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Finland Wild Rice House

Interview by Dan Cahill Mathews

https://finlandwildrice.com/
5168 Hefflefinger Road
Finland, MN 55603
(218) 353-1661

Open Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm
After hours and weekend drop-offs available through phone call

Meghan Mitchell is our Wild Rice Project Coordinator at the Finland Food Chain. She is tasked with continuing the work of our AGRI Sustainable Demonstration Grant to expand access to wild rice as a food source and nurture the transfer of generational skills through a mentorship program. I sat down with Meghan to learn more about her passion for all things wild rice/manoomin. Here is our interview:

Meghan in her sailing days

What is your background in Wild Rice?

“My grandmother who lived in MN when I was a kid, but is from the south, was very passionate about her love of wild rice and cooking with wild rice and so was my mom. I grew up around two women that loved wild rice very much.  Later in life I noticed that there was wild rice growing in a lake I had been going to every year in Central MN. Two years ago I got a canoe and started researching harvesting. I’m self taught.”

What is the most fulfilling part of ricing?

“It’s inherently a fully immersive experience in nature. I’ve always enjoyed activities like that. It reminds me of sailing where you have to pay attention to every aspect of the nature that surrounds you that you’re working with. I love scouting beforehand, learning about the life cycle, and getting up close and hands on.”

What part of this project do you feel most passionate about?

“It’s exciting to learn how much there is about wild rice beyond eating this delicious and nutritious food I’ve always known. To learn how integral it is to the Ojibwe culture and how much advocacy is going on out there and how much work it needs and how much work is being done and being able to connect with that and widen my scope. And making connections with people that are fighting for it is really exciting.”

Green rice ready to be parched

Ways to be involved?

“Research the 1854 Treaty Authority for a wealth of resources and examples of ways to get involved including a wildlife biology department that is doing monitoring and surveys constantly. There’s education and outreach, there’s maps. In the real world start looking out and notice it. It’s all over in MN and can exist on edges of any lake. Step 1 is to know what you’re looking for to start to advocate for it. To discourage people from pulling it out like a weed.

“At the Finland Wild Rice House, we’re looking for people to help learn how to process harvested rice. We’re looking for anyone with stories of wild rice and help from experienced ricers who want to talk about rice. We’re looking for people to join our mailing list for a resource for local events and broader information about wild rice.”

Blake Hawbaker is the lead processor of the Finland Wild Rice House. He operates the machines and processes thousands of pounds of rice each September. I spoke with Blake to learn more about the procedure for processing wild rice and the services that the Finland Wild Rice House provides. 

Blake chops wood to feed the parcher

What are the services provided at the Finland Wild Rice House?

“This year we anticipate to start processing the last week of August and all through September. The processing facility will be open Monday-Friday from 9am-7pm for receiving rice to be processed and we can coordinate weekend drop-offs over the phone. We will process, label, and package wild rice to be shelf stable. We want our rates to be accessible for all ricers, from those who harvest hundreds of pounds a year, to those just getting into it. For those with batches over 100lbs, we can ensure that we process all of the rice together in the large parcher. For batches under 60lbs it becomes necessary for us to combine with other smaller batches to operate the parcher so we help to coordinate that. If you have a smaller batch (less than 60lbs) and you are concerned with the quality of your harvest being combined with unknown batches, we encourage you to find friends or other community members to join with so you can vet the rice before it’s processed.”

What are the steps to processing wild rice?

“The first step is after the harvest, drying your rice as best you can in the sun or with fans. Then we put it in the first parcher which is wood fired and takes 2-3 hours of roasting rice to remove the water content and prime the hulls for removal which makes the rice shelf stable. I feed the fire and the parcher stirs itself. I typically check it initially after 90 minutes and then frequently until it is dry enough.

“Next we put it into the de-huller, a custom made machine specifically for removing hulls from wild rice. The rice autofeeds into a drum where it is gently rubbed to separate the hulls from the grain.  The rubbed rice exits the drum and falls past a dust collector that blows off 90% of the chaffe and leaves clean grain. 

“Next we transfer the rice to the fanning mill which further cleans the grains of chaffe and dust, separates out larger rocks, seed heads, and ergot, and sorts various sizes of grains through screens. This helps separate full grains from broken grains. At this point the rice is ready to eat. 

“We do have another piece of equipment that is optional in processing. The gravity table vibrates the grains and sorts grades of grain by size. This also removes 100% of chaffe and completely cleans the grain.”

