Jung seed & plants grandpa weeder

Profile 72: Hidden Pond Farms is reviving the old farm stand successfully, originally published in Hometown Focus

I’ve visited lots of farms over the three years I’ve been writing this column. But I’ve seldom met so many animals by name. Nearly every hen, rooster, goat, duck, turkey and rabbit at Hidden Pond Farms has a name, and Savannah, the daughter of farmers Jeff and April Camell, introduces me to each one. Apollo, Hades, Zeus, Jack & Jill, Simon & Garfunkel….the list goes on. I’ve also never seen a farm with specially-built, fenced-in climbing areas for goats. Even the baby goats are climbing already.

Jeff and April and their three children moved here in 2017 from Racine, Wisconsin, for work. They decided they wanted to live in the country and found this twelve-acre farm south of Hibbing, and yes, it has a hidden pond. It also has a farm stand, and that’s what I find interesting. I grew up in Illinois in the 1950’s and we didn’t know what a farmers market was, but it seemed like every country road had a farm stand. You could buy melons and tomatoes and berries grown a few feet from the stand. And sweet corn, then pumpkins as the seasons turned. And there was a farm stand in the city too: I remember going to Dingeldein Gardens in my hometown of Rock Island, Illinois, a farm stand in town with acres of vegetables and fruits right there. I looked them up just for old time’s sake and learned that they started in 1853 when German immigrant Philip Dingeldein established a garden and vineyard. The 12-acre vegetable plot grew to 50 acres—I’m not sure how big it was in the 1950’s when we shopped there. But the rather ornate house on the property housed a “wine hall” many years before my time where folks traveling through the area stopped for a rest and some wine.

Back to the story!! The farmstand at Hidden Pond Farms is open every day in season from 9am to 8pm. It’s self-serve, and it offers up whatever the gardens and hens have delivered that day. Neighbors and friends stop by and pick up what they need. And folks who find the farmstand on Facebook drive by, too. This will be the third year for the farm stand. It’s right out by the road and there is a driveway close by for parking. Last year they were selling 25 dozen eggs a week and they sold out of pumpkins long before Halloween. They are registered Cottage Food producers with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and hope to expand their offerings with home-canned goods and eventually goat-milk products. The only advertising they do is on Facebook. You can find the farm at https://www.facebook.com/hiddenpondfarms

When I first contacted Jeff and April about a story, they were planning a Christmas Tree farm. Of the twelve acres, four are maintained and eight are wooded. Christmas trees are still a possibility, but now they’re looking at other options too. They’d like to support themselves from the land here. There’s the start of an apple and pear orchard west of the house and plans for larger gardens. They compost everything and have a rich mix of manure from all the animals. They also get peat and soil from Bertram Excavating nearby. They buy all of their feed locally from L&M Supply in Mt. Iron.

The chickens have an unusually long run here, protected from predators on the sides and the top. A good idea in this rural area where coyotes and other wild critters run. There are a number of out-buildings that came with the property and they’re all in use. And lots of large enclosures for as close to free-range as you can get without losing all of the animals. It’s muddy the day that I visit and I’m glad I have worn my muck boots! We walk the acres and end up at the hidden pond. It’s fairly small and has lots of cattails.

Cattails serve an important purpose in wetland areas like this pond and its surroundings. Underwater, they provide a safe spot for tiny fish and attract many of the smaller aquatic creatures that birds and other wildlife feed on. The rhizomes and lower leaf portions of cattails are consumed by muskrats, ducks, and geese. They act as a shelter from winter cold and wind for mammals and birds and a source of nesting material with their leaves and seeds. But they can grow very quickly and take over easily. Jeff plans to thin the cattails that surround this pond a bit this summer in order to leave a bit more open water. I’m sure the ducks that I met earlier will enjoy it.

Very few Iron Range farms are run by full-time farmers, and this farm is no exception. Jeff holds an off-farm job. April tends the gardens and animals and refills the farm stand. It works well for them to have someone here all day with all the animals. And visitors to the farm stand often get to meet April—knowing your farmer is one of the best ways to ensure the quality of the food you eat. They’ve already planted a much larger pumpkin patch for this fall, so check them out on Facebook and plan a visit!

Profile 71: F&D Meats is ramping up local offerings!

According to Forager, a company on a mission to expand access to local food, “local food is one of the hottest trends in grocery” and “93% of consumers want grocers to take the lead in supporting the local food economy.” (www.goforager.com) Eighty-five percent of respondents in Forager’s “State of Local” survey said they would “switch grocers or buy more from a grocer that offered more local, fresh healthy food.” The Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and the University of Minnesota Extension Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships recently produced a “Farm to Grocery Toolkit” and offered training for grocers and farmers interested in working together. (https://www.misa.umn.edu/publications/farm-grocery-toolkit)

More locally, the Virginia Farmers Market Hub has been initiated as part of a statewide effort to support farm-to-consumer and farm-to-retail sales. The Hub is connected to Virginia Market Square farmers market and will open this summer, offering online purchasing from local farmers for consumers and retailers. The purchasing platform at openfoodnetwork.net/virginiafarmersmarkethub/shop will open mid-June. Last year, an earlier version of this online buying opportunity had a pilot run. F&D Meats Grocery Store in Virginia participated and purchased fresh produce from Early Frost Farms in Embarrass. F&D has begun to source more and more products locally since Joe Walls and his business partners purchased the store in 2021 when the previous owners retired.

