UMD Students Come to Finland

In the Fall of 2022, the Finland Wild Rice House was visited by a Sustainable Food Systems undergrad class from UMD.  After the whole class received a general tour of the processing facility, five of the students stuck around to familiarize themselves further, because they intended to identify a research topic for their semester project that would be helpful to the Finland Food Chain, the community, and its efforts towards sustainability. Together, with wild rice project coordinator Meghan Mitchell, they settled on diving into a topic that has much relevance here: how to grow AND process small grains on a small scale.  Below is the final research paper, including highlights of interviews with local farmers and the students conclusions.

Small Grain Processing in NE Minnesota
By: Aaron Reiser, Keegan Tank, Olivia Goulet, Ella Stewart & Zach Logelin

Nestled along the north shore of Lake Superior, the northeastern corner of Minnesota has long been viewed as a region of economic boom and bust with a history of mining and logging in the bedrock-laden topography. The boreal forested landscape has seen the introduction and passing of industry and other natural resource-based enterprises; in the contemporary north shore how can one make a living? With special intrinsic value in the beauty of the shores and wilderness lakes, it is pertinent to pursue a culture of resilient and diversified livelihoods that can be provided through sustainable agriculture.

Despite the challenges associated with cultivating a food system in the rocky Lake Superior basin, there is a history of agriculture in the region. These farms fell during hard times due to high tax delinquency. “Between 1905 and 1934, many of the 48 farms in the Finland area ceased active cultivation, 8 were abandoned entirely, and most residents lived in poverty and isolation” (Cultural Resources). In our contemporary American lifestyle we have grown dependent on a food system under the control of just a few corporations while “nearly half of all the crops consumed by humans today depend on nitrogen derived from synthetic fertilizer” (Saladino, pg 68). The geography of Lake Superior’s North Shore can make it difficult to access fresh food through localized food systems, underlining the importance of developing a cooperative agricultural community. The purpose and intention of this paper is to gain more insight and express how the Finland Food Chain may support the community of farmers in NE MN.

Just a stone’s throw away from Lake Superior, lies the community of Finland, Minnesota nestled in Lake County. A grant-supported project operating out of Finland, the Finland Food Chain, currently offers a facility with equipment for members of the community to process Manoomin (wild rice). Small grains as well as beans and other legumes were once grown in the region, and production of these crops, for a few reasons, have faltered with time largely because of the lack of grain processing capacity. “The dehulling, winnowing and sorting equipment used for wild rice is similar to that used for small grains, and because the seasonality of processing small grains differs from that of wild rice, there is the potential for one facility to support multiple small grain crop processors” (Mitchell, Finland Food Chain).

Juxtaposed with the historic resource extraction based enterprises of the north shore, small-scale agriculture brings us liberation from dependence on corporate food systems, is generally more resilient to climate change, and restores the community aspect that used to be fundamental in our past food systems. As students, we haven’t been exposed to the challenges and nuances faced by the farmers operating in the Lake Superior basin. We had a chance to connect with some of the farmers that operate in Finland and the broader community in the Lake Superior basin, all the way up to the Iron Range to gain some insight into what kind of support they would require to increase food production.

Interviews and Community Consensus

We set out on our journey of networking and interviewing with the general mission asking: how can we help support a sustainable and diversified north shore agricultural community? Community supported agriculture helps us stray away from the industrialized food systems reliant on complex supply chains and industrial agricultural practices vulnerable to climate change. To get a better understanding of how we can mobilize the community, utilize existing resources, and hopefully provide some new equipment and funding, we chatted with some of the people already making a difference in and around the Finland area.

We first spoke with David Abazs, the Executive Director of the MN NE Region of Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and head of Round River farms with his wife and family. A general consensus is that the North Shore of Lake Superior is very rocky: with such a challenging agrogeology it “took about 15 years to clear boulders with a pickaxe and get land ready to be farmed.” There is no shortage of work required to cultivate the land, with oftentimes only inches of naturally acidic soil. Abazs operates on a relatively small scale property and produces a substantial amount of food each growing season. He describes the process of harvesting small grains as “very challenging.” At Round River Farms, he grows wheat and mustard, processing on his own. Because of the small scale of their production, machinery is not cost effective. David pointed out that collecting and threshing the grains was the most labor intensive and difficult part of the process, along with the lack of storage. He expressed the need for a communal combine, flour mill and mobile threshing unit. But even without the equipment, David was willing to bring mustard and wheat to the facility as part of the grant.