Blake and Joel emptying the parcher of dried rice

How did you gain interest in processing wild rice?

“Having friends that were into harvesting wild foods like foraging, tap-ing maple trees, netting fish, and harvesting wild rice. Moving to the North Shore exponentially grew that interest. I spent 3 days training under Frank Bibeau on the Leech Lake Reservation to learn how to process rice. The machines we have at the processing facility came from Joel and Gail Hilgendorf and I shadowed them to learn their operation. I adapted my skills and lessons learned under Frank to these specific machines.” 

What is the most rewarding part of processing wild rice?

“The people. Becoming a hub for North Shore ricers and meeting all the different types of people that are into ricing. It’s amazing how clearly invested everyone is in this work and how precious the rice is to them and I feel honored to be entrusted to take care of their rice. I get a lot of satisfaction when I see how happy they are to get properly processed rice back.” 

Former Wild Rice Project Coordinator, Abby Rohweder, weighs rice

What is the main challenge of processing wild rice?

“There were growing pains in learning how to physically run our operation in a new space and how to structure my time most efficiently. I want to be the most efficient with processing so I can take care of the most people possible and provide a valuable service.” 

What is your vision for the future of the Finland Wild Rice House?

“I would love to see even more interest from people who want to learn how to process and use the machines. I’m happy to train anyone interested. With more help we can expand access to wild rice as a food source and increase our output of wild rice. I want to continue to be a known resource of quality processing for any novice ricer in addition to experienced ricers.” 

Tips for anyone going out harvesting wild rice?

“Do everything you can to keep your feet clean while harvesting! Sand and tiny rocks are not a good crunch when eating and can be tough to remove even with special equipment.”

Cold Sowing, Traditional Knowledge, and Community: A Conversation with Audrey Logan

by Lucy Carlson

On May 6th, I met with Audrey Logan to talk about all things agriculture and community, with some incredible stories woven throughout. If you’re familiar with the practice, cold sowing or dry seeding/winter sowing as it is sometimes called, is a traditional practice of sowing seeds in the fall, winter or early spring, and allowing seeds to come up when the timing is right with the season. 

I met Audrey over Zoom, because she is based in Winnipeg, Canada where she works in a community garden as a community educator in indigenous agriculture and permaculture techniques. We began by talking about this idea of cold sowing, and Audrey’s nearly 40 years in the practice. 

She is growing in a cold-climate, similar to our region in Minnesota, and does not grow anything from transplants. All of her food she directs sows in the Fall or early Spring, so that the seeds may be stratified (experience cold temperatures). She also uses a practice of scarification, or gently abrading the seed coat to improve germination. 

Logan describes this practice as going with nature, and not fighting against it. She has tried both techniques of transplanting and direct sowing, but finds that the cold sowing brings better yield and more delicious fruit every time. She told me that babying the transplants, watering them carefully and providing artificial sunlight makes the plants too reliant on the grower. 

When you direct-sow the seed, the plant is forced to find its own nutrients and water since germination, making a stronger, healthier plant. Not only does this practice yield stronger plants and more delicious fruit, it is also more accessible. There is no need to till or put hours of labor into caring for transplants. Instead, you toss the seeds in place and wait for nature to take its course. Audrey shared that she has mobility limitations, but that this technique allows her to garden freely and spend time sharing knowledge and food with folks in the community. 

If you are not ready to start your entire garden with cold sowing, Audrey has another method you can try to get an easier start. Fill a milk jug with organic matter like leaf material or compost and some potting soil, and plant the seeds in the material. Leave the jug outside and the seeds will germinate and harden-off on their own. 

Cold sowing technique using gallon jugs

Audrey is also an avid seed-saver, following the natural ways and cycles of the seasons. She has not bought seeds in over 40 YEARS using these techniques, which she shared in our interview. Logan Advises that you collect the seeds in the fall, and for root vegetables leave them in the ground for two years and the second year they will produce a flower from which seed can be harvested. She described how using these strategies, you can save a lot of money and have many, many more seeds to share. 

Seeds should be stored in a really cool area, such as a freezer where they can be stratified for the winter. In her own words, “If you sprouted more than you wanted, pass it [seeds] on to other people. That’s how things had been done for the longest of times. We need to get back to that instead of hoarding that knowledge and hoarding the seed.” 

