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Roxanne Hanna Ramirez is a farmer. Most specifically, she is a CSA and Market Farmer with a specialty in diversified vegetables and herbs. She lives and works on a farm in West Bend, Winterspring Farm LLC, along with her partner, also a farmer, and their toddler son.
Ramirez's job entails plant propagation, herb production, harvesting, marketing and deliveries. She publishes writing on the farm's website about all things food, relationships and healing and aspires to raise heritage breed poultry in a tree-range perennial system.
Ramirez began on this path in high school when she planted her first backyard garden and attended a Food Not Bombs gathering. She later volunteered at a community garden and worked as an intern and later a staff member at a now-defunct organization, genHkids.
Ramirez moved to Japan for five months to study farm-scale agriculture through work-trade opportunities called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
Ramirez then served as the Education Director for Wellspring Inc, where she farmed, coordinated education programs and studied, earning a Fermentation Certification, Permaculture Design Certificate and mushroom cultivation training.
"I love the challenge: Physical, mental, and emotional," says Ramirez. "I am constantly learning and trying new things. And the food is amazing."
OnMilwaukee recently had the chance to chat with Ramirez and ask her the eight questions that are routinely asked in the series. The women chosen for this series are from many different walks of life, but have numerous things in common, including vision, passion, compassion and contribution.
1. What does active listening mean to you? Do you consider yourself a good listener, and if so, how has this helped you in your personal and professional relationships?
Successful active listening means that you can repeat back what you heard a person say in your own words and they will agree that it's accurate. It may take a few times to get it right. I would defer to my team to decide how I'm doing on active listening. I would say that I'm definitely capable of it but being a good listener is less of a noun, more of a verb. It's one thing to have it in your tool box, it's another to keep it sharp with use. It's definitely helped by bringing to light new information, dispelling misunderstandings based on bad information, and being able to give and receive compassion through conflict.
2. What was the last subject you were curious about and then pursued to learn more? How did you pursue it?
So many things! Farming keeps you on your toes. The last thing was a chicken disease called coccidiosis. Before that it was the 5 great extinctions of Earth. Often, it's pond ecology.
3. If you can’t figure something out yourself, what source or person do you turn to first? How long do you wait before you ask for help? As a woman, do you think you wait longer to reach out?
I'm very comfortable with asking for help. I have a really extensive library full of reference guides for many of the subjects I grapple with the most. I also turn to mentors and friends. Most often, though, Caleb, my husband and farming partner, has a really great way of grounding any situation by putting things in perspective, offering practical solutions and assisting with technical knowledge.
4. What are your personal values? Who and/or what inspired them and how do these values affect your decision-making process?
Farming has had a significant impact in shaping my lived values, not all of which are necessarily easy to live by. I place a high value on hard work. I find that letting an avoidance of hard work guide your time and energy doesn't lead you to your own greater purpose in this life. I believe that a better world is possible, but not if people aren't willing to work for it at least as hard as the forces that are making it worse. Anything worthwhile in life is steeped in hard work. I didn't go to college and I don't have familial wealth, so not working hard wasn't really an option for me anyway – still, I think we are allowed to evolve and grow as humans when we act upon what Octavia E. Butler once called "a positive obsession." The problem with hard work is that it's too often being exploited for purposes that aren't serving the common good, or even the worker themselves.
5. Technology and on-line communication/meetings/social has definitely changed over the years. Do these things help or hinder your growth – or both?
I haven't had a need to participate in frequent meetings since I stopped working for a nonprofit. I appreciate that the technology is there for online meetings, and definitely use it from time to time, but in many ways that hasn't changed much for me.
6. Where is the farthest you’ve traveled and what is a thing or two you learned from the experience? And what surprised you?
Japan! Mostly in the southern prefecture of Kyushu. I was there for farming and wasn't interested/couldn't afford a trip to Tokyo but I got to participate in Japanese family farm life in a way that most tourists wouldn't. One thing that surprised me was seeing many plants that I recognized as natives in the states that were considered invasive in Japan. Some of these included goldenrod, aster, and cup plant. I also had never been to a bath house before, and it was so important to the people that there were beautiful bath houses to be found in even the ruralist areas.
7. What are your favorite art forms? How do you challenge yourself to actively engage in the arts?
Unfortunately, with farming and running a small business, it doesn't provide you with much work/life balance. But I still write, almost compulsively. Once in a while in the winter I'll make collages or drawings, but most of my creativity goes into crop planning, marketing, and designing of the growing areas for the next season.
8. How do you/your work move the world forward?
Local access to food, while it seems like a novelty now, will only become more vitally important as we navigate the climate crisis and all that precipitates from it. Supply chain disruption, drastic weather events, ocean levels rising in areas that grow most of the country's food, and instability of the current economic system all seem obvious. However, even now, we are already in a food crisis. The rate of malnutrition in the population as a whole is rising exponentially from previous decades. Many don't have enough to eat, and even if they do, they aren't getting the nutrients required for health. Many have lost the skills, time, and space to nourish themselves and their families. Growing nutritious food may not solve all of those problems, but I believe it is an essential practice to keep alive. Just as important as those who have the skills to cook with whole foods keep those alive and share them with loved ones. None of us can take it all on in one lifetime, but we can all do something to positively impact future generations.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.