This past week, I had the honor to participate on a panel of women to discuss diversification on our farms. The Her Farm Network program was sponsored by Landmark Services Cooperative with the dedicated staff of Katie Demrow, Chrissy Long and Ashley Schumacher who worked hard to coordinate the program through the Zoom app. They managed to pull all of us farm ladies together, connecting participants and our panel to answer questions and inspire each other.
    Debbie Crave spoke about how her life opportunities lead her to diversify their farm by starting a cheese plant with her husband and the other family members. Kim Dooley has become a goat farmer when she married her husband and has reached out to create goat milk soaps and lotions. Kara Kasten-Olson has made a name for her farm with locally grown and processed meats. Theresa Schuster has been involved in making experiences for families who visit their farm to purchase pumpkins and other fall activities. I spoke about opening our farm to visitors for educational tours. Our moderator was Shelly Mayer, who also has diversified to create a place for celebrations in their barn.
    It was a wonderful evening to chat about trying something different, diversify and find some joy in sharing our farm life with others. The new ideas and connections made through the Her Farm Network will be something I will think about often as I continue to pursue new opportunities to add more variety to our farm.
    We have held events on our farm in the past: a wedding reception, a couple family reunions and bat mitzvahs. It is not much different from the large groups of school children eating their lunches while taking farm tours. These gatherings have always been in our shed that is a modern farm building with perforated steel walls and bright lights. The building was designed to be used when we need to fix equipment, but it works well to host events because it is big enough to fit many people on 15 long picnic tables.   
    A couple years ago, we had an opportunity to host a fundraiser for Girl Power Africa. It was a farm-to-table meal where we served African food cooked by Liberian people from our own goats, lamb, duck and chicken. We wanted it to be as profitable as possible, and the suggested donation was pricey per plate for the meal. It was going to be an informal bash but with authentic food and music with a classy feel.
    We contacted friends who had held a farm-to-table event. They raise their own beef and had a chef prepared meal with local vegetables and wines. It was country farm themed, with burlap, twinkling lights and real dishes. The wine was served in canning jars, and the meal was family style with bowls of prepared potatoes and greens.   
    After telling them of our plans for the African feast, they offered us all the dishes and jars they had been collecting. Real plates, silverware and the glass jars made their meal more stylish and elegant, and it would be just the thing to give our meal a fancy look and feel.
    That fundraiser was a success and left all of us with such euphoria because it all worked perfectly. The food looked great on the real plates. Yes, the food was amazing, and money was raised to help the girls in Africa.
    That event has inspired me to collect plates and canning jars. We have been stopping at secondhand stores and picking up plates. Anna’s wedding is coming up in August and will be held in our old barn loft. She wants to have the country farm theme with sunflowers, burlap and straw bales to give that added touch and twinkling light hanging from the rafters. With all the details on her wedding day wish list, she also wants the dinner to be served on real plates. We will also be celebrating with wine and sweet tea from canning jars. After the reception dinner, the real plates will be washed and put away until we need them again. I am thinking we will be using them often to share our farm and local food with others because we are all about country farm theme.
    Tina Hinchley, her husband, Duane, and their daughters, Anna and Catherine, milk 240 registered Holsteins with robots. They also farm 2,300 acres of crops near Cambridge, Wisconsin.  They have been hosting farm tours for over 20 years.