When Lisa Kivirist and her husband John Ivanko moved from their corporate jobs in Chicago to a farmstead outside Monroe, Wisconsin, they knew little about farming but a lot about themselves.
"We moved out of what was then a congested and isolating environment to one where we could connect with the land, people and our values," Lisa says. Sustainability in their farming practices and their lives was a priority.
"When we saw the stars and reconnected with the seasons, things started to happen," she says. "Change sparks change.
"Spiritually, we began to savor abundance. When we had apples, we ate apples. When we had zucchini, we developed new recipes for using it. When we noticed how windy it is, we captured that wind for electricity," Lisa says.
Increasing numbers of women are making the same kind of change. The number of women farmers nationally increased nearly 30%, according to the latest USDA agriculture census, with the majority launching organic and sustainable operations.
"Women value healthy food for their families and also value the soil and labor that produces it. They're connecting a lot of dots," Lisa says.
Among Lisa's other ventures is the Rural Women's Project, Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast--named one of the top l0 eco-destinations in North America--and a series of books, including her latest, Farmstead Chef (see blurb to the right).
How does she sustain such a full life?
"That's a good question," she says. Here are a few of her tips and observations:
* "When we shifted from the corporate environment, we needed not to be so reliant on a paycheck. We realized that the less we needed financially, the more freedom we had to choose the life we wanted."
* "When you're not putting on pantyhose every morning and driving a long commute, you free up new resources," she adds.
* That frugality led to a rekindling of interest in cooking and other ways of saving money. She cooks more, buys in bulk and plans her menus carefully to take advantage of seasonal foods.
* "You need to organize for seasonality. If you're going to have pizza three nights from now, that means taking the tomatoes out of the freezer today. I've learned to enjoy preparing to cook as much as cooking," she says.
Lisa's work also champions the voice of women in agriculture through such programs as Plate to Politics.
"Although more women are growing food, our numbers don't equate to having a significant voice in politics. If we had a seat at the table, we'd have fresher, more affordable food," she said.
How can urban women support this movement?
"Women control household purchases and have economic power. Increasingly they have options to buy local, affordable food through farmers' markets and CSAs," she says.
Lisa and John's description of themselves at their Inn Serendipity website sums up their diverse and rich lifestyle:
"Conservationist-author-innkeeper-student-teacher-spouse-muffin baker-bioneer...While we wear many different hats, we're both fueled by passion and commitment to leave this planet a better place."