There is also a tenderness in saving seed. “When I was first given the seeds of a Tepary Bean (native to the southwest US). I was given 8 seeds and I was thinking, ‘Oh crap. What am I gonna do with these seeds?’ But I planted them anyway, and because they are drought resistant, they don’t like alot of water, and so they flourished. That first year I ended up with half a bag of seeds. Then I replanted those. Within no time I had a full stock of seeds that were not only enough for cooking and eating, but also enough to pass on and give to others.”  

At one point, she was also given the Gete-Okosomin (“Big Old Squash” in Anishinaabemowin) seed from an elder, who gave her two seeds. This squash is a native pre-columbian variety that produces giant fruit. It has existed for generations and generations, carefully passed down, hand-pollinated and cultivated by the Miami nation of Indiana for 5,000 years. Audrey was given just 2 of these seeds to be planted. When she got those she said, “Oh boy, I better be good!” It was a success story as she produced eleven 20-pound squash full of seeds, which she was able to pass down and share with the community. “Seeds are basically a lifeforce,” says Logan.

Gete-Okosomin (Big Old Squash)

As I am always thinking about food and community the conversation invariably turned to this topic, and I asked Audrey how she thinks about food and community in her work. In her community, she operates a gifting garden where, “we grow what the community would like to be able to pick and walk off with without having to cook it. And so we planted cucumbers, beans, zucchinis, things that people can walk off with easily.” It is a gifting garden so they never worry about how much or how little someone takes, because it’s irrelevant. It’s really about providing for the community with no restriction. “The more zucchini that people pick, the more it produces and the more flowers it grows leading to more fruit.”

Audrey shared many traditional indigenous stories with me, which I am so grateful to receive. With European colonization of the indigenous land that we call the United States and Canada today came violence against the indigenous nations that already existed here. In particular, Audrey spoke to the specific ways in which Native people were targeted for gathering wild plants, which colonizers viewed as ‘toxic’ or ‘noxious’ weeds. This colonial violence came after indigenous people had shared their knowledge of cultivation and gathering with the incoming Europeans, which in turn fostered mistrust and generational pain. 

Audrey said as our conversation started “Now is the time for sharing again” after this painful history, and I want to honor her generosity and hold the space to have gratitude for her openness in sharing her knowledge with me and our community. We did not exchange money for the interview, but she asked that in return for sharing this knowledge that I make ‘A little people house’ for my garden, and post it on the Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden Facebook page, which is where she facilitates a community garden in Winnipeg, Canada.

Thank you, Audrey, for your time and for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience!

Here are some resources that Audrey Shared with me related to dehydration and food preservation, and other food organizing groups:

  1. https://www.dehydrationnations.com/
  2. Grow North in Thompson, Canada 
  3. Deer Spirit Permaculture Garden (Facebook)

Finland Agricultural History D. Anderson’s Tree Farm

Profile by Dan Cahill Mathews

I first met Allen Anderson at the winter Finland Farmer’s Market towards the end of March. Kaare Melby, owner of Finnskogen Farm, introduced me to Allen enthusiastically stating, “He’s got all kinds of awesome stories on the history of agriculture in Finland!” We began to talk about the farm Allen grew up on – about the 200 heads of beef and 400 hogs his family raised on 1500 acres of rugged and wooded land of the North Shore. I was in disbelief to hear that a farm that size could exist in this part of the state, but it was true. As the owner of a BBQ company that prides itself in sourcing animals from the North Shore, I was optimistic that such a farm could exist again and supply us with animals that grazed North Shore land and breathed Lake Superior air in our backyard. In the brief conversation we had that afternoon, I knew I needed to learn more about the history of D. Anderson’s Farm. Allen and I made plans to have a longer conversation over breakfast at Our Place in Finland, MN. 

As we sat down to talk, Allen pulled out a gallon sized Ziploc bag filled with family pictures dating as far back as the early 1900’s. One by one, Allen picked a photo and shared a detail about life on the farm. The history of D. Anderson’s farm unfolded in front of my eyes through the collage of photographs on the table.  

Dean, Bonnie, and a squirrelly young Allen pose for a family photo.

In 1934 a young man named Dean Anderson moved from Jackson, a small town in Southwest Minnesota, to the North Shore at the tail end of the Dust Bowl years. Dean settled on his uncle’s 40 acre homestead off Highway 3 near what became the Silver Bay Airport with his father, mother, and sisters. The Finland Co-op outfitted Dean with logging equipment in 1935 and the Virginia Co-op bought stumpage and sold the wood he harvested near Isabella. With this equipment, Dean began to clear land for fields and operate a Christmas tree farm. Dean also built a sawmill and produced the lumber for buildings on the farm. 