F&D Meats has been in operation for over forty years at its current location on 8th Street South in Virginia. The store specializes in fresh meats, frozen seafood, produce, dairy and groceries including locally-sourced items. Currently, the store carries the following local and regional foods: Ellsworth Coop Creamery cheeses from Ellsworth, Wisconsin, Wild Country maple syrup from Lutsen, Miel Honey from Duluth, Gene Hicks coffee from Hibbing, Homstead Mills flour and pancake mixes from Cook, Johnston’s Riverview Farm milk from Floodwood, Pep’s Bakery bread from Virginia, eggs from Dircks Farm in Zim, Fraboni’s sausage, Grass Meadows Farm grass-fed beef and pork from Iron, Solid Rock microgreens from Grand Rapids, and produce from local farmers Geary Shaw in Embarrass, Sherry Erickson in Orr, Phil Lambart in Iron and Jack LaMar in Embarrass. F&D also stocks craft soda from Northern Soda Company in Arden Hills, Earl’s popcorn and cheese puffs from Savage, Minnesota, Black Dog BBQ sauce from Bemidji, Lift Bridge root beer, Nett Lake Wild Rice, Barbel Bee Ranch honey, Hilltop Pickling pickled eggs, asparagus, and mushrooms (Wisconsin), Kettle River Pizza from Esko, Sven’s BBQ sauce from North Branch and Minnesota’s own Bridgemans ice cream.

They also specialize in non-food items sourced locally such as Miel soap, lotions, beeswax candles and wood finish (Duluth), crocheted dish cloths from T Bird Crafts (family lives here), flowers from Owl Forest Farm in Iron, bamboo cutting boards etched by Range Office Supply, and a variety of F&D tee shirts, sweats and hats all USA-made and printed by Barber Graphics of Virginia. Since purchasing the business in January 2021, the owners have replaced the exterior roof, interior ceiling and all lighting, as well as shoring up the exterior wall of the south portion of the building. They have significantly increased their purchases of local and regional products and added exterior signage to highlight their local sources.

Consumer interest in buying local food has increased over the past few years in part due to the awareness that Covid supply-chain issues brought. The concept of “food miles,” how far your food travels to get to your plate, has gained more attention. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the typical American meal has ingredients from five foreign countries. And a study done by Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Foo Systems concluded that conventionally-grown food traveled an average of 1,494 miles to get to market. That travel represents a lot of fuel at today’s prices!

Eating from your local foodshed cuts way down on that fuel use and supports local farmers and growers. The thirty-or-so farmers and growers who sell at area farmers markets in Virginia, Cook, Tower, and Hibbing depend on local sales for their livelihood. And many of us, as consumers, want to know who produced our food and how. For example, I am a meat eater. I want to know how the animals were treated, what they were fed, whether they were grazed outdoors on open pasture, and whether they were administered antibiotics. I am a gardener, too, and grow much of my own produce, but, for the produce I buy, I want to know what kind of soil the produce was grown in, how the soil was fed and cared for, what kinds of herbicides or pesticides were used, and how It was handled after harvest. Most of the food I eat comes from within 50 miles of my home in Virginia. Items like cheese come from farther away as we have no really local cheese (yet). And the tea I drink, well, that is sourced internationally—this deliberate sourcing is a mix for each of us, depending on where we live. But we can choose to reduce the food miles and support our locally economy with our eating habits. F&D Meats Grocery Store is one of the options we have to help us on that path.

Profile 70: Minnesota Farmers Union

My friend Leah Rogne remembers setting up a cooperative candy store at the North Dakota Farmers’ Union summer camp in the 50’s. The children elected officers, organized, and operated the store as a coop, and distributed the dividends at the end of a week at camp. Leah can even sing some of the songs she learned at Farmers’ Union camp. She recalls attending regular union meetings with her parents and gathering with the other children present for civic education, then reporting back to the adults. This was typical of National Farmers’ Union affiliates across the country. Founded in 1902 by ten family farmers in Texas, the Farmers Educational Cooperative Union was organized to address fair market access for farmers. It spread across the country and the Minnesota Farmers Union was formed as an affiliate in Jackson County in 1918.

Farmers there were frustrated with being at the mercy of the railroads, company stores and milling companies who told them when to deliver, how much they would pay for product and how much they would charge the farmers to transport the product. They banded together for better pay through collective effort. The Farmers Union movement was based in the cooperative movement which was particularly strong among the Finnish American immigrants in northern Minnesota. And it fulfilled a function similar to the labor unions that had gotten their start several decades earlier.

