Four Questions (and a recipe) with Lisa Kivirist

Lisa Kivirist is a farmer, author, women in sustainable agriculture advocate, innkeeper, parent, passionate food preserver and zucchini enthusiast.  Lisa thrives on wearing multiple hats under the sustainable agriculture umbrella, deeply rooted and based on her family’s farm in southwestern Wisconsin.

Lisa is co-author, with her husband, John Ivanko, of the new cookbook, Farmstead Chef, transforming traditional farmstead cooking skills for the modern kitchen gardener, urban homesteader and homestead cook in all of us.  The duo also authored the award-winning book ECOpreneuring, a fresh approach to entrepreneurial thinking that blends protecting the planet with small business pragmatics and Rural Renaissance, capturing the American dream of farm living for contemporary times.

A leading national advocate for championing the inspiring story of women farmers, Lisa’s fellowship work led to founding and directing the Rural Women’s Project, a venture of the Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) providing outreach and resources for women farmers and food-based business owners.  Lisa writes a column spotlighting national policy issues for the Women, Food & Agriculture Network (WFAN) and is a lead writer for Renewing the Countryside, a non-profit organization showcasing rural entrepreneurial and agricultural success stories.  She also regularly writes for publications ranging from Hobby Farm Home to Edible Madison, showcasing stories and resources for sustainable living and rural revitalization.

A pioneer in green travel, Lisa and her family run the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed and Breakfast in southwest Wisconsin, considered among the “Top Ten Eco-Destinations in North America,” and featured in USA Today, MSNBC, ABC news, Newsweek and numerous other media. Powered by 100 percent renewable energy, the Inn was the recipient of the Energy Star Small Business Network Award from the EPA and is an example of a “carbon negative” business, sequestering more carbon dioxide annually than emitted from its carbon-free operations. She and her family raise diversified produce for local sale with a specialty in leeks and garlic.

Lisa shares her farm with her husband, their young son, a 10kw wind turbine and a flock of ladybugs.

How do you make your day-to-day life a little greener?

The nice consequence of striving day-to-day to live greener: things start to become part of your everyday routine and are simply part of the daily flow. From that morning coffee (Fair Trade & organic and composting the used grounds) to the evening supper (with food grown in the garden), these daily actions quickly add up to low-impact living. Some things we do when we’re out and about and away from home is our family always has what we affectionately call our “mess kit” in the car: a lightweight set of plastic dishware and utensils so we always have an option available instead of using disposables. A big part of the “greening” of our lives is sharing things in community, from the tours we do of our renewable energy systems for our B&B ( to potlucks on the farm, the more we can share with others how simple steps make a green difference, the more our world can transform.

You are such a busy “eco-preneur.” You’ve co-authored a number of books as well as writing for numerous publications, you run the award-winning Inn Serendipity Bed & Breakfast, you’re the Director of the Rural Women’s Project and a distinguished W.K Kellogg Foundation Food and Society Fellow. What does a typical day look like for you?

“Typical” might be a nice change of pace! Seriously, a big part of our lifestyle and approach to sustainability is modeling Mother Nature and striving for diversity in our days. I love having different things, various projects, going on simultaneously and experiencing creative “cross-pollination” between these varying elements. A day could range from cooking up breakfast for B&B guests in the morning to harvesting and preserving tomatoes in the afternoon to finishing up a blog post in the evening. An important element to all of this; however, is the seasonality of schedules. Summer can get a bit crazy with the peak of the B&B business and garden harvest, but I know things will indeed slow down come winter — a good time for catching up and letting new creative projects germinate around the woodstove.

One of the latest books you co-authored with your husband, John Ivanko, is Farmstead Chef. What motivated you to write this book? And, could you share a favorite recipe?

Food can be a fundamental entry point for change: we all eat multiple times a day and can begin by making greener, more sustainable choices for what’s on our family’s plate. It can sometimes be overwhelming with all the serious and monumental environmental problems going on in our world — but food is something we can each individually control and make greener decisions. Farmstead Chef celebrates the empowerment in cooking from home, focusing on seasonal and local ingredients. You don’t need to be trained “chef” to make our recipes and it is very satisfying for us to help folks reconnect with their food sources and home kitchen. In addition to our Farmstead Chef cookbook, we post new recipes and homespun cooking ideas on our blog.

