By Ashley Wegmueller of Bo & Olly’s Produce

This week we continue with our Soil Sisters stories, so gather  around the virtual farmstead kitchen table for a conversation with Ashley Wegmueller of Bo & Olly’s Produce. Ashley raises diversified vegetables while also helping her husband on their 4th-generation family dairy farm. Together, they are in the process of opening a farmstay, which will be the first in Green County (the highest cheese-producing county in the country) where you can spend the night on a dairy farm and wake up to the moo-serenade and bells of Brown Swiss cows.

Ashley manages the Soil Sisters Pop-Up Store, creating and selling various Soil Sisters items such as t-shirts, hoodies, stickers, and magnets as a fundraiser for the event. She is also a seasoned pizza-maker during the Pizza on the Farm event at Inn Serendipity on August 4 during the upcoming Soil Sisters weekend.

Learn more about Ashley’s story along with her favorite summer recipe to share with her customers at the Monroe Farmers Market: pesto pasta!

How did you first know you wanted to be a farmer?

I took a more indirect route before unexpectedly finding myself on a farm. I grew up with aunts, uncles, and grandparents that farmed and was raised with 4-H and lots of cats, dogs, and horses.  But after graduating from high school, I took the “go to college, get a degree, and find a job” path. I was an instrumental  music teacher for eleven years, but the desire to be outside and grow things always remained somewhere inside. I probably should have realized it sooner than I did because there were definitely signs of my farming future:  while living in an apartment in Madison, I grew green beans on my balcony!

I married my dairy farming husband in 2009 and moved to his family farm. We used to joke that I didn’t have to milk his cows if he didn’t have to teach my students. But, in early 2015 I came to the realization that I needed to do more things for myself, and although teaching was great, the life of a “band director” never stops. I knew it was time for a change but wasn’t sure where my place was on the farm.  Dan had been running the farm alone for many years and had intentionally set it up so that one person could manage all the chores. I had a garden for years, but was interested in making it bigger and better and wanted to have a farm stand with fresh produce available. I started attending the farmers market in town and supplying a local restaurant with fresh produce. Most recently, last fall I officially became the “calf nanny” for all the beautiful Brown Swiss babies born on the farm. You can follow her farm adventures on Instagram.

How did you first connect with the Soil Sisters group?

I first learned about Soil Sisters through Facebook when I stumbled across the In Her Boots women farming training event at a local farm. The event kicked off the Soil Sisters weekend at Christiansen’s Farm with farm-her Katy Dickson. The event seemed as if it was aimed directly at me, and I was completely (but pleasantly) overwhelmed with the entire weekend! I learned so much about growing food and farming and met such an inspiring group of women. Never before had I met anyone (let alone an entire group) that was so supportive and helpful to one another.

Why do you think it is important for women farmers to support each other?

I’m a strong believer in women supporting, building-up and helping other women. All too often we get distracted in our own lives and lose focus of how much we all have in common. Farming, in particular, is still too often considered a “man’s world” in society. Women can bring a very unique perspective to the farm, though. And, as women, we bring our own background and skill-set to the (potluck) table to solve the world’s problems!

How have you benefited from knowing other women farmers and participating in Soil Sisters?

I have learned so much from the Soil Sisters, it would be hard to list everything! Most importantly, I have realized through the support of other women that I CAN do it! My horizon has been broadened significantly within the last few years by many influential women. That first workshop at Katy Dickson’s farm taught me so much that I have utilized in my own garden. Kriss Marion and April Prusia have inspired me to pursue farm stays – and later this summer we will be the first active dairy farm in Green County to host farm stays. There are still so many things I want to learn more about, and I know there are women with the knowledge and willingness to help me learn.

Why do you personally local women farmer networks like Soil Sisters local network work so well? What makes them “click”?

I love the supportive nature of the Soil Sisters and am honored to be able to offer my help. This spring, I took over managing the official Soil Sister Swag. We have a variety of fun Soil Sisters items available throughout the weekend at various locations – T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, buttons. You can find me at Raleigh’s Hillside farm on Friday, Pizza Night at Inn Serendipity on Saturday, and Hawk’s Mill Winery during the tours on Sunday.

I believe the Soil Sisters work so well as a group because everyone supports everyone. Someone might do the same exact thing as you like growing produce, but may have other techniques for a certain problem to offer, like how to keeping weeds at bay. Each woman brings something unique to the group and isn’t afraid to share, knowing that it’s better to offer knowledge to help one another rather than just keep it as your own secret. Not everyone does everything the same, and that’s OK – the important thing that keeps the group solid is the understanding that we ARE all on the same team!

What advice would you give a woman from another area looking to create something like we have here? What would be a first step?

If you have an interest in starting a group like this, go for it! Come visit us and attend a potluck to see the magic of women supporting women. You are guaranteed to leave feeling inspired as well as full of delicious food. Find another person near you that has a similar interest and just start getting together regularly. Once good things start, they are hard to stop. Before you know it, you may have a great big group of women you never knew were there, all with similar interests. Good luck!


Pesto Pasta by Ashley Wegmueller of Bo & Olly’s Produce

Ingredients:

4 garlic scapes

6 basil leaves

3 arugula leaves

Dash of salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Pasta of choice

Tomatoes, mushrooms, onions (or any favorite vegetable, sautéed if you like)

Grated cheese of choice (optional)

Directions:

  • Combine scapes, basil, arugula, spices and olive oil in a food processor. Blend until smooth.
  • Boil and drain pasta. Combine with pesto.
  • Top with vegetables and cheese (if desired). Serve hot or cold.

Like what you’ve read? Join the conversation in the NFU Women in Agriculture Facebook group.

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