Inn Serendipity

10 09 2009

by Emily Larson

DSC_9098Bed and Breakfast: a wonderful combination. At the Inn Serendipity in Browntown in Green County,WI, two comfortable beds wait in cozy rooms in classic four-square farmhouse, but breakfast is decidedly a break from tradition—there are no pancakes with maple syrup, sausage links or crispy bacon strips to be found. Instead, co-owners Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko create a delicious and savory breakfast plate, chock full of herbs, fruits and vegetables from their beautiful organic garden outside. “We’re convinced we can change the world one breakfast at a time,” said Lisa.

Inn Serendipity provides sustainable accommodation for hundreds of curious guests. It is innovative and inspiring and serves as model for business owners, ecopreneurs and individuals alike. Lisa and John grow about 70% of the food they serve for breakfast in their own garden and almost everything else they purchase locally in Green County. With such a large and well kept garden, they can and freeze produce for the winter. They also have a straw bale greenhouse where they experiment with growing tropical plants like papayas as well as transplants in spring. Currently, the bottom level dries onions and garlic and hosts a sprawling Lego city for their seven year old son Liam, while upstairs tropical plants grow year round, including a papaya plant that produces one papaya every six months.

Inside the house, a wood stove heats the house in the winter and offers extra burners for boiling water and simmering DSC_8867marinara sauce. In the garage, next to the diesel Volkswagen Jetta, sits a 1974 electric CitiCar which runs off the electricity generated by an off-grid solar electric system. John uses the CitiCar to run nearby errands. “Not even Jay Leno has one of these!” he said with a laugh, gesturing to another serious example of his family’s commitment to low impact living.

“We don’t believe sustainability should be about sacrifice,” John said as he stirred homemade Fair Trade-certified chocolate syrup into his Equal Exchange coffee to make a mocha. Guests discover that at Inn Serendipity, breakfast can be sustainable in more ways than one.

A typical breakfast at Inn Serendipity includes zucchini feta pancakes made with zucchini from the garden, feta cheese from Klondike Cheese Co. in Monroe, WI and fresh eggs from the Country Store in Monroe; tomato crouton casserole with fresh-picked tomatoes and basil from John and Lisa’s garden, crunchy croutons and GranQueso cheese from Roth Käse USA Ltd. in Monroe; raspberry streusel muffins rich with garden raspberries, Country Store eggs, plain yogurt from Sugar River Dairy in Albany, WI and a twist of lemon; and raspberry smoothies with plain yogurt from Sugar River Dairy with a taste of Dr. Henry Najat’s honey. To complete the Green County Plate, John and Lisa served this breakfast on a plate from nearby Elemental Pottery in Brodhead, WI.

The farm is entirely run on the wind and solar power generated from their turbine and solar electric panels. The wind turbine whirs overhead at an estimated 20 miles per hour, John said, but it will shut off if it gets too windy. Lisa and John envisioned a turbine on their property while they watched their clothes blowing frantically on the line. Now their very productive turbine and solar collectors produce more energy than they can use, and they sell power back to the grid. But for Lisa and John, the green energy of Inn Serendipity is not about money; it is about transparency, education and possibility.

DSC_9132“It’s not just the return on investment, but the return on environment,” said John. Lisa and John use Inn Serendipity to show their guests, community, and nation (due to their coverage in Newsweek and USA Today) that renewable energy can be integrated into our daily lives. Inn Serendipity is a means to leave the earth in a better place than Lisa and John found it. Their earth mission, as John said, is to improve quality of life, raise their son, Liam, and build community.

“There’s a different sense of community we weren’t able to have in the city,” John explained of their decision to move from Chicago to Browntown; they sought a strong, interdependent community and had to leave the city to find it. At the entrance to Inn Serendipity sits a beautifully painted wood sign welcoming guests to the bed and breakfast, hand crafted by their neighbor down the road. “Money is not meant to ever change hands,” admits John.  The neighbors receive muffins and produce in exchange for sharing their talents. It’s this interdependence and reliance on personal relationships, this exchange of services that Lisa and John value so highly.  They dedicated their Rural Renaissance book to other neighbors, affectionately called “Uncle Phil” and “Aunt Judy”; they are related not by blood, but values, concern for the environment and, as it turns out, the CitiCar.

When asked about their dreams and plans for the future, Lisa doesn’t imagine “bigger” to be part of the equation; doing what they do better, certainly, but most importantly, deepening those community connections that help make Inn Serendipity successful.

To see more pictures from Inn Serendipity, please see our Flickr  slideshow.

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