One of the most astonishing and wonderful things I’ve observed in my years of being a part of the local food movement is the inter-connectedness.
One of my favorite examples of this begins in Baltimore Maryland. In 2010, I was speaking, for the first time, at the National Women in Agriculture Conference, a gathering of the Extension Risk Management Education professional organization. Their role is to work though land grant universities to provide ongoing education and support to farmers. They work primarily with conventional commodity farmers (the vast majority of farmers in our country). I was there to tell them about this tiny, (but growing!) little sub set of farmers who were doing things differently; not only raising a wide variety of food, but connecting directly with the people who eat it.
I expected to be a bit of an outlier there, but I’ve always thought that it’s important to engage everyone who will listen in this conversation about reforming our food system and if they were willing to give me a microphone, I was happy to tell them my story.
To my happy surprise I was not the only voice for sustainable agriculture there! There was one other! Lisa Kivirist was there talking about “eco-preneuring” – creating new businesses that are environmentally friendly.
Lisa and I sat together on the bus taking us to Washington DC for events at the USDA on the final day of the conference, and shared our stories over a box lunch.
We had an extraordinary amount in common: both from the Midwest (she’s from WI), both had left conventional white collar careers to start our own family business, both homeschooled our sons, the list went on. By the end of that day we parted fast friends.
A few months later when we received an invitation to their family’s annual 4th of July reunion I packed our tent and a somewhat skeptical family and headed up to WI.
I came to learn that Lisa is the Kevin Bacon of the Midwest sustainable food world – she is connected to everyone. Through her I’ve met and worked with many extraordinary people, and I’ve connected her to my network here in Illinois; truly a mutually beneficial relationship!
That box lunch certainly wasn’t slow and it wasn’t very good, but it was a shared meal and that’s a great place for bonds to form.
So as we continued raising animals and boys and running our Meat CSA, I continued to look for opportunities to help other farmers and raise my voice for local foods.