say it’s her legacy. So that’s kind of neat. It’s a prairie and a pasture pig farm, and we also host guests with our farm-stay with our Air BnB. Officially it’s been called Dorothy’s Range for about 12 years, and I think Steve’s been here for about 18 years.

PBS Wisconsin: Tell us about the pigs.

Prusia: They are pastured pigs – a rare, heritage breed called the Gloucestershire Old Spots – it’s easier to say GOS. My partner Steve and I decided we were going to do pigs. I had just retired from being a vegetarian for health reasons, and I have this ecologist boyfriend, and we wanted to give pigs a try that were light on the land, that weren’t so rooty and destructive on the land. We came up with a criteria list and we actually started out with a different breed. And when we got the Large Black, a heritage breed, and one of them was a mix with the GOS and we ended up saying, wait a minute, we really like this GOS. So Steve kind of backed down from farming, he got tired of it maybe five years into it … so I gave him permission to check out and I want full bore.

PBS Wisconsin: What was your farming experience prior to Dorothy’s Range?

Prusia: I was a vegetable farmer for a decade on the other side of Madison, in the Stoughton area at West Star Farm (now West Star Organics), which is a 40-acre organic farm and greenhouses.

PBS Wisconsin: How did you get involved with Soil Sisters?

Prusia: I moved out here to the Blanchardville area. It’s kind of neat. We have these two rentals that we do now for Air Bnb and farm stays, but we were landlords for a while while we figured out the Air BnB. We were interviewing candidates to live here and [one of them] scoped out our place and we all got along really well. She was like, “Hey, I think you’ll really enjoy this group of women. I’ll add you to our listserv.” I got on the email listserv, went to a potluck, and it just kind of snowballed. I got to know people down the road from me that I hadn’t known, and it was awesome sharing really good food with people who care about food and want to get stuff done and change the world.

PBS Wisconsin: Why is that kind of community important for farming?

Prusia: It’s really important because infrastructure isn’t done alone and we need a local resilient infrastructure for our food. One person can’t do it all. We all have different assets we can toss into the recipe for resiliency. It takes a diverse group of people to make things happen, and I think where one of us maybe is lacking, there’s another Soil Sister who is good. When you have a diverse collection of people, then you’re going to bring different skillsets and different assets to the table. That’s big.

I feel really blessed. I have a lot of gratitude that I found a community that is so supportive of all of the good things that are important to me.

PBS Wisconsin: What’s the variety of things the Soil Sisters farm and produce?

Prusia: Meat, vegetables, herbs, fabric. We have an entomologist who has discovered a couple new insects. Again, we all have different assets. Mushrooms. Compost maker. We’ve got it all. All sorts of stuff.

PBS Wisconsin: What was your visit with Inga like?

Prusia: It was pretty easy to show off the farm, pretty easy to talk with Inga. She’s interested. She had a lot of questions about the prairie and it’s always fun to talk plants and food with people.

PBS Wisconsin: How do you think shows like Around the Farm Table help support the local food movement?

Prusia: It’s a fun way to give a sneak peek at what’s happening in Wisconsin agriculture. It’s an entertaining way to see what’s happening out there. I think it also helps the places she visits, it gives them exposure and helps their business. I’m sure it helps hers as well. It’s unique. You’re going to learn and experience something different with each episode.

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