By April Prusia, Co-Owner/Operator of Dorothy’s Range
Soil Sisters is a network of more than 150 Wisconsin women farmers who offer each other support, collaboration, and community. One of those women is April Prusia, who runs Dorothy’s Range, offering heritage pork, feeders and breeding stock as well as a farm experience with overnight rentals. The farm includes 50 acres with four buildings, a trout stream, ephemeral wildlife pond, tall grass prairie, upland short grass prairie, burr oak savannah, sedge meadow, a pig pasture, and large gardens.
During the upcoming Soil Sisters weekend, running August 3-5, April will be hosting two workshops: “Morning Coffee Talk & Chores,” during which she takes guests on an up-close-and-personal tour of her morning farm chores, and “Fizzy Fermented Beverages,” where she’ll share her passion for all things fermented and teaching folks how to DIY their own water kefir, kombucha, and ginger brew. April also hosts the Farm-to-Table Dinner on August 4 featuring an intimate “Farrow to Fork” dining experience featuring April’s heritage pastured pork served around the community table under the rustic lofted barn beams.
Read on for April’s reflections and ideas on being a farmer and cultivating her local Soil Sisters network, wrapping up with her favorite way to celebrate summer abundance: kale salad!
How did you first know you wanted to be a farmer?
My farm story roots in some “accidental manifestation,” proving once again that things happen when the moment is right and ripe. I left the West Coast almost ten years ago stating one thing: “I am moving back to the Midwest to plant roots.” At that point in time, I wasn’t planning on being a farmer. My palate and my ethics gave me the impetus to first try on the farmers hat while I was seeking a more expected career given my educational background, like working for the DNR or perhaps a position with an environmental activist group.
I kept going back to a big part of what I learned in my years of environmental studies: food is powerful. Not only does it nourish us, and our communities, but it also has the potential to heal us, and bring families and communities together.
I can say that once I started growing food on a larger scale it became somewhat addictive. I wanted to apply what I learned to the next crop or the next season, and once you start down that road I think you are officially committed to being a farmer for a while.
My grandparents were farmers, as most of our grandparents were. My generation was the first to be removed from the art and practice of growing food. It’s not too far gone to get this back. I actually believe it is still in our DNA and genes, because once you start building relationships with plants, you start to make connections and recognize patterns. The whole process becomes somewhat natural, like breathing, except more breathtaking, once you fully experience the beauty in those fields.
How did you first connect with the Soil Sisters group?
I connected with the Soil Sisters as most women do: through another woman farmer in our area, farmer Lindsay Morris Carpenter of Grassroots Farm. I attended my first potluck and I still clearly remember that evening. I remember leaving there giddy thinking, “I am so blessed!” I met some of my coolest neighbors, like Sarah Kyrie who raises mushrooms, and other amazing women in our area. This was a sweet moment. I was hungry for community and female friends.
Becoming a part of the Soil Sisters event was the push for me to get the catering license. I had been wanting to do that and thinking about doing it for a while. Committing to hosting the Farm-to-Table Dinner for Soil Sisters gave me a deadline, and I knew my female farmer friends had my back and would help me through. That’s something we are really good at: commitment to one another in supporting each other to reach our goals.
Why do you think it is important for women farmers to support each other?
We as woman have a rich history and a history of supporting one another. It is only natural that we would support each other. Our jobs as farmers, put us in a unique situation as females, trying to navigate a male dominated subject. Our voices are not as prevalent and too often not respected.
We women share a lot of information, from local tidbits to the more important wisdom. Wisdom is different and can only be cultivated threw experience. We empower each other, and with that we rise each other up as well as our local economy and our rural communities. When we invest in each other we are investing in a greater cause and with that, a greater outcome.
How have you benefited from knowing other women farmers and participating in Soil Sisters?
In addition to the push to do get the necessary licensing to host the Farm-to-Table Dinner, this local network supported me to start my farmstay rentals. We have several women running farmstays in our area, such as Lori Stern and LeAnn Powers at Lucky Dog Farmstay and Kriss Marion at Circle M Farm, all of whom were so supportive and have helped me navigate the start-up.
Also, thanks to the encouragement of the women farmers I know, I’ve become much more involved locally in policy, in big thanks to how we are all so connected with the Wisconsin Farmers Union. My love for the Farmers Union grew through attending lobby days, State Convention and the National Women’s Conference in San Diego, collectively opening my eyes to how policy happens and how people of different walks and crops can find common ground and support, engage, learn, explore and meet in the middle to come up with strong policies. Thanks to the Farmers Union, I have a voice that can be heard and amplified by my fellow union members.
Why do you personally think local women farmer networks like Soil Sisters local network work so well? What makes them “click?”
Our potlucks and that gathering to share food create such an inclusive vibe. Many of us feel far out there and this brings us together in good company and we feel safe, which is an amazing resource to have. I also think it clicks because it is women without the distractions of males for an evening. When men are present it can bring another energy in. Don’t get me wrong I love our “dirt dudes,” and they make so much of what we do possible. Again, this goes back to traditional gathering times and spaces. There is something rich that forms when woman create the opportunity to engage in a safe space.
What advice would you give a woman from another area looking to create something like we have here? What would be a first step?
Food brings people together. Organize a potluck! Rotate the location, don’t have the gatherings at the same space if you can. Be inclusive while really thinking about who lives around you or what common ground you might have. Bring a couple committed woman together and then start inviting folks. Think about others and who might blend well to form a network. Remember that it’s not just about you, it’s about building a community.
I’ve learned networking is a skill and it is important to recognize everyone’s strengths while accepting their weaknesses. That will bring diversity and likely provide all the building blocks necessary to a great community. We all have weaknesses, but rather than putting energy there, instead recognize and actually complement each other’s skills and positive attributes. If we can all point out and feed our strengths, our community will gain power, wisdom and this will advance us all. There is no need to feel competitive or that there is not enough. Instead we must remember there is plenty, and it’s a matter of cultivating the market and the community. That will bring us all the riches.
Kale Salad by April Prusia of Dorothy’s Range
2 bunches of kale
¼ teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 to 2 lemons (depending on their juiciness)
3-5 garlic cloves, finely diced
- Remove the large stems from the kale and pull apart into small pieces.
- Massage in salt, lemon and garlic.
- Play with the kale and massage a little more: squeeze it, and rip at it a bit more. Let it stand for 10 minutes and come back toss it and give it a taste. Add more salt if needed and message more till the leaves turn a deeper shade of green.
- Can serve alone, or you can add in some rice, additional lemon juice or April’s favorite: Ume Plum Vinegar.
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