Allen’s grandfather, Andrew Anderson, aunt’s Mattie and Vera, and father, Dean.

Shortly after arriving on the North Shore, Dean met a beautiful young woman named Bonnie Ostman, the daughter of Swedish immigrants. Bonnie’s father came from Sweden when he was 15 years old. She was fluent in three languages – being raised in a Swedish speaking home, learning English at school, and picking up Finnish from interacting with neighbors in the community while working at the Finland Co-op. Dean and Bonnie were married in 1945 and built their first home on the farm in 1951.

Dean, Bonnie, and Allen outside their first home built on the property.

In addition to running the farm, logging, and sawmilling, Dean worked as a foreman on the construction of the railroad between Silver Bay and Highway 2, clearing the land, leveling the ground, and installing the tracks. Every year Dean would take a month off from his work as a foreman to trap beaver as it was more lucrative. Dean was earning a living on the railroad, but made a good amount more during the month spent trapping beavers.

As the operations on the farm continued to grow, Dean and Bonnie partnered with Art Lorntson who owned another 1500 acres near Beaver Bay. The partnership permitted Dean and Bonnie to begin raising cows and pigs. On both properties, Dean would clear large swaths of the farm, burn brush piles, plow, disc, and seed for hay. The plan was to re-sod the hay every 5 years, but that never quite happened with so many fields to manage. Allen recalls, “Hay is a full time job from the 4th of July until first snow.” Dean, along with his sons, hayed every field from what is now the Silver Bay Golf Course down to the Clover Valley Store. 

Dean showing off a field of hay.

If you talk with any farmer who raises animals along the North Shore, you’ll know that sourcing hay is a common challenge these days. As Allen says, “Now, no one has the equipment to harvest.” In the 50’s and 60’s, the Andersons would use machines to bale hay and load the bales by hand on an elevator to build mountains. During peak hay season they would go to Two Harbors to load 300 bales of hay onto their truck and drive it home. Allen tells me that on one occasion they completed this feat this 3 times in a single day to have enough hay for their herd. Dean hired high school athletes to help bale and load hay. By doing all this laborious work, they never had to buy any hay from other farmers and, in later years when their herd was smaller, they sold hay to other farmers.

Trucks loaded with hay, in the background, the mountain of hay bales.

At their peak, the Andersons herd grew to 200 heads of beef and 400 hogs. The majority of the beef and pork produced on the farm was sold locally. Some were shipped to South St. Paul for processing or sold at auction yards. Allen remembered one year when the price of pork decreased so much that fully grown hogs were worth less than the price they paid to buy the farrow. Dean and Bonnie got out the phone book and went down the list to fill out orders locally, butchered the pigs on their farm, and delivered the orders personally.

During calving season, Dean would sleep on scaffolding outside over the yard. He would wake up every hour throughout the night and shine a light on the cows to make sure no cows were having trouble giving birth. If there was an issue, Dean would call out and everyone on the farm woke up to spring to action. It was all hands on deck to make sure the calf survived birth. 

Dean feeding a calf inside their home.

I asked Allen to describe what meals were like while growing up on the farm. “We always had meat, potatoes, and some kind of gravy for dinner. Every night,” Allen remembers. They ate a lot of deer, moose, and beef. The beef they ate was only from animals that were culled, or wouldn’t make it to maturity to be sold. All prime beef was sold. 

In the 50’s the Andersons would supplement their pantry with hunting, fishing, and picking berries. According to Allen, he and his brother, Tim worked commercially as smelters along with Warren Swarmer. At the end of every April they would go smelting for Louis Kemp and Micky Lorntson. “Every animal that lives in the woods or swims in the lakes came across our table,” Allen adds. “What’s the difference between pork, bear, racoon, or possum? If you know how to prepare it then it all tastes good.” 

Some deer were luckier than others.

Bonnie kept a large vegetable and fruit garden on the farm and stocked the basement wall to wall with shelves of quart jars, packed hundreds deep. Bonnie laid out root vegetables on the basement floor to dry and preserve for the winter. They canned all kinds of fish native to the surrounding lakes including lake trout, walleye, northern pike, and suckers, as well as meat such as deer, bear, and moose. Keeping an incredible homestead pantry was a necessity – the farm didn’t get power until Thanksgiving Day in 1968.

