Over a decade ago when the first handful of Soil Sisters met for a potluck on a chilly winter evening, I never would have imagined all the friendships, creativity and opportunities that would grow out of this group of amazing souls. In the spirit of kindness, cooperation and collaboration friendships blossom, mutual support is strong. Soil Sisters are living proof.
The heartbeat of our group of Soil Sisters has been in gathering, in sharing meals together and deeply communicating together about the simple joys and serious issues we experience. For over a year now, Covid has stopped our joyful gatherings. We’ve tried zooming but virtual gatherings painfully lack the energy and spirit of our noisy in person events, not to mention the amazing shared meals. I’ve grieved the loss of our tribal gatherings but upon deeper reflection I marvel at the continued spirit and energy of the mighty Soil Sisters Tribe. This diverse group of women span decades of ages and experiences and we are all good friends.
Throughout the past year ideas, dreams and new plans have continued percolating within our group as we navigated through living in a pandemic that has upended everyone’s lives. Marketing brought many new challenges to Soil Sister’s businesses but these creative minds found new ways to get food to customers.
It’s been obvious this past year there are many glitches in our corporate driven food system and that true food security comes with buying as much as we can locally. It has been so heartening to see my friends’ innovative ideas put into action to feed others in this time of crisis. Soil Sisters businesses including CSA farms filled quickly and a pandemic safety protocol was implemented. Restaurants, shops and meat producers pivoted to new safer and better systems for delivering their products. A women-led local meat processing cooperative has formed and the ladies running Driftless Tannery can’t keep up with demand. We need to continue to embrace local initiatives because there is no predicting when the next crisis will come. We should be prepared within our local communities to have the resources we need.
During this past year I’ve been working closely with three Soil Sisters, FL Morris, Danielle Matson, Danielle Dockery, and Soil Sib, Arlo Paust, to start a new cooperative. After many months of hard work making business plans and a pilot trial run, The Community Kitchen Cooperative (CKC) is finally a fledgling reality. We have started a worker/producer co-op of kitchen staff and local farmers united to provide our community of eaters delicious and nutritious prepared meals with add-on products of bakery, preserved foods, dairy and more.
We are creating a transparent local system that will hopefully become a model for other communities. CKC will benefit local family farms who farm sustainably in our communities. These farms will provide wholesome, fresh, high quality products to our skilled chefs. The chefs then will create amazing meals and preserve food for the winter months for the people who live in our communities and want to be members of this enterprise. All this will be offered by monthly subscription like the Community Supported Agriculture model for fresh produce. Weekly orders will be delivered to drop sites and homes in our local area.
As a CSA vegetable farmer for many years, I’ve learned the importance, indeed the necessity of building good compost to grow good crops. Putting together what looks like waste, insignificant natural residue and even some poop into a properly built pile will become gold richly nourishing the soil and sequestering carbon. With care and patience, one waits for the magic to happen and it does. That magic compost heals and nourishes worn out soil not only feeding the plants in the garden but growing microbial life in the soil. Everything working together in a healthy system for the good of the whole.
I like to think of our Soil Sisters as magical compost. We are a rich blend of spirits that come together to nourish and enrich each other working in consort to support new efforts and ideas. There is no doubt that cooperation within our community has brought wonderful positive results. Working together, not in opposition or competition makes us all stronger, happier, better. Each new enterprise enriches our community and makes it more vibrant. Our Soil Sisters group continues to expand even in a pandemic. What exciting new ventures will we grow next?
To find out more about the Community Kitchen Cooperative visit our website:
— Dela Ends lives in Brodhead and serves as clerk for Spring Valley Township. She has owned and operated Scotch Hill Farm with her husband since 1994 and Innisfree Farmstay B&B since 2019. A leader in the organic farming community, Ends serves on the board for the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) and serves as plaintiff in the successful lawsuit making it legal to sell home baked goods in Wisconsin. Soil Sisters, a program of Renewing the Countryside, connects and champions women in the Green County area committed to sustainable and organic agriculture, land stewardship, local food, family farms and healthy and economically vibrant rural communities.