Located near Round River farms lies Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, accompanied by a farm currently managed by Sarah Mayer. The farm operates in order to feed the many campers that visit Wolf Ridge each year, and produces over 35 different types of veggies and herbs. Labor and funding associated with paying workers a fair wage is a constraining factor mentioned by Mayer which limits the expansion of operation and food production. The farm at Wolf Ridge does not currently grow grains because of these constraints. As growing and producing grain on a small scale is much more labor intensive than on a larger scale with the proper machinery, Wolf Ridge does not currently have the resources to accomplish grain production but is willing to lend land for research purposes.

To gain more understanding of the challenges with agriculture in the region, we talked to Kaare Melby, a local farmer who is carrying on the family tradition of agriculture in the North Shore region. Melby is a testament to the character and resilience of the people who farm on the North Shore, practicing regenerative polyculture in production of perennials/annuals, livestock, apple and pear trees, berries, rye, wheat, garlic, potatoes, and the locally traditional bear island flint corn. Kaare mentioned that many of the prior cultivated fields are now forested and threatened by spruce budworm, meaning he is constrained by space and could use more livestock to bring back agricultural land. He currently grows winter wheat and rye which he brings to the Finland Food Chain to be processed. We were able to view firsthand how the wheat was threshed and cleaned at the facility. To thresh the wheat, we had to stomp on the bundles to remove the grain from the stem. It was a long and tedious process which could be relieved by better machinery. Kaare recalled that much of the grain production in the area stopped because of the loss of a communal thresher. He finds the biggest barrier to grain production is the lack of a mobile thresher because transportation is such an issue.

We also spoke with Julie Allen, Harvest Festival Director and LS-SFA Chapter Coordinator for the Sustainable Farming Association about her perspective on small grain processing in the region. Through her involvement with SFA, Allen works closely with many local farmers, as well as operating a small farm herself. In talking with her, we found that having enough land is one of the biggest barriers to growing small grains, as it is a big scale-up in comparison to growing vegetables. Allen also echoed similar sentiments to other farmers we interviewed who mentioned how equipment and labor are necessary components to be successful in growing small grains. Small combines, winnowers and threshers are all examples of equipment that would be needed to support small grain farmers in Northeastern Minnesota. While it is possible to do without these machines, Allen says it is not labor-efficient to process small grains by hand. As we saw in our tour of the Finland Wild Rice House, processing small grains by hand can be a tedious, time-intensive process. It has been one of Allen’s goals to grow gluten-free grains on her personal farm, and she expressed an interest in a partnership for research purposes. When we asked Allen about Kernza, she showed great interest and seemed to believe that this crop would have potential in Northeastern Minnesota. While Kernza is a crop most commonly grown in southern Minnesota, Allen was optimistic about implementing it into the north shore area.

We were also able to sit down and talk to Jason Axelson, who operates Wildhurst Lodge and Campground. He worked as a project manager for Buhler Inc. in Plymouth Minnesota for 15 years. Buhler is a plant equipment manufacturer that produces equipment for processing grains and other small materials. Buhler incorporates advanced technologies into their engineering to be a global leader in providing services that expedite the global production of wheat, maize, rice, pasta, and cereals. Jason shared his knowledge on the equipment as well as some of his insight into increasing productivity of the northeastern region of Minnesota. While Buhler makes equipment for large scale production sites, there are key machines that can be utilized on the small scale level as well. He stressed the importance of magnets, specifically plate magnets, that are an inexpensive way to make sure metal doesn’t ruin other equipment or contaminate any batches. A cheap, second hand community shared drum sieve may also have benefits, as it pre-cleans grains for a smoother production process. A communal combine, such as the handheld combine from GrainGoat, can be used on multiple grain types.

