A Q&A with Kristen Kordet

As the owner of Blue Moon Community Farm, Kordet is part of a growing trend of women farmers running the ranch

PHOTO BY NOAH WILLMAN

Kristen Kordet is the owner of Blue Moon Community Farm in Stoughton.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 
A ballerina. Later, I studied modern dance and environmental planning.

How did that lead you to farming?
Out of college, I took a job in an environmental planning office. I spent a lot of time in agricultural areas. Around the same time, I began to have a growing interest in clean food and wanting to eat clean food myself, which eventually led me to work for a short time on a vegetable farm. I started this whole journey as a consumer; it was a total learn-as-you-go type of path.

Your hometown is Euclid, Ohio. Why did you choose to start your farm in Wisconsin?
My original tenure working on farms began in the Hudson River Valley region. A few years later, I realized I really wanted to get back to the Midwest. Looking for an interesting organic farming community is what brought me to Madison, so I found a job on a farm here. Two years later, I decided it was a great place to start a business.

Describe your perception of the local food culture here in Dane County.
A well-educated, committed group of people who want to support local agriculture. It’s amazing! There could not be a better place to form direct connections with consumers.

CSA, co-op or grow your own: If you could only pick one way to access food, which would you choose and why?
Grow your own. It is obviously what I do. Plus, I think it is about so much more than food because it connects you to plants, soil, weather and other people.

What is your favorite time of year?
Late spring, May. I look forward to the beginning of a new, fresh growing season and in those early weeks, usually nothing has gone terribly wrong yet. Finally, it’s go time and you can get started on putting all the plans crafted during winter to work. And it’s also chaos!

Do you thrive in chaos? 
Hopefully, because I seem to be around it a lot. I seem to do my best during times of high activity. I get fidgety in winter; it is definitely not my best season.

Finish this statement: If I weren’t a farmer, I’d be …
A perpetual student, hopping from one degree to the next. Or working on my lifelong dissertation. I loved being in school and always thought I would go back and have not yet. So, I would definitely still like to return in the future.

Your husband also works from home. Does it ever start to feel claustrophobic?
Luckily, we are only working in our home together for a couple months out of the year, because my work often has me outside in the barn and fields. We often have lunches together, but try to be careful not to lay issues or problems on each other during the day from our respective jobs because after awhile it can be mentally claustrophobic.  Separation of brain space is a must!

Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest? 
I am pretty much still in the Stone Age. I am on Facebook but barely use it. I admit I don’t do a good job of keeping up with things. I do not use Twitter. And, I don’t even know what Pinterest is. Never seen it!

Explain the significance of heirloom seeds and plants.
We try to use a lot of heirloom seed varieties in our seed production. It really has been small farmers and gardeners who have kept these varieties going after the mainstream market had dropped them over the past century. Companies select what agribusiness wants, but that does not necessarily equate with what consumers want: taste, color, beauty, texture. Heirloom varieties are so important to be maintained so that we have that diversity to choose from.  

What challenges are unique to being a woman running her own farm?
So many of the women I know are co-running their farm with their spouse, so responsibilities just shift around. But that wasn’t really an option in our case because we both run our own businesses. It really took reaching a point where the farm could financially sustain hiring assistant managers to allow for us to expand our family.

Is your farm self-sustainable?
We strive to grow really high quality vegetables and to raise livestock that is treated humanely. My goal is to support my family and provide great food to a wonderful community by providing opportunities for people to come out to the farm in order to share in that experience. Financial sustainability is a goal as well as to do the best we can to steward our environment.

What is the last thing you think about every night? 
I usually spend some time going over my mental checklist for the next day and then read until I fall asleep.

And the first thing each morning?
Coffee! The first hour of the day I am definitely on auto-pilot. I have to set three different alarms to get up for the [Westside Community] farmers’ market on Saturday. I am not by nature a morning person.

Your weekly stand during the summer season is at the Westside Community Market in Madison. Why not the Dane County Farmers’ Market downtown or another location?
When I began my business, there was a three-to-four-year waiting list for having a spot on the Square. In the meantime, the Westside Community Market was a new market looking for vendors, so I signed up there. Several years later, my spot came up for a space on the Square, but by then I had so many loyal customers at WCM that I decided to stay.  However, I am a member of the Dane County Farmers’ Market so we are occasionally at the Wednesday markets on the Square and the indoor winter markets at the Monona Terrace.

You oversee a staff of three full-time, year-round employees, one full-time summer employee and eight regular volunteers. What do love and hate about being The Boss?
I love the flexibility it allows me to be able to make my own schedule. But it is an ongoing education for me to continue to learn how to manage, inspire and motivate the people who work on the farm. 

Are you involved with any other local projects or initiatives?
For the last eight years, I have been on the board for the FairShare CSA Coalition. I have really enjoyed being involved in their work and help whenever I can. I have done work in the public schools with the Farmer in the Schools Program, which is run through REAP

Are you content? 
Yes. With Scott and I both running small businesses, we both are not living nine-to-five lives. At times, we let the intensity of all the moving pieces of our lives get to us, but the flexibility of life that working for ourselves allows us to have is beyond worth it.

Kristen Kordet is the owner and primary manager of Blue Moon Community Farm in Stoughton. For more information on the farm, visit bluemooncommunityfarm.com

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