From the beginning, the Farmers Union has represented itself with a triangle highlighting the core principles of cooperation, education, and legislation. Saint Louis County, Minnesota formed a Farmers Union chapter in 2020 and elected my friend Missy Roach as president. Missy was recently elected secretary of the state organization. She grew up in south Minneapolis far from farming, but eventually worked on a CSA farm in Fairbanks, Alaska. That was her first exposure to a “different kind of farm,” what we now call a specialty crop farm. When she moved here in 2003 and started farming in Bear River, she established the Cook Area Farmers Market to help get a local food infrastructure going.

Missy Roach at the Virginia Market Square Farmers Market

Missy joined the Minnesota Farmers Union because she saw that they were addressing issues that she cared about through policy and legislation. It’s a very grass-roots organization, with local resolutions going to a policy committee, then on to the state convention through delegates elected at the county level, and ultimately to the national convention. Issues like farm/food security, meat and poultry processing, generational farm transition, and building a resilient food system rise to the top. The Minnesota Farmers Union publishes a monthly journal, “Minnesota Agriculture,” which is available on their website www.mfu.org And they offer a youth leadership camp open to all children, farmers or not, in two locations: Erskine and New London.

Early in its history, the National Farmers Union had a hand in establishing the Federal Land Banks and, in 1931, established the Farmers Union Central Exchange which became Cenex Harvest States. In 1932, during the depths of the Depression, they lobbied hard for aid and tariff reform as farmers struggled, but to no avail. Enter Miles Reno, former president of the Iowa Farmers Union. He encouraged farmers to “take a holiday” and stop selling and buying. The National Farmers’ Holiday Association was born with the Farmers’ Strike of 1932-33. My friend Marlyn Swanson’s former husband Everett Luoma just happened to author a book about it. With her help, I got a copy.

The strike began in Sioux City, Iowa on August 8, 1932. Farmers blocked roads leading into the city and turned back trucks. The movement soon went nationwide. Between 1920 and 1930, 450,000 farm owners had lost their farms and gross annual farm income plummeted. To put this in perspective, “in 1919, the farmers supplied one-tenth of the manufactured products of the nation, valued at $6 billion. They supplied one-eighth of freight tonnage of the railroad systems, one-half of the exports and one-fifth of the cost of government.” They wielded a purchasing power of $16 billion. And in 1920 it all started collapsing so that by 1932, it was less than $5 billion. The strike blocked trucks from entering Sioux City for nine days until the Sheriff and his deputies accompanied truckers through the strike lines.

The strikers were angry, and 450 farmer-strikers armed themselves with clubs and bricks and stormed the Sioux City stockyards. Deputies stopped them. Deputies later tried to escort cattle trucks through the picket lines but were overcome by picketers. Truckers then stopped trying to cross the lines of farmers. The milk strike ended a few days later with dairy farmers gaining an increase in price. All other foods were blocked except those that got through by rail. So, the farmers used torpedoes and danger signals to halt trains. And the strike spread.

Eleven more states formed Farmer’s Holiday Associations and struck. Small-town newspapers were very supportive. And members of the general public, suffering in the Depression, were sympathetic. The sheriffs were holding the line against the strikers, not always successfully. Striking farmers numbered over a thousand at some locations. Nine months after the strike began, Congress passed the first farm bill. Founders of the Farmers’ Holiday Association believed that it didn’t go nearly far enough to solve their problems. But it was the start of the Farm Bill we know today. Eventually the strike waned, but the Minnesota Farmers Union is still strong.

Missy was recently elected secretary of the Minnesota Farmers Union

John Bosch, son of a Populist in Kandiyohi County, Minnesota, was a part of the Minnesota Farmers Union and an officer of the Farmers’ Holiday Association.He was interviewed in 1972 as part of a Minnesota Historical Society Oral History project.In 1930 as part of the Minnesota Farmers Union he proposed a similar strike with four goals: an immediate stop to farm foreclosures, obtaining the cost of production for farm products, abolishing the Federal Reserve and, in the event of another war, taxing all war production at 100 percent.His county organization voted to send him with his proposal to the state convention.The Minnesota Farmers Union “voted 100 per cent that I present this same program to the national convention.”He did, but the national union, which was heavily involved in co-operatives, was afraid that it might hurt the coops.So, they passed a resolution to support building another organization—and Mr. Bosch was there in Iowa when Milo Reno was elected president of that organization: the Farmers’ Holiday Association.And you know the rest of the story.

Profile 69: Snapshot Farms, originally published in Hometown Focus

Snapshot Farms—an apt name for the picture-perfect farm I visit on a bitterly cold February day. The brightly colored out-buildings, from Premium Portable Buildings, are neat as a pin. The fences are all in tip-top shape, dividing the fifteen or so fenced acres into four very large and two smaller pastures. I don’t see any of the junk piles or old machinery that one often finds on farms. And it has just snowed, so everything is sparkly white. That’s not how it began according to farmer Jason Mandich who bought this place seventeen years ago. It was a dump, he says, a REAL fixer upper. But it was close to family and work and allowed him to have all the animals that he couldn’t have in town. So, he bought it and got started.