To get a better idea of farming in the Iron Range region, we spoke to Heather Mahoney with the Rutabaga Project near Virgina, MN. She explained how farming near the Iron Range is a huge challenge. Due to the “71-day growing season,” many of these farmers struggle with agriculture, let alone small grains. Considering the short growing season, it is unlikely many farmers in the area would grow small grains or utilize the processing equipment.

The need for community shared or second hand equipment is important for small communities as brand new large scale machinery is not economically feasible or practical. There are many factors that weigh into the result of the end product. Speed control, sanitation, and proper equipment are components that are sometimes overlooked. Grain quality is correlated with speed, as slower speeds often yield crops with less damage due to friction that ultimately helps maintain nutritional value and marketability. Jason stressed the importance of sanitation, as even small scale farmers risk ruining batches and wasting time. As the rise of factory farming is swallowing family farms, economic divides are broadening. Additionally, a lack of infrastructure in this area of the midwest can be attributed to the region’s long history of mining. A need to vary the economy is apparent, and cultivating a culture of community supported agriculture will prove profitable by adding a new source of sustainable income to the region.

Recommendations

We compiled a list of grains that may be suitable for processing in NE Minnesota, including our primary and secondary list of choices, along with their general planting and harvesting schedule. Based on the interviews, our top choices include: wheat, rye, mustard, barley and Kernza. The winter varieties of wheat, rye and barley specifically do well in the region. We also included a list of machinery that the community demonstrated a need for.

*Please note that growing seasons are variable and mere estimates*

Primary:
Wheat (May-September) and Winter Wheat (August-May)
worked in fan mill at Finland facility
Rye (May-September) and Winter Rye (August-May)
Wintering wheat and rye varieties are a great option for grain production in MN because of the overwintering season and spring harvest.
Triticale (May-September)
A hybrid of wheat and rye
Kernza (May-September)
bioengineered, branded – winter hardy, climate friendly, planted in the fall, harvested late summer, perennial
Mustard (May-September)
Many varieties grown in MN, mustard greens very sensitive to frost
Oats (May-September)
Winter oats would be preferred over regular oats
Barley (May-September) and Winter Barley(August-May)
Winter barely not grown in MN because no variety has sufficient winter-hardiness to survive (UMN Extension)
Researchers working to develop winter barley to survive MN winters (UMN Extension)

Secondary:
Amaranth (May-September)
could be too small for effective processing
Hemp
legislation could be too much of a barrier, requires similar equipment
Buckwheat (gluten free)
Beans (May-September)
Sunflower (May-September)
Native to Minnesota
Flax (May-September)
Millet (May-September)

Machinery:
Combine
Mobile Thresher
Flour mill
DIY Farm equipment https://farmhack.org/tools/small-scale-thresher

Conclusion

Connecting the existing assets of the Finland Food Group with the aforementioned farmers above, we see potential in growing this resource to serve the expansion of small grain production in NE MN. As David mentioned, “planting small grains can help manage pest, weed, and disease cycles in row crops” while filling the gap of local grain production in the regional food system. The results of our research have led to finding that the community of Finland would benefit from a mobile thresher, communal combine, and flour mill for grain production. While the cost of labor, need for land and small-scale nature of small grains create challenges for farmers in the area, the lack of proper processing machinery was the most prominent hindrance to growing small grains in NE MN.

Sources

“Cultural Resources.” Cultural Resources – MnDOT, https://www.dot.state.mn.us/culturalresources/.

“Finland Food Chain.” Finland Food Chain, 18 Oct. 2022, http://finlandfoodchain.org/wp/.

“Growing Small Grains.” UMN Extension, https://extension.umn.edu/small-grains/growing-small-grains.

“The Past, Present, and Future of Agriculture in North-Eastern Minnesota.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQzlitPIMWU.

“SARE Partnership Grant Proposal Draft.” Google Drive, Google

“Small Scale Thresher.” Small Scale Thresher | Farm Hack, https://farmhack.org/tools/small-scale-thresher

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.

