Farmer Spotlight: Mary Benson Believes in the Power of Small Farmers

Maggie Roth

Hello my name is Mary Benson.

I’m 68 years old. I’ve been farming for 20 years.

I grow over 90 varieties of organic vegetables, herbs and fruit at my farm in Westby, WI.

Sustainable farming practices are important to me because all things on the earth are connected.

My favorite thing about being a farmer is the focus and connection the work brings, and feeding delicious and healthy food.

My farmer idol or superhero is Elizabeth Henderson because her work embodies the inherent connectedness between earth, people, and labor.

My favorite song to listen to on the farm is “You Are My Sunshine.”

When I’m not farming I like to cook and watch nature.

My favorite thing to grow is garlic.

My favorite thing to eat is freshly picked broccoli for breakfast.

If I could change one thing about the food system it would be corporate influence.

Something you don’t know about me is my trust of biodynamics.

If I could tell the world one thing about what being a farmer is like it would be that I get to live my promise for the world which is: nourishing the earth and being nourished by the earth – enlightened and enlivened in our connectedness with the universe.

I am reducing post-harvest losses by drip tape and hand watering.

Climate change is affecting my farm through unpredictability of seasonal weather and increasing drought conditions.

 One thing I’m doing to protect the environment on my farm is using biodynamic, sustainable, and organic standards.

I think we need more young people involved in farming because one of the key solutions to a secure food system is more and more local, small farms.

One thing I’m doing to create healthy soil on my farm is following organic standards, crop rotation cover crops, and composting.

One thing I’m doing to prevent erosion from my farm is following permaculture practices of planting trees between awales that have been plowed in a key line around the land.

The most difficult thing about sustainable farming is difficulty of earning a living wage.

I did not always know I would be a farmer. I chose the agriculture life because after many years of work, I finally felt like I was spending time doing something that made a beneficial impact on our earth.

The following resources, programs, or organizations are most valuable to my farm: MOSES, MOSA, VEDA, and Viroqua Food Coop.