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This isn’t a specialty crop farm with fields or large gardens for growing produce. And that’s a little bit unusual. This is a farm with a mix of animals, some pets, some for food, and some for breeding. The unobtrusive fencing runs all the way to the highway to the north and backs up on the remainder of the eighty acres full of red pine to the south. The dogs run free and on nice summer days, the Olde English Babydoll Southdown Sheep and the miniature donkeys graze in the front yard. The donkeys are pets really. I asked, “why donkeys?” It turns out that, in the beginning, there was a large, fenced area full of brush and four-foot-high grass that Jason wanted to clear. A friend brought her goat and miniature donkeys, and they made such quick work of it that Jason decided to try out donkeys.

Miniature donkeys eat just hay and grass. But, turned loose to clear brush in an area, they eat shrubs and can even devour a four-inch diameter tree trunk. Domestic donkeys interact well with other livestock and form close attachments with their owners and their companions. The Olde English Baby Doll Southdown Sheep started out as pets, too. I have to say they are cute. Jason has ten, including a ram, and four of the ewes will be lambing this April. He plans to buy a few more and raise some for meat.

The Southdown breed originated in the South Down hills of Sussex County, England. They are hardy animals, well suited to winter. The Babydolls are the original miniature sheep variety, distinct from the modern Southdown which was bred for larger meat cuts to please consumers. Their wool is in the cashmere class, loved by hand spinners, and valued for its ability to blend with other fibers. Jason’s sheep are shorn every spring. In some areas of the world, Babydolls are valued as organic weeders, used in wine vineyards and fruit and berry orchards. They graze the weeds and don’t harm the fruits at all.

Karen is a ten-month-old exceptionally large white Maremma sheep dog. Her job this summer will be to keep predators away from the fowl. She has a companion arriving soon, a younger puppy. Two other dogs help to keep the place safe and secure. Right now, the fowl consist of laying hens and several geese. But in the summer, Jason raises meat birds, about eight hundred of them, in three batches. They spend their first three to four weeks inside and then graduate to the six large chicken tractors that move all over the property. Jason moves them twice a day to ensure fresh grass and bugs. Their regular feed comes from Floodwood Farm & Feed, a local supplier that I’ve profiled in a previous column.

The first batch will arrive at the end of April. Each batch takes eight weeks to finish and then is processed at Lake Haven Meats in Sturgeon Lake, a USDA processor. Jason sells to family and friends and last year to AEOA for Bill’s House and local food shelves. This coming year, he’ll be selling to Mesabi East Schools as part of the Farm to School program there. Jason has a day job, as most farmers do. And it takes all his vacation days to tend to the meat birds, he says. But, from the time he was very young, he wanted to be a farmer. And now he is.

We walk out past the chickens and donkeys and sheep to the two heifers who eagerly await the treats Jason brings. Jason plans to have them bred later this year and will have calves next summer. He plans to raise the male calves for meat. All the animals here are pastured, meaning that they graze, in rotation. The donkeys and the heifers graze one pasture, then move on to a second and the sheep finish grazing the first, followed by the chickens. So, each pasture is grazed in succession, then allowed to rest, and the cycle begins again.

Jason doesn’t grow his own hay, and, as most readers know, finding hay last year was a challenge. But there’s enough here for the winter and, with all this snow, spring might just sprout some nice green grazing material. There’s no shortage of land here, with the wooded sixty-five acres outside the fenced area. It used to be a tree farm, at least there were tree farm signs in the crumbling buildings when Jason bought the place. But for now, Snapshot Farms is just the right size for a guy who always wanted to be a farmer.

Profile 68: Homemade Pasta on the Range! Originally published in Hometown Focus

The original inspiration for Nana’s Noodles

“I want Nana’s noodles!” Those were the words, out of a toddler grandson’s mouth, which started Claudia Skalko’s business four years ago. She was involved in getting Messiah Lutheran Church’s Common Ground Community Kitchen certified for use as a licensed kitchen, and they received a donation of an industrial mixer with pasta attachments. She started expanding what she had made at home, experimenting with more flavors and types of noodles. I met her when she sold at the Virginia Market Square farmers market in 2017. Her gluten-free pasta was especially popular at the market. And demand for all the pasta continued to grow.

Then in 2019, the Mesabi East Farm to School program approached her to sell to them, but that required a license from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. So, she pursued the license for Nana’s Noodles under Claudia J Sweets ‘n Treats LLC. She makes all her products at the Common Ground Community Kitchen at Messiah Lutheran Church in Mt. Iron. (The kitchen is available for rent to those in need of a licensed kitchen. Call the church office at 218-741-7057.) That kitchen is where we made 1,200 pasties last year for the Pasty Festival.

