See Jane Grow

I stumbled into Lisa Kivirist’s presentation at the Mother Earth News Fair purely by accident. With 15,000 people in attendance, it was often hard to get a seat in the most popular presentations. Such was the case on Saturday afternoon; Paula attended a goat milking seminar, and I was supposed to attend a seminar on extending the growing season. The growing season presentation was so crowded by the time I arrived that the presenter couldn’t even get into the room!

I ended up wandering through the vendor areas in the large exhibit hall. There was a stage set up right in the middle of this hall; I thought this was strange since, with all the vendor booths arranged around the perimeter of the room, there was a lot of traffic, noise, and confusion in the hall. As I wandered around though I could hear the amplified voice of Lisa Kivirist over the din. I stopped to observe for just a minute and ended up finding a seat and taking notes (for Paula of course!)

Lisa’s presentation was titled “See Jane Grow” and it was focused on the rising role of women in the small scale agriculture movement. Lisa and her husband run Serendipity Inn, a bed and breakfast in Southwestern Wisconsin. They are also active “locavorians”, growing produce on their farm that is marketed locally.

Lisa shared some tips on making a practical income while staying true to your vision. She shared that business “doesn’t run by the book.” Sometimes you have to think outside the box, ignore the “experts”, and yes, even take risks. Her talk consisted of several “vignettes” of women who have been successful in businesses and ventures built around the concepts of sustainable agriculture, healthy living, and microeconomics.

One example was a woman who wanted to do a bed and breakfast but wasn’t a “morning person.” The solution? a Bed and Brunch. The woman’s property happened to border a national park. People would get up in the morning go for a hike or enjoy some other activity, then return to the Inn for brunch.

Another example is Melinda Carr Hemmelgarn, M,S., R.D. Melinda, a registered dietician, started food sleuth radio – a call in radio program where people ask nutrition and food related questions, and learn about the benefits of a whole food diet.

Lisa’s practical points included the “triple bottom line” – Planet, People, Profit. She encouraged her listeners to turn their passion into profit in order to fund their bigger vision.  One example of this is Pie Ranch in California, where a small farm uses pie baking to teach urban kids about good food.

Some of the characteristics of a successful enterprise, according to Kivirist, include: Diversification, “walking the talk”, partnering with others, mentoring others, and maintaining “positive energy” (don’t let others tell you that you “can’t”.)

According to Lisa, the question is not “how can we make a living?” but rather “how can we live on what we make?” It’s not about what’s “hot” but “what do you like?” Lisa believes we should make our market based on what what we are passionate about.

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