We must design, plan and zone for a more resilient future.

In my travels across SW Wisconsin as a state senate candidate, I’ve had the great privilege to hear both heart-wrenching stories of loss and heart-warming stories of heroic efforts as we recover from catastrophic flooding this past week. I am so proud of our volunteer spirit, our first responders and our public employees. And as someone who farms deep in the Pecatonica Valley, I feel the pain of those who lost livestock, crops, property and equipment to rising water. I’ve been there. I also sympathize with those in the produce, manufacturing and shipping industries, as the many road closures in the district are now making it hard to get goods to market on time. I’ve been late for a few appointments this week, and we’ll all be dealing with the washouts for a while. Continue reading

Industry and agriculture can co-exist with a clean environment

THE CAPITAL TIMES. By Kriss Marion. Jobs and environmental protections are not an either-or equation. Neither is agriculture and clean water. We CAN have mining, industry, development and agriculture while protecting our environment. This is the year 2018 and we have technology in all of those fields to do a good job; there is simply not enough political will in our state Legislature to enforce standards that would demand it. We are going backward instead of ahead. We need a decisive policy shift back toward strong protection of natural resources so our rural places can provide the quality of life to attract and retain the workers, families and businesses we need for our rural communities to thrive.  Continue reading

Bus tour highlights rough roads

La Crosse, WI (WXOW) - La Crosse County maintains more than 280 miles of highways. Over 50 percent of the county highway networks needs major repairs, but not enough funds are available. Highway Commissioner Ron Chamberlain wanted elected officials and business leaders to feel the bumps in the road residents endure.  "We try to do what we can there, but we don't have enough money to meet every safety need that's out there right now, let alone just the pavement needs," Chamberlain explained. Counties are supposed to receive 30 percent of costs for general transportation aids from the state. Chamberlain says La Crosse County receives only 17 percent.  Continue reading

Kriss Marion: Sharing Her “Little Piece Of Heaven”

From WORT FM: "This month we interview dynamo Kriss Marion of Circle M Market Farm in Blanchardville, Wisc. Kriss is a farmer and sustainable ag activist operating a certified organic produce farm and BnB. She sells her veggies via a market CSA and at the Blanchardville and Argyle farmers markets. She raises livestock, including sheep, goats, pigs, horses, a pony, steers, chickens and geese. She serves as a Lafayette County Supervisor and is fascinated by ag policy. She is very active with the WI Farmers Union and Green County Women in Sustainable Agriculture. Oh yes, and she raised four kids. Visit her farm’s website, here." Continue reading

Around the Farm Table with Inga Witcher

AROUND THE FARM TABLE. Farm-Stay B&B. Season 3 Episode 6 | 25m 40s Inga is thinking about starting a bed & breakfast (B&B) at her farm. She travels to Blanchardville to learn about running a farm-stay B&B. After milking goats, making beds and cultivating the garden, she discovers it's a lot of work. Before leaving, Inga cooks up a frittata with fresh sheep milk cheese and tiny zucchini bundt cakes for the guests. Aired: 11/12/15 Continue reading

Meet the Soil Sisters: Making it as Female Farmers in a Man's World

THE GUARDIAN. By Sarah McColl Kriss Marion credits the guidance she received from fellow Soil Sisters for the success of her farmstay, comprising two guest rooms and this 1968 Holiday Rambler Trav’ler camper. In 2015, the entrepreneur established the Blanchardville Main Street Farmers Market, where she sells approximately 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables; hand-spun and hand-dyed skeins of wool; and meat from her pastured cows, pigs and lambs. As if all that doesn’t sound exhausting enough, Marion plans to run for the state senate this fall. Nearby, an ancient Farmall (right) is more outdoor sculpture than working tool. Continue reading

Blue Ribbon Commission and Marklein Legislative Update Tell Two Different Stories about the State of Education in SW Wisconsin

Last Monday I attended the Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding held in Fennimore. The Commission, initiated this winter, is a series of public hearings to explore our education funding system. These hearings, scheduled throughout the state, give local citizens and education professionals a chance to inform legislators of how students, schools and communities are doing under the current levels. By all accounts on Monday, our public schools in SW Wisconsin are hurting, and hurting badly. Four citizens, including me and several school board members, and seven superintendents testified. Two superintendents, who just happened to be male, teared up on the stand as they listed the effect that years of repeated budget cuts have had not just on facilities and services, but on the people and small towns involved. Bryce Bird, Superintendent of Riverdale Schools, said that the district has been cutting the budget for 17 years. “I don’t think we can cut our way out of a deficit,” he told the commission, which is co-chaired by Sen. Luther Olson and Rep. Joel Kitchens. Continue reading

Kriss Marion: Tell your public school how much you appreciate it

THE CAPITAL TIMES. By Kriss Marion.  Schools are the jewels of our rural communities. Public schools, which are often a small town’s biggest employer, provide the most accessible and consistent community entertainment and function as an essential “third space” for neighbors to come together informally outside of home or work. And all of those cultural assets are just icing on the cake, enhancing the incredible primary role public schools play in educating our children in both academics and life skills. Regardless of income, class, race or ability, our differently gifted children are to be welcomed, supported and KNOWN by their public school teachers and staff. Though we may not always implement the ideal perfectly, the public school system is truly an American miracle of unified purpose, one of hope and investment in a shared future. We can be proud as citizens that we collectively hold up such an ideal.   Continue reading

Democrat Kriss Marion to challenge Republican Sen. Howard Marklein in 17th Senate District

THE CAPITAL TIMES. By Jessie Opoien. A farmer and LaFayette County supervisor said Wednesday she plans to run for the 17th Senate District seat currently held by Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green. Kriss Marion, a Democrat, owns Circle M Market Farm in Blanchardville, which she runs with her husband. She has been active in the effort to allow home bakers in Wisconsin to sell their goods without a food processing plant license. Marion said she is running to "stand up for the interests of rural places." "Our tax money should be put to work in our district where it's desperately needed for roads, schools, Main Street redevelopment, small businesses and long-awaited basic broadband," Marion said in a statement. "Give us decent tools, remove silly regulatory barriers and watch us grow the economy."   Continue reading

Kriss Marion: Rural America points the way to civics, civility

THE CAPITAL TIMES. By Kriss Marion Former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator Gaylord Nelson is revered for many reasons — including the creation of Earth Day in 1970 — but is perhaps less known as a champion of the small town. Nelson was born and raised in Clear Lake in Polk County, which in his time had a population of 650 and has grown to about 1,000 since. Contrary to some stereotypes and the modern disparagement of “fly-over states,” Nelson held that rural living fosters individuality while demanding civility. In other words, country people feel quite free to express dissenting opinions, but recognize that burning bridges isn’t wise in a community where you know everyone. You may or may not agree with Nelson’s opinion. But as someone who moved to rural Wisconsin after living in Chicago for 20 years, I share his view of small town creativity and accountability, especially in the arena of local government. Continue reading