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Although it hasn’t always been true for me, farming is now a way of life that I have quite comfortably woven my life around. I eat, sleep and breathe farm life. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that we work hard, and with God’s grace are able to produce clean quality food that will feed many families.
Our crop variety and production as well as the meat we supply, rotate with the markets in an ever changing way that not even we understand at times. But one thing remains a constant: my Farmer who was born on and raised as a farmer on this homestead has always known what to do and how to do it.
It’s not a secret in our tight group of friends that should the Farmer pass away first, I would not be able to run the farm the same way he does. Even though I am involved in so much of what goes on and the decisions made, without him, I couldn’t even pretend things wouldn’t have to change.
I don’t know what he does. I don’t know who he does. I don’t always know where to find the answers he does. Quite simply, I am physically much different than he is, and will never be able to do what he does.
As we enjoy middle-age, we have tried to come up with a plan in case this scenario were to come true. For a few years now we have been unable to come up with anything solid.
Back in April, I contacted a very lovely lady from the office of Soil Sisters (A Toolkit For Women Farmers) and asked if this might be a resource that I would find helpful. Indeed, she thought it would not only be beneficial, but also offered up a copy for me to review as well as one to give away to one of you.
Soil Sisters: A Toolkit For Women Farmers
Soil Sisters is a 217 page resource designed to encourage and empower the woman who dreams of owning and/or running her own farm. In it, you will find inspiration, examples, and many pictures that highlight various women and their farm journeys, and personal opinions.
Soil Sisters was written in a way that it would be useful to many women all of whom may be focusing on a wide variety of different farm ideas. There are many sections of highly valuable information that are relevant to men and women alike. I found myself reading many parts of it out loud to my (farmer) husband (especially historical and organic related facts) at many points.
Author Lisa Kivirist does an excellent job with her unique penmanship to write in such a way that this resource can be read front to back, but also as a book you will want to keep in your informational go-to section in your personal library. Aside from introductions, epilogue, index, etc., the book is divided into four main sections.
The History of Farming
Part 1 of Soil Sisters is all about the history of farming (in a condensed version) and picturing yourself as a farmer.
The historical view focuses mainly on points in history where women were woven into (and sometimes out of) the agricultural world. We see where women stepped up to a much needed position to feed our families and the nation, how it all happened, and are left with a sense of pride in our foresisters.
We also see the struggles and consequential fall of family farms and women from the agricultural world. Indeed a very powerful event in the early 1980s that caused our family to loose a large section of our own family farm is even mapped out in these pages. Where this humble family farm just saw life as changing and ourselves on a loosing end of a small piece in history, the pages of Soil Sisters brought it to public recognition. Even though this has been a painful event for our family, reading Lisa’s words gave me a new sense of pride–this family farm mattered enough to be a tiny piece of history that earned recognition.
Moving forward, Lisa offers powerful words that leave you encouraged to be a farmer (not just a female) in these times where food is engineered in laboratories and small family farms are sometimes ignored in their efforts to grow clean, wholesome foods in a world intimidated by large money-hungry GMO producers.
Her words are not simply some feminist rally of screaming ugly labels at “the other guy” but really well-worded food to feed your soul to yearn for growing a good life. Once you see that you matter and the goals you make matter and that you have a powerful footprint should you choose to, she really moves on to all the things you need to know–and possibly some things you didn’t know you needed to know.
Building Your Farm Knowledge
Part 2 focuses on building your knowledge base. Attention is given to defining agricultural-specific vernacular, and facts about the “organic” label use. This 2016 publication points out current trends in case you aren’t sure where to jump in, and even some tips on getting started finding land.
Specific resources are given in a section devoted to loans, grants, and crowdfunding. Over and over in this guide, websites, books, and specific departments are listed for you to be able to go right where you need to get the information you need.
Farms and Finance
Once you have a plan laid out, or you are ready to expand, part 3 helps you to figure out the finances–because a farm isn’t free. (Or is it?) Lisa leaves you information about government departments to talk to specifically about farm grants for women, tips on how to write your proposal, and basically how to go about finding the money to start your operation.
Once you’ve got your farm, you’ll need to know about all the agricultural laws, insurances you’ll need, and how to set your farm up as a company for your own protection. This guide gives you the basics you need to make those decisions and sends you toward the resources you’ll need to set all that up.
