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Soil Sisters: Building community resilience through connections
danielle matson

Moving can be a lonely endeavor. When I moved to Monroe in 2017, I knew no one. My husband was offered a job at New Glarus Brewery Company and we took the opportunity. We moved with our three sons to a community where we knew no one. 

But our house knew them. This house has history, a history that makes people trust the new owners before even meeting them. “Oh, that place!” was a common reaction when I first started going to the Soil Sisters potlucks. Our house came with a big, bountiful garden that is disproportionately large for being in town. It also had a legacy of owners that were very much supportive of the ideas behind the sustainability and local food values of Soil Sisters.

I was fortunate to connect to the women in our rural community through Soil Sisters early on. At the first few meetings I was often asked, “What brings you to the potlucks?” I did not know how to answer. Why was I at these events? What is it that brought me into this community?

I am not a farmer. I am a baker by trade, currently splitting time between The House Cafe and Bakery in New Glarus and the Community Kitchen Co-op in Monticello, where I make all the baked goods for the bakery and dessert shares. 

At first, it was easy to feel like an outsider in this community. I had this garden that helped to get me in the door, but it wasn’t the same as being a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farmer growing on acres of land. But that didn’t matter to anyone at the Soil Sisters. They welcome anyone wanting to do better by each other and the land. I’m sure my yummy baked goods helped keep the invitations coming, though!

Meeting other members of the Soil Sisters has created many opportunities for me over the years. At my first potluck, I showed up with my two-month-old baby. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many motherly figures. They held Ronan as I ate dinner and shared my passions with these women who had welcomed me with open arms. That is where I got my first job offer. The owner of Cow & Quince was attending and was in need of a baker at her restaurant.

This was my first step into a larger community. Cow & Quince was an excellent avenue to meet people and make connections. It gave me the opportunity to grow Community Kitchen Co-op together with other Soil Sisters. It was where I met the owner of The House Cafe and Bakery.

The Soil Sisters have taught me to look within your community to find what you are searching for. Chances are your neighbors down the street or across the county know how to find it. We are always there for each other — be it for farm sitting, a home cooked meal in times of need, or a good laugh or two. Building relationships within the community brings resiliency to the community. It allows us to weather the storms together.

This community of women as rural women do: we are always looking out for one another. Always wanting to raise each other up and see each other succeed. It really is a beautiful thing. 

— Danielle Matson is a home school mama of three boys, a baker at The House Cafe and Bakery, and founding member of Community Kitchen Co-op, see: 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.