Claudia at the Common Ground Community Kitchen, Messiah Lutheran Church Mt. Iron

Whenever she can, Claudia uses local ingredients. For example, when the weather and Covid restrictions permit, she likes to buy flour at Homestead Mills in Cook. During the summer, she buys her herbs and spinach from farmers market vendors at the Virginia market. Last year, she was also able to buy herbs from the students in Mesabi East’s environmental education program and dry them for use this winter. She uses Sunset Divide gluten free flour for the gluten free pasta. It took many trials to perfect making pasta with alternative flour, but everyone seems to love this one.

Claudia and granddaughter Hayden at Virginia Market Square Farmers Market

Her customers’ favorite pasta flavors are spinach, garlic basil, sundried tomato, and butternut squash. She makes both spaghetti and fettucine in all flavors. This past summer, she added two new flavors: lemon pepper and parsley onion. And just recently, she added chocolate ravioli dessert pasta with cream ganache filling, raspberry topping, and almond drizzle. Folks can purchase this delicacy frozen by visiting Claudia’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/Nanas-Noodles-105261321085770 or call her at 218-780-8384. Nana’s Noodles also sells at the Cotton School Mercantile and at Canelake’s Candies in Virginia and their North Shore Great Lakes Candy Store.

In August 2021, Canelake’s asked her to start making pet treats. Claudia recruited her friend Deb Kaivola to join her in trying the recipe that Canelake’s provided. And the new business Best Friends Bites was born. Common Ground Kitchen is also the baking site for dog treats hand-made by Deb and Claudia. They can’t keep up with the demand. They’re making peanut butter barkies, apple-cinnamon-honey bites, and cheesy cheddar paws–a whole wheat, cheddar and parsley treat. As of August 2021, pet treats can be made under a Cottage Food Exemption from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. They had previously required a pet food production license.

Claudia and Deb are two of the Iron Range’s many “value-added” food producers. Value-added means that the producer adds ingredients to an item of produce or meat to sell it as a more valuable product. So, a farmer might sell spinach that she has grown, but Claudia adds ingredients and makes that spinach into flavored pasta, a value-added product. This is where it gets a bit confusing, as some value-added products require a license and some are exempt from licensing, but require training, registration, and an exemption certificate from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

In general, someone in Minnesota selling food does not need a license if the food is grown on their own land (or rented land) and contains no added ingredients. That covers farmers and large-scale gardeners. An educational, charitable, or religious organization that does not regularly sell food can have a bake sale, for example, without a license. Retailers who are licensed to sell other goods can sell ice, bottled and canned drinks and candy/nuts without a separate food license. And licensed pharmacies can sell certain food items like supplements and additives and infant formula without a separate food license. Anything outside of these categories requires either a license or a certificate of exemption.

Most vendors at farmers markets or craft fairs who sell baked goods, snacks, bread, or pet treats must apply for a Cottage Food exemption from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. They pay a fee, pass the training, and receive an exemption to sell only “non-potentially hazardous food.” You’ve probably seen the sign “made in a home kitchen that is not subject to inspection.” That’s how Cottage Food producers must label every product, along with their Cottage Food exemption number. The foods allowed under this exemption must meet certain acidity and moisture requirements to qualify. Pickles, jams, and many baked goods fall into this category—but not all of them. That’s why Cottage Food producers must keep up on training and certification.

Anyone else selling or giving away food for public purchase and/or consumption must have a license. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has a “licensing wizard” to help sort all this out. (www2.mda.state.mn.us/webapp/foodlicensingwizard/ ) It is complicated to use, so I would recommend taking advantage of one of the free Blazing Trails food regulations trainings. You can find more information here: https://www.misa.umn.edu/resources/blazing-trails Join the growing number of local food producers and help build a robust local food system!

Profile 67: Botanicals foraged from the Range, originally published in Hometown Focus

Allie Austin with Chaga from the local forest

Allison Austin has been interested in herbs since she was very young. She remembers reading whatever she could find about medicinal plants in middle school. And checking out as many library books as she could find on herbalism in high school. In college, she took herbalism courses and then studied with herbalists in Texas where she lived after college. When she moved to Guatemala, she studied with Mayan elders there. In 2016, she moved back to the Iron Range, a newly-single parent with a 2-year old and a 4-year old. She wanted to find work that allowed her to be at home with her children. So she turned to what she loved best.

She built a website, filled it with photos, and started with just 3-4 products. Today www.birchbarkbotanicals.com offers well over fifty products along with a detailed herbal “index” that Allie keeps adding to. She has written two e-books that are available on the site: “Herbalism for a Strong Immune System” and “DIY Herbal Remedies.” Before Covid, she taught regular classes at places like Natural Harvest Food Coop. And now she is working on an online course that will be ready soon.

