Soil Sisters: Connect to your passion

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If someone asked you, “What are you passionate about?” Would you have a quick answer or should you think about the question? The word passion can have very strong emotions and connotations associated with it and can, in turn, cause a person to take time to figure out exactly what falls into that category. Some people discover a passion early in life and follow it for the rest of their lives. Others may find it, but for a myriad of reasons they are unable to fully commit.

I was born into one of my passions but only realized it when I was almost 30 years old.

I grew up on a small dairy farm in Green County and once I graduated from high school I wanted to get away from home and explore the world beyond, and that’s where lies my second passion: travel. This passion was at the center of my life during and after university. I was able to find opportunities that paid me to live and work/volunteer in other states and countries. It was during my graduate studies that my lifelong passion for agriculture began to emerge.

That was 2006, since then my husband and I have put agriculture first and created a diverse farm that provides hundreds of families with fresh, local, organic produce during the growing season. We market our products in several farmers’ markets, restaurants and through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. From March to the end of October, I manage the seeding, transplanting, cultivation, marketing, harvesting, processing, accounting and delivery of over 100 different varieties of fruits and vegetables on 7 acres.

It is often difficult to find a balance between work and private life, because farming is not a job, but a way of life. Even harder is finding time for my other passion: travel, which, as you can see, probably doesn’t mesh easily with farming. Through my Soil Sister network of women in sustainable agriculture, I discovered a program called Farmer to Farmer (F2F). The F2F program is funded by US AID through the US Farm Bill to help developing and middle-income countries around the world increase agricultural production and incomes. It promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development. Volunteer technical assistance from U.S. farmers, agribusinesses, and cooperatives helps improve productivity, access new markets, build local capacity, fight climate change, and conserve environmental and natural resources . Farmer-to-Farmer also aims to increase the American public’s understanding of international development issues and programs and international understanding of US and American development programs.

Finding this program was my ticket to the perfect combination of my two passions. I can use some of my farming skills while seeing the world, interacting with people from other cultures, and gaining new insights into the differences and similarities between farming practices. So far I have traveled to Senegal and Ecuador to do missions in person and during the height of the COVID pandemic I did a virtual mission with a group in Kyrgyzstan. Fortunately, postings take place in the winter when my farming responsibilities are much less and I have time to focus my energies on other areas.

I think, and hope, many of us are looking for ways to make others happy, to make ourselves happy, and to be productive members of society. It is often in random conversations or chance meetings that we discover an opportunity that could accomplish one or all of these three tasks. For me, I relish the times when I can get together and visit with my fellow Soil Sisters to share farming stories, livestock challenges, and farming opportunities. I hope you too can find people to connect with and who in turn will help you discover and/or dive deeper into your passions.

— Katy Christensen Dickson is a full-time farmer near Browntown. She is also an organic crop inspector and part-time teacher. When not on duty on the farm, she can be found helping her kids’ 4-H club, doing projects around the house with her husband, and planning their next trip. If you are interested in the Christensens Farm CSA program and how you can receive fresh, local produce during the growing season, check out our website: christensensfarm.com. Soil Sisters, a campaign renewal program, connects and advocates for women in the Green County area engaged in sustainable and organic agriculture, land stewardship, local food, family farms and rural communities healthy and economically dynamic.

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