Kathy Papineau and MKE Kitchen

2017_05_21_KP_013_1EIt’s hard to capture all of the things that Kathy Papineau does for the community in one blog post.  The best way to describe Kathy Papineau is that she puts her community before herself.  She runs three businesses that all work together: MKE Kitchen, Localicious and Soup in a Jar.  On top of all that, she is a huge advocate for the local food movement in Milwaukee and a role model for composting and eating local.

Kathy first became interested in food at a young age.  She grew up in Manitowoc, WI with 5 siblings, an unhealthy father, and a mother that didn’t have much time to cook.  Kathy’s childhood fueled her motivation to eat healthy and learn to cook by watching cooking shows on TV and reading magazines like Home & Garden and Good Housekeeping.  Years later as a stay-at-home mom, Papineau started her catering company Localicious around 2007.  She started small in her home kitchen, but the business kept growing until 2012, when she opened MKE Kitchen, her commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Soup in a Jar is her food truck you may see around town that she uses to sell her homemade soup and meet new customers. Naturally, Kathy thought of others before herself. “If I was going to build a kitchen for my business, I thought I should build a kitchen big enough so that other people could build their businesses too,” she explained.

2017_05_21_KP_126_1E

But that’s not all the kitchen does, not even close.  Kathy teaches cooking classes to kids, and the classes incorporate the importance of composting and the benefits of a local market.  “Schools need to find room in their curriculum to cover stuff like that,” she says.  At the same time, the kitchen acts as a meeting place for local food groups such as volunteers from the Urban Ecology Center advocating for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.  Papineau has created a welcoming place for ideas to spread and for the local food community to grow.

Kathy moves fast and doesn’t sit still for very long which means she has a million ideas for the future.  She wants to teach a course about starting your own business to teach people about all the business technicalities they don’t consider at first.  Whether she planned it or not, Kathy has become a guide for the new entrepreneurs that rent from her and she’s willing to share her experience.  One of those new entrepreneurs, Collin Wallace of Chillwaukee, talked about how helpful Kathy had been to his new business.  “She’s very accommodating and gives us the space we need, and puts us in touch with people and news stations,” he said.

With every new idea, Kathy stays true to her core goal: “I want people to eat healthier. I want them to understand the relationship between their food, their health and the environment. That’s what I want.”

2017_05_21_KP_076_1E

Three Sisters Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm is a young organic farm run by Kelly Kiefer and Jeff Schreiber. They recently started their farm in 2011 using Kelly’s family land where she grew up and additional land nearby.2016_10_15_csaf_066_2e

The name Three Sisters is unique because it has two meanings: Kelly is one of three sisters and there is a group of three crops that support each other when grown together which native groups called the three sisters. These three crops are corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall providing a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans create nitrogen rich soil, needed to make plants healthy. And finally the squash grows on a vine which provides ground cover for the soil around the other plants. “We liked the picture of this synergistic combination of plants contributing to the greater benefit of the whole system as a metaphor for how we build relationships with our community of supporters,” mentioned Kelly.

I recently visited their farm in the fall while they had volunteers helping plant garlic and prepping the tomato plants for spring. While having the privilege to speak with Kelly and Jeff, I was able to gain some insight on how much work they do both on and off the farm. Working on the land is not easy and farmers often spend 10 or more hours working on their land every day. But owning a farm also means owning a business. Winter is their opportunity to catch up on calculations for the season, taxes and all of the less glamorous pieces of running a business.

2016_10_15_csaf_015_1e

Kelly and Jeff stay connected to their supporters in multiple ways including volunteer opportunities and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of their goals is to build community relationships and create a welcoming sanctuary at their farm so if you are interested in volunteering, I hear they pay in vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, becoming part of their CSA means that you subscribe to the farm for the growing season and Kelly and Jeff deliver fresh produce to a location near you every week. The produce you receive every week depends on what is in season so you get a chance to discover all kinds of new vegetables that you never knew existed. Three Sisters Farm is unique because they actually allow you to pick some of the vegetables that go into your box each week on their website.

So you if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, a CSA to join or just two genuinely welcoming farmers to talk to, look up Jeff and Kelly.

www.threesisterscommunityfarm.com