The reason I’m writing about Allie’s business is that she forages most of her ingredients right here on the Iron Range. Her family’s property in Orr, the area around her cabin on Lake Vermilion, the Laurentian Divide forests, and the Redhead Mountain Bike Trail are all abundant sites for herbs like St. Johnswort, yarrow, red raspberries, goldenrod, fireweed, lilac, red clover, elderberries, wormwood, and chaga. In her garden, Allie grows lemon balm, echinacea, lavender, chamomile, borage, rose, thyme, oregano and rosemary. What she isn’t able to forage or grow she orders from Mountain Rose Herbs in Eugene, Oregon.

I first met Allie and learned about Birch Botanicals when she joined the Virginia Market Square farmers market in 2017. She sells at the Ely and Cook markets, too, as well as craft fairs and events. Eighty percent of her sales are online, though. She regularly ships to customers all over the U.S., especially California, Texas, South Carolina and Florida. Locally, she sells at Natural Harvest Food Coop, a boutique in the Twin Cities, Dovetail Café at the Duluth Folk School, and the Ren Market in Duluth. I’ve used a number of her products and I’ve been pleased with them. The ingredients are listed right on the container, so you always know what you’re getting. And Allie is just a phone call away.

Foraging on the Range

So…what does this herbalist brew up in her home workshop? Cleaning products, facial serums, bug repellant, sunscreen, face wash, deodorant, lip balm, a wide variety of tinctures, chaga extract, eyebrow and eyelash growth serum, elderberry syrup, loose leaf teas, even alcohol infusion herbs (“add flavor and wellness to your booze” says her website). One of her more unusual products that I’ve used is “Sleepy Time Ointment,” a salve that you put on the bottom of your feet before bed. It really does help you sleep! Here are the ingredients, as an example. “All Organic Ingredients: pure magnesium oil, shea butter, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, beeswax, lavender, rose, chamomile, essential oils of frankincense and cedarwood.”

I’ve also used the Cedarwood and Pine deodorant (no alcohol or aluminum). It comes in Lavender Geranium too. The deodorants are made to be nourishing to skin, but also to promote cleansing—their “unique blend of herbs and essential oils help cleanse the lymphatic system, so you can rub this deodorant stick on each lymphatic area on your body.” Birch Botanicals face and body scrubs contain pure cane sugar as an exfoliant and ingredients like rose petals, sweet almond oil and other essential oils to moisturize. A wide variety of body butters fill the bill for winter skin challenges: cedarwood & frankincense, rosemary & lavender, and pine body butter made with local pine sap!

I asked Allie what have been particularly good sellers since Covid entered our world. Hand sanitizers, of course, have sold well: alcohol based and infused with herbs such as yarrow, oregano, lavender, rose, and chamomile. And something she calls “fire cider,” a traditional recipe with a raw apple cider vinegar base steeped with herbs and spices for six weeks. It contains onion, garlic, lemon, horseradish, ginger root, turmeric root, habanero pepper, and raw honey. It can be taken by the tablespoon as an immune booster or added to salsa or salad dressing. Chaga extract is another very popular product. Allie harvests chaga mushrooms from local woods, breaks them up to dry out, then grinds and tinctures the powder.

Elderberry syrup, made from local elderberries and chaga, is in demand this time of year as a winter health booster. Birch Botanicals website offers already made syrup as well as a DIY elderberry syrup kit and DIY recipes for this and five other syrups, tinctures, and gummies. Allie is all about education. She also offers foraging tours. Each two-hour tour through the Northwoods teaches medicinal plant identification, harvesting and drying techniques, as well as instructions on how to turn foraged harvests into herbal tinctures, teas, syrups and topical products. Every participant receives a foraging manual that Allie has written.

Visitors to www.birchbarkbotanicals.com can sign up for an herbal newsletter too. The Iron Range is a more abundant source of wildcrafted goods than you might have thought! If this piques your interest, check it out and sign up for a tour this coming summer. It’s only four months away now.

Profile 66: What does “Organic” mean? It depends! originally published in Hometown Focus

Do you look for the “organic” label when you buy food? I often do when I’m buying food whose grower or producer I don’t know. If I know the farmer, I usually know how they grow their plants or animals, so the label isn’t as important to me. But over the past years of writing this column, I’ve run into many farmers who use organic methods but don’t want to go through the certification process. I’ve also run into quite a few farmers who believe that the U.S.D.A. organic certification process isn’t nearly strict enough. Some of those farmers pursue the “Real Organic Project” certification.

The use of organic standards in the U.S. started in the early 1970’s with local or state organic associations certifying their farms, first in Maine then California and Oregon. The farmers who initiated this movement wanted to distinguish their products from the industrial food system’s products. They believed that soil health was central to plant and animal health and practiced crop rotation, cover cropping, biological pest control and used natural fertilizers. Their livestock grazed in pastures in the fresh air and weren’t routinely treated with antibiotics.