Producer Profile: AgroEcology Center

By Dan Cahill-Mathews

Farmer: Mark Dahlen
Farm Size: 10 acres, although not all in production
Key Farming Practices: Regenerative, no till, organic
Years Farming: 1st season growing here in Finland

On a calm, cool, early November afternoon I visited the AgroEcology Center deep winter greenhouse and regenerative farm on Silver Hill Drive in Finland. Mark Dahlen, the affable and soft spoken farm manager, greeted me in the deep winter greenhouse – a space lush with vibrant greens from vertical plots of salad greens and rainbow stalks of swiss chard in floor plots. 

Mark Dahlen: AgroEcology Center

Before I could pose a question, Mark eagerly shared details about the cyclical growing system of the vertical plots and the experimental mustard greens and other “cut and come again” varieties. “Leaf lettuce, mustard, arugula, spinach, will continue through the winter,” Mark tells me. “Come spring and summer, we can do ginger and turmeric. I’d like to see about getting some dwarf citrus happening up here.” His boundless curiosity and agricultural expertise became apparent as he leads me around the property, demonstrating a variety of home gardening techniques including keyhole gardens, terraced plots, and hügelkultur in a serene and beautiful demonstration garden. 

On the other side of the property, he guided me through rows of berm and swale plots – an innovative gardening method that holds water and directs irrigation to make the most of limited rain with mounds and trenches. Planted in the berms were flowering fruit bushes including honey berry, elderberry, and seaberry. The flowering plants provided ample food for pollinators including the bees on the property, which were prolific despite the dry conditions this summer. 

For Mark, every corner of the farm is an opportunity to explore regenerative systems which, as he states, are “designed in a way that we not only harvest a yield, but do so in ways that actually increase soil life and organic matter.”  At the core of this regenerative mission is an “aim to mimic nature with closed loop systems, as there is no waste in the forest.” Mark demonstrates this on the farm with a variety of growing techniques and experimentation with waste-to-resource systems. The AgroEcology center turns manure from locally raised alpacas and chickens into compost and repurposes the spent grapes called “must” from the North Shore Winery in Lutsen into usable growing material. 

AgroEcology Center’s Market Garden

You may have seen Mark at the Finland Farmer’s Market this summer with tables full of stunning cosmic purple carrots, mesmerizing patterned chioggia beets, and Russian varieties of tomatoes that endure the northern rowing climate. In addition to the market farm providing abundance at the Farmers Market, the AgroEcology Center’s mission is to be a resource for the community. “We hope to start offering classes/workshops and tours next year,” Mark shares. “If people have ideas they want to experiment with, but don’t have the time or space, perhaps I can do that here, and we can find out what works for the benefit of all.” 

Mark demonstrates this mission to aid local producers and growers through three different levels of greenhouse growing systems on the farm. The first an entry level farm tunnel built with about $70 worth of material including cattle panel that extends the growing season. The second a larger high-tunnel system for producers looking to invest a little more to grow a large amount of food. And the third, a deep winter greenhouse for farmers ready to  grow year-round. Mark hopes local farmers, producers, and home gardeners will find inspiration from these examples on the farm that assist their plots at home. 

As the sun began to set, painting the sky with vivid orange and magenta between the clouds,  we climbed the terraced medicinal herb garden surrounding the greenhouse. It dawned on me that there is so much positive and exciting agricultural work at the AgroEcology Center that I could never do it justice in one article or interview. Mark and I agreed to stay in contact about the happenings on the farm and share the mission of the AgroEcology farm being a valuable resource for all farmers, producers, and growers in Finland and on the North Shore. 

“The community is an incredible place. The people I have met are genuine and kind, interested in ecological connection and the things I care about.” Mark tells me. “They make intentional efforts to make Finland what it is, and I really appreciate that. In addition to growing innumerable varieties of plants, Mark hopes to continue growing relationships within the community with an open invitation to explore the farm at the AgroEcology Center. Just as I did, you can meet him in the deep winter greenhouse. “I’m usually there mid-late morning and people are welcome to stop by and say hello. It’s a really nice spot on a cold sunny day.”

