Wisconsin Woman Dedicated To Bettering the Future of Agriculture

You may not think that frogs and water quality have anything to do with cookies or shelf stable goods. But to Kriss Marion, they all go together in supporting the wellbeing of communities. Marion is a farmer from Blanchardville who is dedicated to soil and water stewardship. She is a part of the River Alliance of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Women in Conservation, and has played a key role in the cottage food law. 

On her 20 acre farm, Circle M Market Farm, Marion started growing organic vegetables twelve years ago. She has since transitioned from vegetables to raising sheep and selling their wool as well as hosting farm tours.

“My journey with conservation has been a long one,” says Marion. “We moved to Blanchardville from Chicago because I was sick with rheumatoid arthritis. We moved to the country because we believed it would help me get better and sure enough, in two years I was off all of my medication. I am a big believer in fresh air, clean water and growing your own food.”

Marion says that those are investments that should be made all across the nation for the sake of the health of the world’s population. She has an affinity for the tree frogs on her property as they are her connection to water quality. 

“I have frogs on my farm as we’re on a wetland,” explains Marion. “The health of the frogs and the other wildlife lets me know how I’m doing with my sheep. If they are healthy and happy, that means I am doing a good job with my land and protecting the water sources around me.”

Marion says that just doing conservation agriculture is not enough. If she wanted healthy water she needed to work with her neighbors as well. This passion has led her full circle as she now works across the state in water advocacy for Wisconsin Women in Conversation.

Marion is also heavily involved in the River Alliance of Wisconsin where they are working toward a rational water policy that would be watershed based. She notes that this is a powerful way to look at water quality and soil health as instead of working on these issues county to county, we need to work on bigger sections of land. 

Marion doesn’t stop there as she also has played a key role in helping producers to sell homemade, shelf stable or unbaked goods from their homes through the cottage food law.

She adds, “Having the ability for at home cottage food, producers to sell to their neighbors, is a tremendous part of building strong, local economies. So, for a decade, I have been in a fight with a bunch of friends, which has now grown to a couple thousand friends who are fighting for cottage food freedoms.”

About 10 years ago, Marion began working with the legislature on a cookie bill which would allow people to bake cookies at home, that were shelf stable, and could be sold at farmers markets. This work went through two cycles but did not make it through the legislature. However, this didn’t stop her as she helped to win three lawsuits regarding this issue.

“There’s now a Wisconsin Cottage Food Association of a couple of thousand people working together with a non-profit law institute,” says Marion. “We just want to make sure that people cannot be fined thousands of dollars for baking and selling cookies or other items.”

To learn more about the lawsuits and the Wisconsin Cottage Food Association go to their website.