Every summer during the first weekend of August, rural New Glarus, Blanchardville, Brooklyn, Monroe and Brodhead come alive with a frenzy of activities on farms and in restaurants celebrating the women who grow local food.
Soil Sisters weekend is a three-day culinary event focused on female farmers and rural life that sweeps across four counties. With workshops on everything from painting barn wood signs to making pesto, opportunities to dine on farms or in local farm-to-table restaurants and a full day of farm tours and fields walks, there is something for everyone. Families, friends, aspiring farmers and city dwellers all head to the country to experience a piece of southern Wisconsin’s rural life.
There are dozens of ways to participate in this collaborative weekend of farms, food and rural Wisconsin, but here are some ways to involved:
1. Mingle with female farmers and learn what it takes to start your own farming business at Circle M Market Farm.
Every year, the Soil Sisters weekend kicks off with an all-day intensive workshop on a female-owned farm. This year guests will find themselves in the rolling hills of rural Blanchardville on Kriss Marion’s magical, diversified farming operation. Co-sponsored by the Rural Women’s Project of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), this event is part of a broader series aptly named “In Her Boots.” For women who dream of owning their own farm or on-farm business one day, there is no place better to spend a Friday. A panel of female farmers will share their experiences and advice for beginning farmers before the group breaks into smaller discussions based on interest and expertise. Topics to be covered include organic certification, time management, self-care and farm-life balance, livestock for meat and fiber, farm diversification and value-added products. Aug. 4
2. Taste the flavors of Green County at Cow & Quince.
For those who haven’t made the trip to New Glarus to check out this innovative farm-to-table restaurant yet, now’s your chance. In a beautiful historic building that was formerly a grocery store, Cow & Quince serves up locally sourced fare in a casual atmosphere. Lori stern is the owner and farmer behind the restaurant, which will be open throughout the Soil Sisters weekend (from 9:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday), but one of the real highlights is the Friday evening event “Taste of Place” from 6-8 p.m. Diners mingle with some of the Soil Sisters who also happen to be featured on a special tasting menu. Stern is excited to give guests the opportunity to “come meet our local farming community and connect with the faces behind [their] food.” Advanced tickets are required. Aug. 4-6
3. Meet colorful heritage sheep and learn all about wool at Bluffwood Landing.
A woman of many lives and many talents, Linda Dee Derrickson of Bluffwood Landing worked as a nutritionist in the Peace Corps, operated Sunporch Café & Restaurant in Madison and launched a successful bed and breakfast all before moving to Monticello three years ago. Now she enjoys a simpler life, raising rare breeds (Jacob, Tunis and CVM Romaldale) of sheep, managing her gardens and keeping up a fiber business on her woodsy, hill-top bluff farm. You will be enthralled as she weaves stories and songs into her workshops “Steeped in Sheep” offered on both Friday and Saturday afternoons. Workshop attendees will learn about fencing, grazing, breeding, lambing and culling as well as wool processing and crafts from a truly remarkable woman. Aug. 4-5
4. Shake cocktails using local ingredients from Raleigh’s Hillside Farm
At this hilltop farm, there’s a merging of generations. Soil Sister Lauren Rudersdorf leases land from her parents on a homestead that has been in her family for four generations. What has been farmed conventionally for decades is slowly being transitioned into organic CSA vegetable production by Rudersdorf and her husband. From 1-3 p.m. on Friday, you can spend the afternoon wandering through the farm fields, harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs, and then muddling your findings into cocktails. Chad Vogel of The Barmadillo will pull up his mobile cocktail bar alongside the greenhouse and teach workshop attendees how to craft and shake cocktails using farm fresh ingredients and local distilled spirits. Aug. 4
5. Try your hand at cheesemaking with Landmark Creamery.
The women behind Landmark Creamery, Anna Landmark and Anna Thomas Bates, first met at the same casual potlucks that sprouted the inspiration for Soil Sisters many years ago. This fabulous duo has been experimenting with cheese together for more than four years now and have loads of knowledge to share. On Saturday from 9-11 a.m., guests can learn how to make cheese at home with a gallon of milk. The session takes place were Landmark Creamery all began: in Anna Landmarks’ kitchen at her farm Windy Fleece Farm outside of Albany. Attendees will experiment with mozzarella and feta as well as learn techniques for making yogurt and Alpine-style cheeses. Guests also get to take home their own home cheesemaking starter kit! Aug. 5
6. Enjoy pizza hot from the wood-fired oven at Inn Serendipity.
Where there’s a wood-fired oven, there’s sure to be a party. The wood-fired oven at Inn Serendipity is the latest addition to a slew of other fantastic sustainability features making this property as eco-friendly as it is beautiful. Pizza on the farm held from 4-8 p.m. on Saturday evening will be served picnic-style on the sprawling lawn. Guests are free to explore the gardens, listen to live music with the Magtones, relax in a “hammock village” or participate in a game of giant chess while waiting for pizza. All proceeds of the event benefit Soil Sisters. Tickets are required and selling out fast. Aug. 5
7. Learn how to make fizzy fermented beverages at Dorothy’s Range.
On 50 beautiful acres outside of Blanchardville, Soil Sister April Prusia raises heritage pork, feeders and breeding stock on pasture that is being restored and managed to the prairie that was thriving here pre-settlement. When the pigs and the pasture aren’t keeping her busy, Prusia goes wild with fermentation. A workshop on Friday will teach the basics, but folks wanting to dive a little deeper into the world of fermentation can attend “Fizzy Fermented Beverages” on Sunday from 9-11 a.m. Attendees will learn how to make kombucha, water kefir and ginger brew and take home samples of each. Bonus: Prusia still has rooms available in her on-farm guest rental. You can book through the farm’s website. Aug. 5-6
8. See what the life of a beginner farmer looks like at Winterfell Acres.
Bethanee Wright moved her farming operation to 40 acres of undeveloped land outside of Brooklyn in 2017 after running her organic vegetable operation on rented ground for three years. Buying land has been a dream come true for this beginner farmer. Wright is making a lot happen during this first year on new ground. In addition to feeding 90 families through a small CSA and managing several wholesale accounts off only 1.2 acres, she’s also working to establish a mixed fruit orchard on a corner of the property. During the Tour of Farms held from 11a.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday, you can stop out to Winterfell Acres and a handful of other area farms to wander freely and see what farm life really looks like. Aug. 6
Visit soilsisterswi.org for more details and to find links for ticketed events.
Editor’s Note: The author of this article, Lauren Rudersdorf is a Soil Sister and owns Raleigh’s Hillside Farm along with her husband, Kyle.