You are an inspiration to anyone who is trying to do their part to make their lives more sustainable. I love the quote from your site, “Lisa Kivirist embodies the growing ‘ecopreneuring’ movement: innovative entrepreneurs who successfully blend business with making the world a better place”. Do you have any advice for people who are trying to make their lives a little greener?

Thanks for the kind words. My life fundamentally transformed when I left a corporate job (i.e., the “expected” career and life path) and traded that for our five acres in rural Wisconsin. While my husband, John Ivanko, and I had no farming experience at the time, we felt a strong desire to create something of our own, a lifestyle we felt connected to and passionate about. While not everyone needs to quit jobs tomorrow and head into the entrepreneurial wilderness or rural backroads, I do think it is important to look at living a greener lifestyle from the big picture: What’s your bigger mission in life? How do you want to change and leave things? What truly gets you going? Big questions to think about, I realize, but important ones to contemplate. Hopefully our Rural Renaissance and ECOpreneuring books can be helpful resources for folks looking to make a bigger lifestyle change.

Creamy Apple Pie

This pie is affectionately nicknamed “Joy Pie” in our house, because the recipe came from Joy Rohde. The Rhode family farmed this land we now live on for over a hundred years. It’s the kind of pie that makes you happy, joyful. It’s one of our favorites because the filling is so simple to make and comes out perfectly creamy; no ice cream needed. Let this pie cool to room temperature before cutting since the filling will tend to slip out.


• 1 unbaked single crust pie shell (9-inch)

• 8 c. apples, peeled and sliced

• 1 c. sugar

• ¼ c. flour

• 1 ½ t. vanilla extract

• 1/3 c. milk

• ½ t. salt

• ½ t. cinnamon

• ¼ c. butter (1/2 stick)


Lay apples in the pie crust.

Make a “syrup” (no cooking needed) by mixing the sugar, flour and vanilla. Add the milk and salt, then stir well. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and dot with butter.

Pour syrup mixture over apples and bake one hour at 350 degrees or until apples are tender.

Yield: 8 servings.

Grandma Sue’s Pie Crust

John’s mom, Sue, reigns as champion pie baker in the family. “I just love pie,” says Sue. While you’ll encounter many variations on pie baking from various families, we’re loyal to ours.

Single Pie Ingredients (one 9 or 10-inch):

• 1 ½ c. flour

• ½ t. salt

• ½ c. butter (1 stick)

• 4 to 5 T. cold water

Double Crust Pie Ingredients (one 9 or 10-inch):

• 2 c. flour

• 1 t. salt

• 2/3 c. butter (about 1 ¼ sticks)

• 5 to 7 T. cold water


Mix together flour and salt.

Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two butter knives until pieces are the size of small peas. To make pastry extra tender and flaky, divide shortening in half. Cut in first half until mixture looks like corn meal. Then cut in remaining half until like small peas.

Sprinkle 1 T. of the water over part of the flour-shortening mixture. Gently toss with fork; push to one side of bowl. Sprinkle next tablespoon of water over dry part; mix lightly. Mix gently until all is moistened.

Gather up with fingers; form into a ball. For two-crust pie, divide dough for upper and lower crust. Form each in ball.

On lightly floured surface, flatten ball slightly and roll to 1/8 inch thick. If edges split, pinch together. Always roll spoke-fashion, going from center to edge of dough. Use light strokes.

To bake single pie crust:

Transfer pastry to pie plate. Fit loosely onto bottom and sides. Trim ½ to 1 inch beyond edge. Fold under and flute.

If baked pie shell is needed, prick bottom and sides well with fork—to prevent puffing as shell bakes. Bake in 450 degree oven until pastry is golden, 10 to 20 minutes.

If filling and crust are to be baked together, do not prick pastry. Pour in filling; bake as directed in the pie recipe.


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