Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi there! My name is Kelsey Jorissen Olesen and I am a first generation female farmer, crazy chicken lady, and sustainability educator and advocate. My husband and I live on a five acre permaculture farm, Green Willow Homestead, in Southeastern Wisconsin where we raise pastured hens, heal the soil, and grow nutrient dense produce for our community.
My background is very eclectic. I went to DePaul’s Theatre School and graduated with a BFA in Acting. I did two national Broadway tours and then directed, produced, and wrote an award-winning long-form web series, The Dreamers. Then I made the urban exodus with my husband to open and run two successful e-commerce businesses, start our little farm, grow most of our food, and most importantly, start raising tiny dinosaurs (AKA chickens).
I published my first ebook in 2018, The Holistic Home, where I took a decade’s worth of experience learning how to live sustainability and holistically and put it into one resource that teaches you room by room in your own home how to do better by the planet and your health. With every new reader I feel like I’m taking a step toward curbing climate change and cultivating another conscious consumer. It’s an amazing feeling.
Alongside publishing the ebook, I launched The Positively Green Podcast with a fellow green-loving gal, Becca Tetzlaff of @OrganicallyBecca, where we educate and empower our listeners to live a green life they’ll love. We cover topics ranging from what the word “sustainable” truly means to how to get transition over to a zero-waste menstrual cycle. We’ve had some incredible guests on the show as well discussing everything from getting started with herbalism to the importance of water quality in your home.
In early 2019, I launched #PackagingForThePlanet, a sustainability initiative that puts gentle pressure on good companies to take it one step further by implementing earth-friendly packaging. As I’ve learned more and more about the true recyclability of plastics and other packaging materials, I’ve realized this problem will only be solved by consumers banding together to ask companies to change. To date, we’ve contacted eight companies and counting. I’m ready to make some sustainable waves this year, ladies!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Not to heed anyone’s advice that you would not willingly switch places with. If you don’t envy the life they’ve built for themselves, how would they have any idea what your goals and dreams are and thus how could they give you fair advice? It’s such a great barometer for unsolicited advice giving.
What is your greatest fear?
To get through my life and not have lived it on my own terms. I’m always holding meetings with my inner child and asking her is this potential choice for external validation or is because it’s what truly makes my heart sing? Not listening to my intuition, my gut, and instead playing by someone else’s rules would be the biggest failure, and thus my biggest fear, in my eyes.
What message do you think every woman should hear?
That you are capable of anything you put your mind to, and whatever that goal might be you don’t need to bulldoze other women to get there. The larger you build your table, the more room you make for people to help you on the way to your dream. More often than not, that “big break” comes from a person who knows a person, that 2nd or 3rd degree of separation. Think about it, you would’ve already “made it” if the people in your life could help you get there. So put yourself out there, go first, get interested in what other women are doing with their lives, lift them up, and make your table a long one.
Have you always had confidence in yourself?
Honestly I attribute my confidence to my deep need to see things get done. The people in my life are always joking about how I just get stuff done and it’s because I truly enjoy it. The satisfaction from working not just hard, but smart, and seeing a crazy goal get accomplished is second to none. So I think my confidence has been compounding ever since I was a little girl. With every project I completed to the best of my ability, I knew I could bite off bigger and bigger goals as I went through life.
What do you love most about yourself?
I’m not afraid to tell it like it is. I’ve joked that confrontation is my love language. Well, it’s not really a joke. Double that with an uncanny ability to know exactly what and why a person is struggling and I tend to life coach anyone that lets me.
Do you remember a specific time you overcame adversity?
Our first year on the farm was extremely tough. We had our flock of laying hens come down with an infection that required injectable medicine. We had 95 birds at the time, the medicine had to be administered daily for a total of four days. My husband was working a major deadline at work and was home late every night. So with headlamps on we had to work from 10pm – 1am, four days in a row (one in the pouring rain) to save our flock’s life. We were so tired and frustrated, but we made it through. Honestly, I think it has made us stronger as a couple.
What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned along the way?
That the world is not written in black and white. I tend to crave absolutes, I think it’s human nature to thirst for a singular truth. But duality exists and so much more grey in life than we’d like to think. An example for me, I was a staunch vegan for four years and my health suffered quite a bit. I thought that being vegan was the only way to do right by the planet with my diet, but then I discovered regenerative agriculture and realized that I had been very much blind to different parts of the meat-eating conversation. When I decided to eat meat again, my health skyrocketed. When I got my blood-work back from my doctor, I realized that veganism was not the be-all end-all healthiest way to eat. It was a huge eye opener for me. By accepting that my way of thinking wasn’t absolute, I ended up opening the door to a whole new adventure in my life. I went from vegan to farming and butchering my own home-grown meat. If that’s not transformation, I don’t know what is! Learning to accept nuance and practicing empathy for the people and things I don’t understand has set my heart and mind free in ways I did not know possible.
What motivates you most?
I work to see a world where we work in tandem with nature’s strengths to help our planet and heal our bodies. The task of curbing climate change is huge, but it’s what gets me up in the morning and it gets me outside on the farm. I love learning and I feel like farming with nature (instead of against her) is a never ending lesson. The constant state of learning is a huge motivator for me as well.
What do you do on a daily basis to grow and move forward?
I journal, envision my goals, and meditate. This is my form of self-care. The more I make time to check in with myself (journal), the easier my emotional day to day becomes. The more time I make to sit and imagine my ideal future for myself, the less anxious I get. The more time I make to meditate, the less worked up I get when things don’t go according to plan.
What is something on your bucket list?
When we level-up our farm’s acreage and start implementing more forms of livestock to help heal the soil, I have been dreaming of opening an organic farmstay AirBnb. I have this vision of local-food-and-farming-curious people making the pilgrimage to our slice of paradise to learn all things regenerative agriculture up close. They can have a hands-on experience helping us with farm chores, learn how to butcher a chicken, and sit down to a truly homegrown meal.
Where do you find inspiration?
I read. The library is my favorite place in the whole world. I go through books like water. Everything I learned about running a business – I learned it in books. Everything I learned about sustainable agriculture – books again. Even things like meditation, productivity, and holistic healing – all of that inspiration came from reading it in a book. I also love teaching others. Seeing that lightbulb go on in someone’s eyes when I’m teaching them about sustainability or farming is a beacon that I’m doing what I was meant to do with my life.
Kelsey Jorissen is a female farmer, writer, photographer, and educator who farms on five acres in Southeastern Wisconsin