Sisters weave through the maze of eco-culture

By D.A. Loeser Small

Sometimes the faithful succumb to eco ennui. Change happens slowly. How are we going to leap past the fossil-fueled mess to environmentally responsible forms of energy?

When we’re about to lose hope, two sisters arrive on the scene. And they walk the talk.

"The reason I left Alaska is because I didn’t feel I could live sustainably up there," says Colette Buccholtz.


"Colette and I have toyed with the idea of getting a permaculture group started in Rochester," says younger sibling Courtney.

The Buccholtz sisters, ages 34 and 28, tackle green issues on so many fronts they leave all but the most fervent enviros in organic dust. It’s hard to keep up with them.

Answering her phone one day last spring, Courtney explained the bad connection: "I’m up in Osceola (Wis.) with some folks who farm with horses."

Colette, a wildlife biologist who worked for seven years in Alaska, and Courtney, who holds a degree in animal science, traveled the globe before returning to their native Rochester to start farming in 2007. Among their touring/learning destinations: New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, Thailand and Malaysia.

They also trained intensively, taking a "permaculture-sustainable living class" near Eugene, Ore., from which they both received a certificate, and working at Earthen Path Organic Farm, home of Steve Schwen, who has spread organic gospel for decades in an idyllic slice of Wabasha County.

Colette and Courtney began selling at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market a few weeks ago. They offer popular fare like bunches of dill weed, fresh stems of basil, cabbage and lettuces. In early July, they were also selling five kinds of kale, Easter egg radishes, edible flowers, and their own sauerkraut flax crackers and containers of pesto. More was coming: parsnips, pole beans, yellow wax beans, cauliflower, ground cherries and watermelon.

The sisters have a Community Supported Agriculture program. They don’t use air conditioning. They drive no faster than 55 miles per hour. Courtney gets around in a ’90 Geo Prism that, she reports, exceeds 35 mpg/highway; Colette drives an ’86 Subaru.

They are lithesome, and one half expects a butterfly or bluebird to perch on their shoulders as they go about tasks at hand. When not working at the farm, planning a root cellar with buckets of sand, or reading Natural Communities, a regional magazine, they have evening jobs at Sontes restaurant.


If you hear "Norwegian Wood" playing in your head as you read this, I can only say that the same thing happened to me.

"I think we need to come together on this common ground," Courtney says. "We cannot subsist on another planet."

While some just try to remember to take a canvas tote to the grocery store, the sisters are weaving through the maze of eco-culture, inch by inch. Next goal: Buying 30-something acres of their own land. Stay tuned.

For more about the Buccholtz sisters’ eco-journey, visit

Greenspace is a weekly column on Tuesday’s Lifestyles cover.

Eco jargon for beginners

• Permaculture: An agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems.

• Sustainable: Of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.


• CSA (for Community Supported Agriculture): A way for the food-buying public to create a relationship with a farm and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become "members" (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. The number of CSAs in the United States was estimated at 50 in 1990, and has since grown to over 1,000.

Source: Merriam-Webster online,

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