Mark’s salad mix and greens such as swiss chard can be found at the Finland Co-op in addition to the Finland Farmer’s Market throughout the summer and select winter dates. The AgroEcology Center hosts summer farm apprentices through the Savanna Institute for prospective farmers. For farm tours, inquiries about regenerative gardening techniques, and suggestions for classes/workshops next year, Mark can be contacted via email at Mark@organicconsumers.org 

What is your background in farming? 

Both sides of my family come from farming families, but we did not grow up on a farm. I come to the Agroecology Center as a next step in a 2nd career. I spent over two decades working in the music business as an audio engineer mostly doing live concerts across the country and a few other continents. 

About 15 years ago I learned of Permaculture and I began to see the future was not going to continue as it had been. I transformed a couple of urban/suburban lots into food forests & annual food systems and I was hooked on growing things. 

The opportunity came up to work on a research farm, and I also spent some time on the oldest organic/biodynamic vegetable farm in Tennessee. I’ve been a lead designer on some large acreage projects, with tree plantings, wetland restorations and pollinator habitat creations. Most recently we had a small urban farm and plant nursery in Nashville where [my partner] Ellen and I lived until 2020.

What brought you to Finland, MN?

Synchronicity. Long story short, we came up to the north shore for Ellen’s birthday in 2020, and through a number of events I ended up connecting with Sarah at Wolf Ridge and then spent some time volunteering there. In that time frame we visited the Agroecology Center. This position became available this spring, so I came to see if it all made sense and if it was the right fit for me, and here I am.

What is your role with the AgroEcology center and what does the AgroEcology center do?

One of the demonstration gardens at the AgroEcology Center

My title is Farm manager and I oversee all of the happenings on site. This is a project of the Organic Consumers Association and the scope of the vision is long term. Much of the work up to this point has been transforming the site into a diverse regenerative space with multiple symbiotic enterprises, and we are now moving into a phase where more production will occur. We are a research, education & demonstration site focused on finding varieties that do well in this climate. Fruit & nut trees, medicinal herbs, mushrooms, bees, vegetable production and we have a home garden site to give people ideas and concepts they can explore in their backyards. We hope to start offering classes/workshops and tours next year. I’d like to make this place a resource for the community. If people have ideas they want to experiment with, but don’t have the time or space, perhaps I can do that here, and we can find out what works for the benefit of all.

What farming practices are you most passionate about? 

No till and soil health. It really is all about feeding the soil. In the last few years I’ve taken some courses with Dr. Elaine Ingham on soil assessment through microscopy and that has been pretty incredible to see the life in the soil close up, and then to attempt to make recipe composts to include the full soil food web.

How many people are involved with the work at the AgroEcology center?

In the growing season, we have a couple of apprentices for 4-5 months, and the rest of the year it is just me.

What does regenerative agriculture mean to you?

The current food system in our culture is extractive. Taking more out of the soil and leaving it more degraded with each season’s use. Regenerative systems are designed in a way that we not only harvest a yield, but do so in ways that actually increase soil life & organic matter. We aim to mimic nature with closed loop systems, as there is no waste in the forest.

What are the farm projects you’re currently working on?

Being the end of the season, things are slowing down a bit. Although, I was just harvesting some romaine a couple of days ago growing under some row cover while it was snowing… 
But really it is a time to review the season, tuck things in for the winter, and of course we have the Deep Winter Greenhouse at full production for the winter season as we look to start planning for next year.

What crops/produce are you growing in the greenhouse and over winter?

The passive solar greenhouse is pretty amazing, right now we have mostly greens growing in there. Leaf lettuce, mustards, arugula, spinach, which will continue throughout the winter. Come spring and summer, we can do ginger and turmeric, I may experiment with early tomatoes and cucumbers. I’d like to see about getting some dwarf citrus happening up here. I’m usually in there mid-late morning and people are welcome to stop by and say hello. It’s a really nice spot on a cold sunny day.

Greens grow year-round in the Deep Winter Greenhouse, and are available for purchase at the Finland Co-op during the winter months

Where can we find your produce for sale?

In the summer, I really enjoy connecting with people at the Finland Farmers Market, and we’ll have salad mix and greens all winter at the Co-op.

