How I Lead: Effie Truchon Leads in Community, Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence

by Ash Bruxvoort

Effie Truchon has a wide ranging background. Before finding her way to permaculture and coordinating the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence she worked as machinist, as a professional violist, in the music and entertainment industry, and lived and worked in Ireland. We were fortunate to learn about her unique background and experience at our recent Plate to Politics Wisconsin workshop, where Effie worked on political leadership skills like creating a stump speech. In this interview she shares how she has led throughout her life and how she plans to lead into the future.

You’ve had a lot of experiences working in male dominated industries. Can you tell us a little about your background?

My background is extremely diverse. I started working at a young age. I delivered papers and used the money to buy my first car when I was 18. In the first month I started working on the car myself. I switched the tires out, replaced the spark plugs and so on. At 15, I was raped but never reported it. That led to experimentation with alcohol and drugs. My parents gave me a choice: Go to college or get out.

I decided to go to Winona State in Minnesota. I started working towards becoming a paralegal but switched to music because I couldn’t see myself staying in an office all day. I trained as a violist. After school, I started working in a machine shop. Later I worked for Music in Motion as a DJ and eventually worked up to being an Operations Supervisor. I smashed my pinky in between a speaker and a door, which meant I couldn’t play viola anymore. That was really hard for me. I ended up working as a store manager at a coffee shop, which was female dominated and that was a change for me.

I’ve always worked multiple jobs and continued to learn. Throughout my career and life I’ve seen a lot of sexism in the workplace. I’ve spoken out about it too, which hasn’t always ended well for me. But it’s necessary.

Thinking about the leading part of this… I have almost always been a leader… I have worked my way from the bottom up to management or supervisory in almost every job I have worked. Volunteering usually ends up the same way - leading after time.

What sparked the interest in permaculture?

Permaculture is about creating permanent systems. You’re taking observation skills and using feedback to create the best environment. I think after working in a lot of broken systems I was drawn to permaculture. It’s about care of the people, care of the Earth, care for the future--we don’t want to end up in this mess again. Permaculture to me was a solution to many problems. That’s my main focus now: How can I share permaculture and my passion with others.

How do you lead in permaculture?

I’ve been volunteering as a facilities coordinator for the Wisconsin Permaculture Convergence for two years. I speak at the convergence and this year I’m teaching “What is Permaculture?” The convergence is a great resource for women in food and ag. We cover topics ranging from community organizing to beekeeping to herbalism and way more.

This year’s convergence is August 4-6 at Troy Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin. You can learn more here.

Why did you decide to attend Plate to Politics?

Several reasons. I like to go to women only events to be inspired and make connections. I’m also interested in becoming involved in local politics, especially as I get older. I was curious to know what the process was like and to hear from other women about what they are doing and what issues they are working on.

Are you planning to run for political office? When and what for?

I am planning to run for a local office. My parents, husband and I cooperatively purchased land in the upper peninsula in Michigan. We plan to build two homes and start farming there. Right now I’m trying to make connections in the area and learn about the system.

Since 2014, I’ve worked as an Alternate Chief Election Inspector for the City of West Allis, Wisconsin, and have been working the elections for the past couple years - including our recount - oh what fun that was! A certified election inspector is responsible for assisting voters through the election process, as well as, assisting with any special voting deputy responsibilities in accordance with the laws. This is a great way to get involved in local politics.

What are the issues you want to bring attention to in that role?

Environmental health and our food system are huge for me. I want to help others see the connection between health and the environment. My husband has lost 120 pounds since going non-GMO and organic. I know when I worked really hard I was always tired because I made poor food choices. Throughout all the transitions in my life I’ve really seen how unhealthy environment and eating habits impact people.

What did you enjoy or find effective in the Plate to Politics training?

It’s great to take a look at ourselves and what we’re all capable of. I loved hearing stories of empowered women. I liked getting up and practicing my speaking skills. I don’t often have the opportunity to do that and I don’t think most women do.

Why do you think it’s important that more women in ag and rural women run for office?

We need a greater diversity of perspectives. I think women have many stories to tell and experience to bring to our political system. It’s time for women to be at the front of the decision making tables.