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To understand where they were coming from, it helps to view them in contrast to the modern farm of the time, using synthetic fertilizers that were widely and cheaply available, using monocrop systems, vast fields of corn and soy, concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) relying on commercially-produced grain-based feed. These were the kinds of farms that I knew growing up in the 60’s. The bigger the better. The machinery got bigger and better and more high-tech too. My family were John Deere folks. I remember my uncles listening daily to the commodity prices on the radio—corn, soybeans, cattle, pork. Their fortunes rose or fell with those indices. Organic farmers were forging a different path: setting themselves apart from this model.

Farmers who used organic methods had their farms certified by their local or regional organizations and then marketed their produce or meat as organic. The market for organic was growing by leaps and bounds. Then in 2000, the system changed. The U.S.D.A. assumed responsibility for organic certification and the label became “USDA Organic.” The ag and food processing industry’s 1,200 lobbyists began to press for the inclusion of hydroponically-grown produce and CAFO-produced meat, milk and eggs as organic. Soon, the original organic farmers were competing with products they did not consider organic at all.

Eliot Coleman and these farmers launched a “Keep the Soil in Organic” campaign specifically targeting hydroponic certification. It grew to protests against the organic certification of massive poultry operations with 200,000 laying hens housed inside large buildings. And dairy operations where thousands of cows rarely saw pasture. And hogs in concrete buildings for their entire lives. The original organic movement’s focus on healthy soil and animals on pasture was being eroded. And they found themselves competing with USDA Organic products that didn’t require any of the efforts that they were exerting. They lost the battle to the more powerful and monied interests, as often happens.

In 2018, they birthed the “Real Organic Project,” an effort to distinguish farms that prioritized soil health and water conservation and wildlife habitat and who pastured their animals and actually offered “free range” to their chickens. These farmers let their pigs wallow in mud and root in the dirt and play outside. They managed pests with natural predators and strategic interplanting. It’s been just three full years since its inception, but the Real Organic Project is going strong. According to their website, they are a farmer-led movement “created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products” within the USDA Organic label. They believe that the consumer who wants organic needs to be able to choose the kind of organic they want to buy.

My experience in writing about farmers who lean toward Real Organic is that they are very focused on soil as a living entity, teeming with microbial activity, whose bacteria, fungi, mycorrhizae and microscopic “bugs” interact to support growth. Many don’t till because that destroys mycorrhizae. Most use extensive cover crops to nourish the soil and prevent erosion. Those who raise animals set aside vast acreages for animals to graze and move about. Many choose non-GMO feed and/or raise grass-fed livestock. They experiment with grazing systems and composting methods. I don’t know any who have pursued formal Real Organic Project certification yet, but The Boreal Farm and Food Farm in Duluth and Northern Harvest Farm, Stone’s Throw Farm and Uff-Da Organics in Wrenshall have earned ROP certification.

One of the valuable aspects of buying food locally, especially directly from the farmer, is that you can ask about these things. The farmers that I’ve written about have welcomed me to their farms and answered my questions. I hear a lot of conversations like that at farmers markets, too—folks visiting about how food is grown. It may well be that the kind of practices you are looking for in the production of the food you want to eat are being used right here on the Range, even though the official USDA or Real Organic Project label might not be present.

If you want to learn more about the ROP, the 2022 symposium is coming up virtually on January 30 and February 6, 3-5pm. Registration is $65 at www.realorganic2022.org

Profile 65: Where to buy local in 2022, originally published in Hometown Focus

Chad Hofsommer of Diamond Willow Corral with one of his piglets

It’s New Year’s Eve, time to take stock of 2021 and plan for the year ahead–and maybe even make some new year’s resolutions. How about resolving to buy your food more locally in 2022? I’m often asked by folks who want to support the local food system where to go, how to begin. And of course, as the manager of Virginia Market Square farmers market, I always suggest starting there. you can find your local farmers market at www.arrowheadgrown.org.

I also often suggest buying from retailers who make a special effort to carry local foods. Natural Harvest Food Coop in Virginia is all about local. And F&D Meats in Virginia has recently opened a local section—check it out! Virginia’s Canelake’s Candies is now carrying Red Lake Nation foods, local pasta by Nana’s Noodles, local pet treats, and Homestead Mills pancake and bread mixes. There are also Facebook pages/groups like Farm Direct Minnesota and Iron Range Grown where you can post a request for local food and usually get several replies. You can search for local growers who sell online and buy from them via Open Food Network (https://openfoodnetwork.net ) And last but not least, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture publishes an annual “Minnesota Grown” directory that is available online (https://minnesotagrown.com/ )

Dircks Farm Eggs

Based on the Grown on the Range profiles I’ve written and on my experience with area farmers markets, I’m going to offer a few options for those of you who are wanting specifics on where to buy direct from the local grower. If you want local eggs, Kudrle Farms (profile 57) sells them (www.kudrlefarms.com ) and you can get Dircks Farm eggs (profile 45) at Natural Harvest Food Coop. If you want to adopt your own chickens and produce your own eggs, watch out for city ordinances (Virginia does not allow but Mt. Iron and Britt do) and order unusual hens from the Eclectic Carton (see profile 34) https://www.facebook.com/the.eclectic.carton . If it’s local milk you’re after, you can purchase it right from the cow at Rice River Holsteins (profile 26) in Angora. Or, you can buy Johnston’s Riverview Farm milk (they are located near Floodwood and are the successors to Dahl’s Sunrise Dairy (profile 21) at Natural Harvest Food Coop.