Do you have any tips for greenhouse farming or winter farming?

If you plan things you can really take advantage of the season extension in the fall and spring. It’s likely too late for this year to start from seed, but if looking to spring even if you have an unheated greenhouse, many crops will tolerate cooler temps and things like row cover can help you get a jump on the season. I like to plan to be early in spring and late in the fall and if you lose a few things it’s not that bad, but if you get the timing right it’s a huge pay off. I seeded romaine and head lettuce the first week of august, and radishes in mid September and that worked out well this year. It may not every year, but it’s fun to push the boundaries.

What has been a highlight of your time living in the Finland community?

This community is an incredible place. The people I have met are genuine and kind, interested in ecological connection and the things I care about. They make intentional efforts to make Finland what it is, and I really appreciate that. I could tell last year just being here for a short while, and meeting a few people that this place has an energy, and attracts like minded people. It’s obviously beautiful scenery, but the people make Finland more than a pretty place. I look forward to growing those relationships more and continuing to meet others.

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

Fresh Catch Grilled Trout

Fresh Catch Rainbow Trout from Echo Lake

by Dan Cahill

Lake County has several excellent trout fishing lakes. Some fishing spots are closely guarded secrets that you can only access while blindfolded with a guide so you don’t spill the beans. Some spots are almost too easily accessible. These trout came from Echo Lake right along Highway 7 (Cramer Road) between the Clair Nelson Rec Center and Trestle Inn. I don’t think anyone will be upset with me giving away this fishing spot. Early spring, Rainbow trout in Echo are active and crush fast artificial lures like small spoons. In late summer, Rainbow Trout can be caught from shore with a slip bobber and worm. It helps to puff the worm full of air to keep it suspended in the water and entice fish to strike.

Ingredients:
4 each Whole small trout, innards removed
1 Lemon, sliced into wheels
1 bunch Fresh herb (parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, etc.)
8 cloves Garlic, sliced
2 tbsp Oil
Salt and pepper to taste 

Steps:
1. Start your grill and preheat on high. Clean your grates and use a folded paper towel to apply oil to the grates, then turn down to low when ready to add the fish. Alternately, on a charcoal grill build an indirect fire. Clean the grates directly over the coals, then rotate the grate to the indirect side before oiling and adding fish. 

2. Prepare the fish. Using a sharp fillet knife, cut the fish open along the belly from the vent to the jaw. Pull out the innards and gills. Use a spoon to scrape away the blood line from the kidney that runs along the back bone. Rinse the trout of all blood and debris and pat dry.

3. Salt and pepper the fish on the outside and inside the cavity. In the cavity of the belly, layer sliced lemons, sprigs of herbs, and garlic. Carefully lay the fish down on the grill. Leave the fish in place for 5-7 minutes without moving or adjusting the fish. Fish can easily stick to a grill and ruin the skin if it is fidgeted too often.  

4. In a smooth motion, slide a spatula carefully under the fish and gently flip to the other side. Cook another 3-5 minutes or until the flesh is flaky and the eyeballs are opaque. 

5. Squeeze fresh lemon over the fish and serve alongside grilled vegetables or fresh salad. 

Local Products: 
Herbs and veggies from Wolf Ridge Organic Farm
Sarah Mayer (218)-220-0194

Herbs and Garlic from Finnskogen Farm
Kaare and Pam Melby (218) 353-7736

Trout harvested from Echo Lake on Highway 7 (Cramer Road)

Producer Profile: Baptism River BBQ Company

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”. 

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: Little Waldo Farm

By: Laurie Kallinen

It was a beautiful Saturday morning when I met Jadell Cavallin of Little Waldo Farm, located just outside of Two Harbors.  The property was a neat and orderly collection of different types of gardens.  In fact, there are at least 10 different styles of garden on the farm; High-tunnel, Hügelkultur, Pollinator, Rain garden, Hay bale, Straw bale, field beds, raised beds, no-mow, and perennial gardens! 

