What do women transforming our food system and pizza have in common? More than we might think at first glance. While at its core level, pizza serves as food, fuel to make our bodies run, there are all sorts of other layers of opportunity to make a statement and create something beyond processed pizza box borders. Where did the ingredients come from? How is the pizza prepared? What environment are you eating this meal in: rushed in the car out of a sack or sitting at your family table?
Such questions fuel the increasing number of women launching farms and food-based business ventures with missions much deeper than just profit. These female ecopreneurs see their businesses—from launching new farms to starting pizza businesses (see sidebar) as a means to blend their passion for good food with a livelihood that’s also a means to change our world. Conscious thought goes into the detail behind these farms and businesses, along with a vibrant love for what they do that shows in every tomato slice.
Such inspiring stories of women farmers and food-based entrepreneurs along with ideas and resources for launching your own enterprise will be showcased at an upcoming free seminar on Wednesday, September 29th at 7:00pm in the Community Room. Facilitated by the Rural Women’s Project, a venture of the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), this “Planting Fresh Seeds: Resources, Opportunities & Inspiration for Women Farmers and ECOpreneurs” seminar connects women passionate about organic, local, healthy food with start-up ideas and resources to make your food and farming dream a reality. The seminar, co-sponsored by the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC) and the Wisconsin Farmers Union, is free to attend but pre-registration is required by stopping by Customer Service or calling 251-6776.
“Women are the changemakers and play a critical role in transforming our food system,” explains Faye Jones, Executive Director at MOSES. “Whether you’re a seasoned woman farmer or just starting to explore creating a business around your passion for good, healthy food, the ‘Planting Fresh Seeds’ workshop connects area women and sparks new collaborations and ideas.”
Here are three starter tips for women to collectively revolutionize the way we feed our families, our world and ourselves:
1. Support Women Farmers
The number of women farmers increased nationally, nearly thirty percent according to the latest U.S. Department of Agriculture’s census. More than 40% of these women are under 55 years old, a movement that can start to reverse the aging trend of the American farmer. Wisconsin ranks among the top ten states in the country for farms operated by women, increasing 25 percent from 2002 to 2007.
“The collaborative support MACSAC farmer members share with each other as a community of growers helps support these increasing numbers of women farmers,” adds Gini Knight, Community Program Manager for MACSAC and a beginning farmer herself, running Sweet Magnolia Farm outside Madison. “People increasingly want to use their food dollars to support farmers who share these values of prioritizing fresh, healthy, safe food and care about what’s on their family’s plate.”
2. Champion New Food Ventures
Another trend exists alongside this increase in women farmers: women launching new businesses. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, for the past two decades, businesses owned by women continue to grow at two times the rate of all companies. Women passionate about food see the business side as an ideal way to blend their values with their livelihood.
Co-op Owner Jen Lynch, along with her husband, Scott, and daughter Evie, took the foodie entrepreneurial plunge this past summer and launched La Fortuna Pizza, a mobile wood-fired pizza business that features local ingredients, vending at area events like the Verona, Capitol View and Fitchburg Farmers’ Markets, festivals and private catering events.
“The business enables my family and me to connect the important dots in our lives which stem from our love of good food and working with area farmers we know well to providing healthy, yummy food options at community events and parties,” explains Lynch. “By running my own business, I can research and control all my inputs and ingredients, from the tomatoes to the cheese, and can share these stories with our customers. I also love the fact that my family and I can do this side by side.”
3. Cultivate Community
These women passionate about food realize and embrace the fact that nothing happens in isolation; their passion for changing our food system roots in connections to other people and the world around us.
“My farm and business mean much more to me than just a way to earn a paycheck and living,” comments Adrienne Caldwell, who runs Powerkraut from her organic farm in Viroqua, specializing in hand-producing delicious, nourishing cultured food and fermented foods. Powerkraut sauerkrauts and kimchi are available at the Co-op. “Powerkraut is a deep social calling for me, a means to help others reconnect with the joy of healthy food in their lives.” Many ecopreneurs like Caldwell take an active role in improving healthy food access in their local communities; fueled by a commitment to children, Caldwell pioneered Wisconsin’s first 100% organic hot lunch program. Caldwell also helps support the sustainable agriculture message by serving as a farmer spokesperson for FARM (Farm & Agriculture Resources for Media), a project of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) that helps champion the farmer voice in the media. A free media training toolkit and resources for farmers and food entrepreneurs is available on the NSAC site.
“This cooperative spirit of women in agriculture sends a strong message to both our Wisconsin state legislature and Capitol Hill that we need support for new visions and ideas for an agriculture system that steward our planet,” sums up Kara Slaughter, Government Relations Director with the Wisconsin Farmers Union and collaborator on the September 29th seminar. “By sharing our experiences, challenges, successes and resources, together we can change not only what’s on our plate today, but the health of our children and rural communities for future generations.”
Lisa Kivirist is the MOSES Rural Women’s Project Director and is co-author of the award-winning book ECOpreneuring and Rural Renaissance. She and her family run Inn Serendipity Farm and B&B outside Monroe, completely powered by renewable energy. Lisa will be facilitating the September 29th “Planting Fresh Seeds” workshop at the Co-op; feel free to e-mail her with any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES): www.mosesorganic.org
- Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition (MACSAC): www.macsac.org
- Wisconsin Farmers Union: www.wisconsinfarmersunion.com
- Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN): www.wfan.org
- National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC): www.sustainableagriculture.net
- Ecopreneuring by Lisa Kivirist & John Ivanko; www.ecopreneuring.biz