Dean and Bonnie fed anybody who passed through their yard. Allen recalls one story of a young man who put his last dollar in his gas tank in Duluth to make it up to Beaver Bay to work at the Reserve Mining Company only to find that work didn’t start for another two weeks. Fortunately he found the Andersons. Bonnie fed him and Dean put him to work on the farm until his job at the Mining Company began. 

Taking a calf for a little sled ride.

As Dean and Bonnie became older, the farm operations gradually decreased. Art Lorntson passed away in the 90’s and the partnership to work Art’s land dissolved. Dean developed some back problems in his late 70’s and hired some help to keep the farm running including their neighbor, Bonnie Warner, and David Berglund from Grand Marais to cut hay. 

After Dean and Bonnie passed away, the land was split between Allen and his brother, Tim. Allen had spent his career working in log trucking, building trailers, and hauling wood. Allen quit trucking in 1998 and went to work for North Shore Mining until his “retirement” in 2016. In his retired life, Allen participates in a tractor club with his fleet of Allis-Chambers machines, competes in Mud Bogging with his modified U.S. built WWII tank, hauls for sawmills, plows snow, and works on tractors and custom builds in his shop. I asked Allen to share his fondest memories of life on the farm: “I enjoyed driving the tractor and tilling the field. I liked to see the ground turn from a field to be ready for planting. I enjoyed the mechanical end more than the animal end.”

One of Allen’s trucks hauling hay bales through a wooded road.

Just like his father and mother, Allen is no stranger to a strong work ethic. He tells me, “If you’re supposed to be at work at 7:00am and you’re there at 6:45am, then you’re 15 minutes late.” It’s clear that life growing up on a farm instilled a need to keep his hands busy helping others and getting work done. That’s why “retired” Allen is still constantly working on projects and finding jobs to do. Despite such a work ethic, Allen has clear thoughts on raising animals the way his family did on the North Shore: “My grandpa made a living with a flock of sheep and two horses. My dad made a living with 200 heads of beef and 400 hogs. There’s no way I could make a living farming up here today.”

Some of the herd grazing on hay in the winter.

And Allen’s perspective has merit. I talk with a lot of farmers in my work and most hold down full time employment in addition to their farming responsibilities. This rings especially true for those who farm chickens, pigs, and cattle. Two common obstacles I regularly hear about include affordable, USDA inspected meat processing (of which there are no facilities on the North Shore) and sourcing feed including hay (which made up the bulk of the Anderson’s operation in the peak of summer). It seems like these infrastructure challenges must be addressed to realize the dream of abundant, sustainable raised, North Shore beef, pork, chicken, and (don’t knock it ‘til you try it) rabbits. 

I hope my conversation with Allen is an ongoing one. I hope to keep documenting the rich agricultural history in the Finland area and all along the North Shore. I hope we can learn lessons from the past to continue to grow a strong local food system. In the meantime I know I can always stop by Our Place in Finland for breakfast and probably find Allen sitting at the bar, sharing a coffee, a laugh, and a good story or two with friends who spent their entire lives in this community and witnessed it change. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. But some things will never change – like Allen’s breakfast order: American potatoes with sausage gravy. Meat, potatoes, and gravy. Just like every dinner on Anderson’s Farm.

Wild Rice House Manoomin Waakaa’igan Villirisi Talo Nears End of First Season

by Abby Roweder ~ Wild Rice Project Coordinator

Blake Hawbaker (Processor) and Abby Rohweder (Wild Rice Project Coordinator)
work at the gravity table separating the different quality wild rice kernels.

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!

Poling a canoe through wild rice plants at a wild rice camp in Floodwood, Minnesota

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 Company

Producer Profile:
Baptism River BBQ Co.

by Laurie Kallinen

Dan & Kaylee Cahill-Mathews by their BBQ tent at Bay Days in Silver Bay

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”. 

In fact, Dan stressed to give a shout out to the local producers they use.  They include: 
Beef & Pork – Yker Acres – ykeracres.com
Chicken – Rustic Pastures – steveandjennifer@rusticpastures.com
Greens – Wolf Ridge Organic Farm – https://wolf-ridge.org/explore/wolf-ridge-organic-farm/
Cucumbers – Round River Farm – www.round-river.com
                    & Finnskogen Farm –finnskogenfarm.com
Maple Syrup – Wild Country Maple Syrup – wildcountrymaple.com
                        & Minnesota Syrup Co. – www.mnsyrup.com
Even his smoker wood is from local loggers!

Producer Profile: Salt & Light Heritage Farm


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.