Soil Sisters: Erica Roth of Windy Hill Farm
By Lisa Kivirist | Photo By Olivia Roth 1
A beginning farmer with a blooming homestead, Erica Roth showcases the inspiring power of the women farmer community in Wisconsin. “A little over a year ago, right after my family moved from Kentucky to Wisconsin, I attended a South Central Women in Sustainable Agriculture potluck hosted by Mary Ann Bellazzini at Campo di Bella Family Farm and Winery,” shares Erica Roth. “The warm welcome I immediately received confirmed our decision to move to rural Wisconsin and be our own food producers.”
Erica may only have lived in suburban areas prior to starting Windy Hill Farm outside Albany, Wisconsin, but knowing that other women farmers had her back during year one on the farm made all the difference. “Whatever I needed, from a recommendation for a local insurance agent to advice on cutting our hay, another woman farmer in our community helped me out. That support made all the difference for us to both get up and running and, importantly, feel connected and a part of this community.”
Meet Erica and her Roth family during Soil Sisters: A Celebration of Wisconsin Farms and Rural Life, July 31 through August 2. The Roth Family will be teaching a family-friendly workshop on Saturday, August 1 called “Birdhouses, Gardens & Family Homesteading.”
Enjoy a walk and talk about all things homesteading, how to start lasagna gardens, raise chickens and pigs, followed by a cedar birdhouse making session where families build their own birdhouse to take home. One ticket covers your whole family. Choose from 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
Read on to learn more about Erica, including her favorite summer recipe, Cucumber-Basil Dressing:
What do you raise and why?
“Right now we grow veggies along with a laying flock of 15 hens. We are trying our hand at 15 meat birds, which we will process ourselves, and three Berkshire pigs, a heritage breed of pigs. We are raising them in an effort to help bring their numbers up and because they are good on pasture. We raise all of our animals on pasture.”
Plans for the future:
“To grow all of our food in the most sustainable ways we can, convert completely to renewable energy sources, and enjoy every aspect of our rural life. Bees are in the plan for next year, too.”
“Back in my college days, I worked as a Sprecher Brewery lab intern (that was a dream gig for a college student). My least interesting previous occupation was a “MSDS” (material safety data sheet) technical writer.”
“Homeschooling our three kids, Olivia, Owen and Sophie. The farm provides a living laboratory for hands-on learning.”
What keeps you up at night:
“Thinking about the state of our country's and world's social, political and civil inequalities as well as insecure food supplies. Motivation to change things keeps me going every morning.”
Philosophy on raising animals/farming:
“I find farming a lot like homeschooling: provide an environment that encourages happiness, growth, and natural expression. Be as natural and sustainable with as few chemicals as possible.”
Any history in the family of farming?
“In a word: no. Our evolution into farming provides much lively conversation for family gatherings.”
Benefits of being a female farmer:
“Being a lot stronger than you look and connecting with inspiring women farmer friends.”
How does your day start?
“First, a cup of coffee at sunrise, and then I open the chicken coop, feed the pigs and chickens followed by hauling the chicken tractor to fresh grass.”
What do you do when you're not in the garden?
“Marvel at the scenery. I live in a postcard. I also like to knit, ferment things, nurture children and animals, and learn as much as I can about sustainable farming.”
“Beer, cheese and brats, of course! But seriously, I came to Wisconsin for college, and ever since then it has felt like home. I have tried living other places, but nothing compares to Wisconsin.”
Where else have you lived?
“I grew up in the Detroit area, went to college in Milwaukee, did a short stint in Minnesota, then back to the Milwaukee area, Kentucky for five years, and back to Wisconsin to stay, living rural this time.”
What’s currently on your kitchen countertop?
“Fresh eggs collected from the coop, 2 1/2 gallons of kombucha fermenting as well as a variety of other ferments at any given time, along with a bowl of fresh fruit and fresh picked veggies.”
Favorite food that you don’t personally grow:
“Coffee, avocados and coconuts.”
Favorite local food artisan:
“I love what Cow and Quince in New Glarus does with all the local foods and ingredients available to them. Pure tasty magic for my tummy!”
What's something about you that most folks don't know?
“I have a degree in biology and chemistry. I have lived my life in the suburbs until a year ago when we bought our farm. My favorite actor is Tom Hanks.”
"Live from your heart and you will be absolutely effective"
Check out Erica's refreshing Cucumber-Basil Dressing!