It has been an interesting season for wild rice. The drought impacted rice stalks and bed numbers, some waterways were deemed inaccessible due to forest fires or lack of water for a canoe, and the fire bans left processors unable to parch their rice! However, even with all of the challenges, the Wild Rice Project still made leaps and bounds toward its goals!
So far, the Wild Rice House Processing Facility has processed over 2000 pounds of finished rice with 18 customers and more to come this week. We also plan to begin processing other small-grains to expand our reach to small-scale farmers in the region! Due to decrease in fire hazard conditions, we are now able to operate our small parcher for those with smaller batches of rice! The last drop off day was Wednesday September 15th, and the last processing day will be Friday September 17th. If you have questions, please call Blake at 612-298-8561 for more details.
The mentorship program gave 5 wonderful mentees experiences they will cherish for a lifetime and the project team hopes to give those experiences to many more next season!
“It is crazy how your respect and bond with the plant increases dramatically when actually harvesting. I know everything about the plant, but had never actually seen the plant in person until this experience, and it changed everything for me.” -2021 Mentee
For the educational portion of the Wild Rice Project, we are in the process of planning a second webinar event for the end of September! We will also have a table at the Harvest Booya Festival this coming weekend. More information to come. Updates will be posted on the @FinlandWildRice Facebook Page and our website www.finlandwildrice.com.
Pictures by Photo Journalist Lorie Shaull and used with permission. See her full 50 photo spread HERE
Producer Profile: Baptism River BBQ Co. by Laurie Kallinen
Dan Cahill Mathews has been cooking since he was two years old! That’s when his father taught him how to scramble eggs while standing on a kitchen chair so he could reach the stove. It’s no surprise that he and wife, Kaylee, find themselves in the food business.
“My wife and I moved to the Finland area drawn by the natural beauty of forests and rivers, abundance of outdoor recreation… (and are now expanding) our mobile BBQ business (Baptism River Barbecue Co.) As relatively new transplants to the Finland community, (we) are excited to immerse (ourselves) deeper into this vibrant, resilient, and welcoming community.”
I spoke with Dan and Kaylee Cahill Mathews at their Baptism River BBQ stand during Bay Days in Silver Bay. Prior to this year they had only done a few special events, but had such a positive response last year they are joining the growing food truck movement and have more events scheduled this year. And considering what it takes for them to set up, that is no mean feat!
While he’s always been interested in the farm to fork movement, Dan was challenged early on in his business by H. Michael Casper to “Always buy and support local.” since then it has become a point of pride for the business. “A lot of effort goes into sourcing locally.” It includes contacting farms individually and then picking up or shipping the goods rather than just placing an order with one supplier. Honoring local and respecting the impact to farmers are important for Dan. He takes pride that, “everything is locally sourced but the buns, …and even those are made by a Minnesota company!” While those efforts are reflected in a higher price, they take pride in keeping the price as low as possible for the value of the product.
“A lot of effort goes into sourcing locally…“ “… everything is locally sourced but the buns, …and even those are made by a Minnesota company!”
Baptism River’s BBQ style is a conglomeration made up of East (Carolina w vinegar, pepper and maple syrup), and West (Kansas City sweet and smoky) to make his unique Northwoods style.
A day in the life of Baptism River BBQ is actually closer to a week in the making!
Events are often Friday-Sunday affairs with prep typically starting on the Tuesday before. That’s when the menu is planned and meats are trimmed and seasoned, taking into account what meat is available; pork belly, beef brisket, etc.
Wednesday is loading of all needed supplies and equipment into their truck to be hauled to the Clair Nelson Center on Thursday. There they rent the certified kitchen to do the rest of their prep work, often arriving by 6:30am. It’s a full 10 hours to smoke meats, cool and transfer to their staging refrigerator, and make their house-made pickles, coleslaw, sauces, rubs and signature Mac-N-Cheese.
Friday, event day, they make 2 trips using a U-haul trailer to get all their gear, food, and the large smoker to the site and start it heating up. While the pulled pork is smoked on prep day, Ribs, chicken, brisket, etc. are smoked the day of an event. And then there’s the tear-down, 3-1/2 to 4 hours and another two trips to haul it all back home! Dan and Kaylee are hoping to do well enough this year to invest in their own trailer soon. When asked what was the favorite thing about running their business, both Dan and Kaylee answered almost simultaneously, “Working together and getting to know people in the community.”
Everything is house-made!
Including; Mustard BBQ sauce, Rubs, and the bread crumbs for the Mac-N-Cheese. It took 27 attempts to get the right combination of seasonings and crumbs, baked vs stove-top, but when they got it right, Dan exclaimed “Oh %@#&, this is GOOD!” and they knew they got it right.
The Cahill-Mathews’ don’t just want to serve their delicious food, they also have goals: *Promote sustainability by using primarily compostable packaging and cutlery. *Be a resource for others who want to start their own business. *And “Carve a path to local produce”.
HOW in the world did a former enthusiastic VEGAN and an outdoorsman come together and become organic livestock farmers?” That’s how the Salt & Light Heritage Farm story begins on their website at organic-mn.com.“ As a young adult, Leah grew dissatisfied with commonly available meat with its chemicals, hormones, and factory farming practices. Her passion was such that she became a vegan until she started connecting food with farmers. Having worked on organic farms and gaining experience she began to think, “Maybe I can do this!” Together with husband Ron, they decided to raise their own ethical and healthy meat, starting Salt & Light Heritage Farm on 80 acres outside of Two Harbors in 2016. Run by a simple philosophy that respects life, land, water, and air, they honor nature and its inherent laws. Whether it’s animal or vegetable, there are no pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, GMO’s or “other weird stuff”. “We believe in working within the delicate balance that our creator, the first gardener, created.”
Salt & Light Heritage Farm has been growing their own cross-bred heritage chickens, turkeys, and pigs, developing hearty breeds for our area. Their beef calves come from a northland organic, grass-fed breeder and they take only a few calves at a time, finishing them off to butcher weight, so they have a consistently rotating supply of meat for sale, selling on average 2 beef cows per month. This symbiotic relationship helps breeder, marketer to be more consistently profitable. Pigs and poultry are butchered a couple times per year. Beef can be pre-bought “on the hoof”, or by the pound from their website, or because they are able to USDA package for retail sale, you can purchased over the counter at Louise’s Place in Two Harbors. With a philosophy, “Food is medicine,” the farm is adding fruit orchards, and sells berry plants and sustainably harvested fiddlehead ferns and ramps in season.
Since Ron also works away from the farm, Leah, with the help of 4 year-old Cherish and 2 year-old Joseph, takes on much of the daily chores. When asked if she could have one wish there was little hesitation. “If someone could do the housework, then I could be outside more. I’d much rather be outside even in the muck!” A key to success is the rule that “We don’t produce what doesn’t pay for itself. It costs money to raise good food.” But their customers share their same values about food, and many have become friends. “The dividends are in your health”, says Leah. The farm pricing structure is based on true costs. Not subsidized by the government. No sacrifice in animal care. No sacrificed of the Land. The next hurdle to tackle is switching to completely biodegradable packaging by early this year, which was written about in a story from the North Shore Journal. (Read the full story here)
With persistence Salt and Light Heritage Farm finally adopted a high quality backyard compostable packaging solution! It looks and acts just like plastic, provides excellent protection for the perishable products they produce and benefits the environment instead of polluting. By early 2021 their products will be 100% compostable.