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Soil Sisters: Strong and secure in abundance and diversity
Kriss Marion
Kriss Marion

As the weather changes and the colors across our rolling hills and patchwork fields deepen, we celebrate the abundance and busyness of harvest season. Southwest Wisconsin is blessed with a rich diversity of agricultural operations, and this time of year we can see farmers of many kinds laboring across our landscape. Dust rises from soybean fields as the combines roll through, stripes are carved across hillsides as the corn comes in, panel trucks loaded with pumpkins lumber along the county highways, and our Farmers Markets fill up with fall favorites. Weaving through it all are the gentle cows that provide our signature product in every season. 

What a place to live, work, and play! As a founding member of the Soil Sisters, I’ve had the privilege for over a decade to witness personally some of the incredible hustle that goes into creating this diversity, and the camaraderie that supports it. Like the generations of farm families that came before us, we Soil Sisters are committed to helping each other succeed, even when we run businesses that compete with each other. We know that a thriving regional farm economy lifts all of us, and grows our business opportunities. 

I’m a great example. When my kids moved away and I decided to open a bed and breakfast on my organic vegetable farm in Blanchardville, Lisa Kivirist of Browntown’s Inn Serendipity welcomed me to spend a day and a night and a morning at her bed and breakfast to talk through how she ran her business. She taught me everything she knew. I opened my bed and breakfast, to great success, and I have helped five other hospitality operations open in and around Blanchardville. Whether my farm is published in a magazine, or Lisa’s is, or one of theirs is, the region is getting publicity and that helps every one of our businesses — and our Main Streets — get traffic. 

Recipe:  Maple Dunkers Cookies

Some of you may remember that back in 2017, three Soil Sisters won a lawsuit against the State of Wisconsin to revoke a ban on selling non-hazardous baked goods, like cookies. Kriss Marion was one of them and this is the cookie recipe she developed to promote the cause, featuring Wisconsin products.  She makes them with a Wisconsin-shaped cookie cutter.

For information on starting your bakery business out of your home kitchen in Wisconsin, see


2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk

1 tsp salt

3 cups flour (Meadowlark Organics Flour is a Soil Sister favorite)


Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in maple syrup, vanilla and egg yolk until combined well.

Sift together salt and flour over mixture and fold in thoroughly. Chill dough for about 15 minutes, then roll out on a floured surface and cut into shapes.

Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, but watch closely for browning. Allow to cool on racks.

Mix 2 tbsp maple syrup with as much powdered sugar as it takes to make a nice, thick glaze.

Drizzle over cookies and allow to set up before storing. Enjoy for up to a week in a covered container, or freeze for later use.

We think this collaborative ethic is one worth propagating in this modern age. With the exception of this year of COVID, the Soil Sisters bring thousands of people from other regions, states, and even countries to visit our farms every year and explore opportunities to make money on a piece of rural property. Every year after our August Soil Sisters Tour of Farms, we connect with families who have attended and are now looking for places to buy in the region and start their own farm enterprises. 

But of course, none of this innovation and collaboration will build a thriving farm economy without customers. Customers are always half of the farm balance sheet equation. For a regional farm economy to stay vibrant, customers have to be committed to their neighbors’ success. One of the silver linings of COVID is that consumers in Wisconsin rallied around their farmers, and rediscovered local sources for many things they’d grown accustomed to buying from large out-of-town stores. Hopefully, that interest will continue when COVID is gone. 

This is truly a blessed land of milk and honey — of commodity producers and cottage food makers, of cheese factories and cookie ladies. This season, take some moments to appreciate the privilege of living in an agricultural community of such diversity, strength and potential. Make a plan to support more local farmers in 2021, and play a part in building a more strong and secure local economy. As local cheese artisan Andy Hatch of Uplands Cheese Company said in a recent interview on Wisconsin Foodie, “Use us, or lose us.” Please enjoy a Maple Dunker with coffee or whiskey and raise a toast to our hard-working farmers of every stripe — from Soil Sisters to soybean brothers and everything in between.

— Kriss Marion runs Circle M Farm, a field to table bed and breakfast in Blanchardville, Wisconsin and serves as a Lafayette County Supervisor. Soil Sisters 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. A program of Renewing the Countryside, the next Soil Sisters weekend of workshops, tours and culinary events will be Aug. 6-9, 2021.