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Burlington farmer building her farm one acre at a time

Steph Connects with Farmer Iris Lee
Steph with Burlington Farmer Iris Lee
Posted at 5:00 PM, Apr 03, 2024

My photographer and I took a 45-minute drive out to Burlington Wisconsin to meet Iris Lee.

"We have livestock poultry and goats," Lee said. "We have to tend to our greenhouse, it's seasonal right now but we plan on going year-round once we get everything equipped."

Lee has 50 acres of land with history and heart. Her father bought the land in the late nineteen-seventies. After years as one of Wisconsin’s only black farmers, Iris’ father was stricken with cancer.

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Iris Lee, a farmer in Burlington, Wisconsin. She is one of only four black woman farmers in the state and is part of a cohort that is working to provide equal opportunity for black farmers.

As she cared for him, she tried to infuse his diet with freshly grown food.

"So that’s what really got me into farming because older people I thrive for, " said Lee.

However, to turn that into a thriving lucrative farm, Iris knew she had a lot to learn.

She grew up on the farm but spent much of her young adult life in Chicago on a completely different career path.

The National Minority Supplier Development Council’s, Acres Program was established to address learning curves and offer support to minority farmers. With that support, Iris embarked on the Hemp farm craze but quickly learned that hype was bigger than a successful crop.

Lee knows her farm needs help. Everything from roofing to electrical work. She says she also needs a new tractor and more manpower.

"So that is one of our major flaws is we don’t have the financing to proceed with a lot of things we have to do a little bit a time," says Lee.

She doesn’t have much help, but she not giving up on her dream to be a source of healthy food options and for her father’s legacy to live on.

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