Jadell and husband Joe Cavallin have a long history in the area, both having grown up here.  In fact their farm is in an area once known as Waldo township, where the Cavallin family homesteaded in the early 1900’s.    It was natural for the Cavallins to settle in on family land after their marriage.

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After studying Aquatic Biology in College, and striving to live a healthy lifestyle, Jadell started a small vegetable garden in 2006.  Her interest grew and so did her garden.  In 2013 the Cavallins received a subsidy to build a high-tunnel, and soon after were growing enough produce to sell at local farmers markets.

Many gardening styles are used on Little Waldo Farm

In 2014 Jadell applied to become a UMN Extension Master Gardener. Expanding her knowledge to include bee keeping and multiple styles of gardening, Jadell’s passion evolved to include not only producing healthy food for her family, and extra to sell at local farmers markets, but also passing on the knowledge and experience she has gained, to other people through classes, tours, and events.  Over the seasons at Little Waldo Farm you can find seedlings, home-canned salsa, jams, jellies, fruits and vegetables both fresh and dried for cooking, and when the bees are really happy, honey and honey comb!  Some of their products are available on their website.  Little Waldo Farm is also raising 2,800 seedlings for the forest assisted migration program.  

In addition to working the farm, Jadell does “Soft-scaping” where she helps local gardeners with custom gardening planning, assisting with garden design/re-design and maintenance, and vacation maintenance. (No one wants to come to return from vacation to wilted gardens!)  With Soft-scaping, watering her own gardens, tending the bees and their rescue rabbits, harvesting produce for farmers market days, and tending to the active needs of their 5 year old son, A.J., every day is full!
Jadell loves being part of the north shore, and local food systems.  “Everyone is doing something different, but we all learn from each other.  It’s a great community to be a part of.”  When asked if there was one thing she’d like people to be aware of, her swift reply was that people should be aware of what is native to our area.  “Keep what is native natural, and add natives to what has been altered.”  

For more information on produce, tours, and events, contact:
Little Waldo Farm
1845 Waldo Road
Two Harbors, MN  55616
Jadell Cavallin, Owner, Educator   jcavallin2@gmail.com     www.littlewaldofarm.com

Producer Profile: Salt & Light Heritage Farm

by: Laurie Kallinen

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.

Give Peas a Chance: Garden Planning

Wondering where to start when planning a new vegetable garden? View the recent Finland Community Garden (Give Peas a Chance) Garden Planning webinar. Click here to view

The Finland Community Garden is located on Hwy 1 next to Baptism River Community Church. Fenced in raised 4’x8′ lots are $20 per season, and will have clean, fresh soil just waiting to be planted. For more information or to check for availability contact Carol Langer carollanger2011@gmail.com 

Making Mojakka

Hearty Finnish Mojakka (stew)

Making Mojakka
            with
 Dan Cahill Matthews
Friday, March 12, 2021  5:00-6:00p

  Register Here

Do you hear that quiet buzzing? The grasshoppers are stirring from their winter slumber. They’re sleuthing and scheming, eager to devour our young roots and shoots gently springing up from the frozen tundra. And they’re after our grapes! Just like St. Urho, we must summon all the SISU we have to cast them from our land! 

But we can’t fend off grasshoppers on an empty belly! We need a hearty stew to energize our St. Urho’s Day celebrations. We need Mojakka (moy-ah-kah) to muster up the strength to holler: “Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!”

So join Dan Cahill Mathews in an online cooking class: Making Mojakka – a hearty Finnish Stew to celebrate St. Urho. We will learn about the history of St. Urho’s Day in Finland, the variations ofMojakka throughout the Northland, and the local producers who provide the ingredients for our St. Urho’s Day feast! Then, we will prepare Lihamojakka – a delicious stew of beef, root vegetables,and allspice perfect for fending off the last of the winter cold!
 
When: Friday, March 12, 2021 5:00pm Central Time(US and Canada)
 
Ten lucky participants will be randomly selected from the list of registrants to win a Mojakka Meal Kit complete with all the ingredients necessary to prepare their own Mojakka. 

