From an article by Gregg Hoffman on

Women are playing a more active role than ever in sustainable agriculture and the sustainability field overall, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Several of those women gathered at the Organic Valley Country Fair recently in a forum called “Planting fresh seeds: How women are transforming sustainability.”

“The USDA reported a 30 percent increase in women-owned farms,” said Lisa Kivirist, a Kellogg Food & Society Policy Fellow who headed the forum. “Many of these women are in their 40s and 50s, and farming as a second career. They often have roots in agriculture and are returning to them.”

Not all have the roots in farming though. For example, Kivirist and her husband, John Ivanko, were involved in advertising in Chicago and decided they wanted to make a change.

Kivirist runs a farm with her husband, south of Monroe. They also run the Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast on the farm. It is completely powered by renewable energy and recently was named one of the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America.”

The inn is named, in part, because of what Kivirist refers to as the “serendipitous diversification” that has been a key to her progress in building a sustainable business and lifestyle. When things have happened, she has adapted.

“For example, when our laundry kept getting blown off the line, we said, ‘it’s windy here’ and decided to put in wind power,” she Kivirist said.

Sustainable agriculture is a natural for women in several ways, Kivirist said. Women across the U.S. are the main food purchasers. Globally, women raise more than 80 percent of the food, while owning in many countries less than 1 percent of the land.

Aimee Witteman used her roots in central Wisconsin to build a career in sustainable agriculture policy. She recently served as executive director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in Washington D.C. and was extensively involved in the 2008 Farm Bill debate.

“If you’re interested in connecting humans with nature, agriculture is a natural,” said Witteman, who has returned to the Midwest. “Public policy can be a step toward becoming one with place. We have work to do on those policies.”