Information is given on cottage laws, farm stays, agritourism, workshops, independent contract projects, farm-to-table meals, and risk management. Although not a complete encyclopedia, Lisa points you in the direction you want to go and gives you pointers on what to look out for.
Business-planning Boot Camp gives you an overview of planning your business, marketing, using current technology to build your farm, and then getting down to it.
Chapter 8 specifically applies to women. How to take care of your body, where to find tools formatted for the female form, and where to find work clothes tough enough for a man, but fitting to a woman.
Cultivating Healthy Mind, Body, and Soul
Part 4 is information uniquely for women. It will not resonate with all women, but if you feel “left out” of the farm world (as a woman), then this section may be highly encouraging for you. It is a collection of tips for you to “fit in” if you feel you don’t. I can honestly say that I will likely not re-read part 4.
I believe that my experiences in traveling around the world on various medical missions have helped me to appreciate all the unique differences in people everywhere. I am amazed at different personalities and values. I love and value people who are different–and probably because of this, I am comfortable and secure with who I am–and who I am not. I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anyone, and I’m not worried about how other people view me.
However, I understand that there are women who feel they are treated or viewed unfairly. For those women, section 4 will offer encouragement. Tips are given on how to communicate with men, fitting in, finding your local tribe (other female farmers), and integrating family and kids into your work.
Various women share their stories about fitting in and even give tips on how to go about doing that. If you feel isolated, or the need to fit in, then I would highly suggest reading a few pages of advice from Lindsey Morris Carpenter in this section. Lindsey recognizes that she is different from her neighbors, and gives very sound advice on how to deal with it. I can say that I agree with much (if not all) of what she has to say in this section.
If your dream is to start a farm, or you are wondering where to go from here, then this resource is highly valuable. It will tell you where to go to get information on financing, agricultural laws, and insurance needs. It gives many ideas on how to utilize your farm in non-traditional ways.
My personal goal was to figure out a plan on what I would do with our farm if I suddenly found myself a widow. After a couple years of brainstorming, I can definitely say that I have a better set of options before me now.
Many books will give you dreams, or even feed the dreams you already have. This book will help you accomplish those dreams. It will give you a place to start, and a direction to head. When you reach a fork in the road, it will help you choose which path to take.
You Need A Copy Of Soil Sisters
If you are a woman with a farming dream, then no matter what stage you are at in your farming, you need the information found in these pages. When life changes, you’ll need a quick resource for options. When natural disasters have you puzzled as to your next step, ideas will flow from these pages.
Men will also find helpful information in Soil Sisters, even if not all the sections apply.
List price is $24.99, and although it is available for Kindle, I firmly believe this is a book that you will want a hard copy of. I can’t say it enough–the information in these pages is valuable.
I Want To Give You A Copy
Actually, I want to give all of you a copy, but alas, the lovely ladies at Soil Sisters have graciously offered to give one of you your own copy. If you want to start or build your homestead, this book is for you. If you want to start or build a farm or a bed and breakfast this book is for you. If you are a married couple with the dream of growing your own, selling raw milk, marketing your own honey, or any of a million other homestead dreams, this book is for you. Men–your wives need this book.
Please, take a minute to enter to win a copy.
Fine print: Winner will be drawn at random via the Rafflecopter (which I have no control of). Winner must be 18 and reside in the United States. Once drawn, the winner will be notified via the email address entered and have 72 hours to claim their prize and provide their valid shipping address. If winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new winner will be chosen. Neither myself nor Soil Sisters will be responsible for books that are misplaced in the mail. Should the address you provide be unable to receive the package, you forfeit your entry so please make sure you are able to receive the package before you claim your prize and provide your address–I only have one book to send and no more. The winner’s first name and last initial will be published on this site, on Grace Garden And Homestead’s social media, as well as provided to Soil Sisters. Your privacy is important to me and no personal information (including your email and physical address) will be shared with anyone. Prize is one book: Soil Sisters: A Toolkit For Women Farmers, a $24.99 value.
I was given a copy of this book (and one to give away) in exchange for my honest review. All opinions contained in this review are 100% my own. Thank you Soil Sisters for this opportunity–may your book be a blessing and inspiration to many.