Your Chance to Help

February 11, 2021

Finland Food Chain is working to develop a community based wild rice processing facility, and we are in the running for a generous grant to provide the funds to prepare the selected site to house the processing equipment we obtained last fall.  NE Minnesota Local Farm and Food Projects is part of the Northland Food Network and represents a broad group of farm and food-focused organizations in NE MN.  They are offering grants to 3 finalists to fund a shovel-ready project as well as a variety of other support.  Phase one was a written proposal that was submitted January 22, and well received.  

Friday, Feb. 19th from 2-4pm we will participate in Phase Two, a 2 hour open zoom meeting during which each finalist will conduct a 4 minute video presentation of their project, followed by up to 6 minutes of Q&A.   

Those who join the meeting and watch all 7 presentations will be able to ask questions and vote on which projects will be funded!  If you or someone you know has time and can join us, please do.  It will be interesting to hear the 7 proposals, and this is your opportunity to add your voice to the decision!
Here is the Facebook Link to the event

It’s Maple Syrup Time!

Maple Syrup Season
A tradition in the Northland


Image: Minnesota Historical Society
 
The blazing colors of autumn have long since fallen and now sleep under a blanket of snow.  But the golden beauty of maples returns to us this time of year in the form of that sweet nectar called maple syrup.  Making Maple Syrup is a longstanding tradition in the northland.  From the Ojibwe tradition of gathering sap in water-tight birch bark containers, to modern operations connecting miles of tubing that funnels sap directly into the sugar house, our love for the sweet nectar of the woods hasn’t diminished. 

The Minnesota Historical Society has created an informative children’s learning module about the traditional methods used by the Ojibwe to make maple sugar and candy.  You can find it  here.

Kaare Melby shares his experience and feelings of maple syrup season in this short video.  Click here to watch.

Producer Profile: Sve Commercial Fishing

There are few things that say “North Shore” more than fresh Lake Superior fish!  For three generations the Sve family has been reeling in the nets to bring that great bounty to individuals and restaurants along the shore.

Watler Sve – age 86 Photo by Ken Vogel

Eric Sve, third generation fisherman, recounts how his grandfather, Ragnvald Sve, immigrated from Norway in the early 1920’s.  Beginning in 1926, Rangveld learned fishing from his father-in-law.  The following year he and his wife purchased the property where the family business, Split Rock Cabins, still exist today.  Ragnvald passed his knowledge on to son, Walter, who was fishing from the time he was “big enough to handle the ores”, (about age 8)!  Walter was still fishing on the open water till the age of 90.  Likewise, Eric and brother Steve started fishing as soon as they were big enough to row a boat, though these days they use an outboard motor!

To become a commercial fisherman today, you must apprentice with a master fisherman for three years before you can apply for a master’s license; and those are few and far between.  There are only 25 licenses available along the whole of Minnesota’s North Shore and many, like the Sves, are kept within the family!  

Fishing is a seasonal industry.  Trout season starts in May, followed by Herring season in later June or early July, but as the water warms the fish head deeper and become more elusive.  “The best time for fishing is in November and December”, says Eric.  “That’s when the herring come in to spawn.”  In addition to the seasonality, another challenge is differing regulations.  With other states taking more quota, Sve has seen a decline in the catch over the past 3 years.   

Though he grew up fishing, Eric began his commercial fishing career after returning from the Air Force in 1994.  A typical day begins by heading out on the big lake before dawn.  “I love to be alone on the water because it is so peaceful.  I really miss it on the days I can’t get out there.”  He also quipped that it’s the only place he can sing, “cuz the fish don’t care!” 

It takes about 1/2 hour to pick a net of fish, and they set 2 or 3 nets a day, trying to  catch about the same amount of fish each day.  Then another hour goes into cleaning the fish.  A typical year brings in around 4-5,000 lbs and on a great year it can be as much as 15,000 lbs.  Much of what they catch is sold to local restaurants, but Eric and his brother Steve, also a commercial fisherman, welcome individual orders. 

Contact Eric at 218-226-4735 or Steve at 218-409-2572 
Check out other local producers in our Directory of Local Food Producers

Listen to a WITP “Moments in Time” radio interview of Walter Sve HERE