If you’re looking for something rather unusual, like Brix-tested nutrient-dense food, then Craig Turnboom’s Skunk Creek Farm (profile 5) is where you’ll want to check ( https://www.skunkcreekfarm.net/ ) Or maybe you’d like local mushrooms—head to Homestead Ponds booth at the Grand Rapids Farmers Market (profile 7) or find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Homestead.Ponds/ . If it’s flowers you’re after, even a weekly bouquet, Owl Forest Farm (profile 16) has acres full. https://www.facebook.com/owlforestfarm Perhaps you’re craving a northern-Minnesota-made wild rice burger? Check out Kelly G’s Wild Rice Burgers (see profile 19), made in Bovey, at https://kellygswildriceburgers.wordpress.com/about/ Or maybe you need some local honey to sweeten up your life. Try Early Frost Farms (profiles 2 & 25) in Embarrass https://www.earlyfrostfarms.com/ On the other hand, if spicy is what you’re after, go for Min’s Korean Kimchi https://www.facebook.com/MinMadeIt (profile 54)

Min Baker with her authentic Kimchi

Buying meat directly from the farmer is a great way to support local food. None of the Iron Range livestock farmers described below used confined animal feedlots or antibiotics. All of the animals are outside with access to shelter. I’ve written about Helstrom Farms (grass fed beef), Diamond Willow Corral (grass fed beef, barley and pastured pork), Bear Creek Acres (beef and pork all natural feed), Kudrle Farms (chicken, turkey and duck free range), and Willow Sedge Farm (grass fed beef, traditionally-fed pork, chicken, turkey). You can learn more about each of their operations in profiles 3, 20, 23, 41, 57 and by visiting their websites or facebook pages: www.helstromfarms.com , https://www.facebook.com/diamondwillowcorral , www.bearcreekacres.com , www.kudrlefarms.com , www.janesfarm.com . I’ll be writing soon about Grass Meadows Farm (grass fed beef and pork).

Lavalier’s Berry Patch and Orchard (profile 32) sells apples and berries and pumpkins and cherries https://www.lavaliersberrypatch.com/ and Peterson’s Berry Farm (profile 12) sells blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and maple syrup https://www.facebook.com/petersonsberryfarm in season. If you like your fruits made into jellies and jams, check with a Cottage Foods vendor. In Minnesota, jams, jellies, pickles and baked goods fall under “Cottage Foods,” non-hazardous foods made at home under a license exemption from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Many Cottage Food producers sell at craft shows and holiday markets year round. And some sell via Facebook or out of their homes. Check out Heather Mahoney’s Facebook page as an example (Profile 58) at https://www.facebook.com/heathershomegoodsembarrassmn or Rob and Jill Hietala’s page (profile 4) https://www.facebook.com/FloodwoodRiverfarms (try the pickled garlic and kohlrabi). Most Cottage Food producers sell at area farmers markets from June through October (profiles 1, 2, 29 & 52). To go with all that jam and jelly, Karl’s Bread (profile 30) is the ticket! The Jonas family sells their signature sourdough bread along with bagels, buns, pulla, biscotti, cinnamon rolls and focaccia at several area farmers markets. This year, they’ve also been baking through the winter and delivering orders to Iron Range communities. Kristine Jonas usually posts on her Facebook page when they’ll be baking and taking orders.

Microgreens growing at Alfred Smith’s Farm

While we’re in the deep of winter, we can dream about the wonderful produce of summer and find new recipes to enjoy the carrots and tomatoes and squash that farmers and growers will be starting from seed soon. If you want local seed, tried and true on the Range, check out Will and Jackie Clay Atkinson’s Seed Treasures at www.seedtreasures.com (profile 18). There’s no need to go without fresh veggies all winter—Alfred Smith’s Farm sells microgreens all year long (profile 61) www.alfredsmithsfarm.com and also will offer a limited number of CSA shares in 2022. The only other CSA in the area is Fat Chicken Farm (profile 27). We need more CSAs on the Range if you’re looking for a business opportunity!

That wraps up my tips on buying local food. All of you other veggie and fruit growers that I’ve written about so far, (profiles 1,2,4,5,14,22,29,31,52,54,56,57,58,59,61), I wish you good growing! Past profiles at www.irpsmn.org/directory-of-profiles

Jackie Clay Atkinson saving squash seeds

Profile 64: Community Gardens across the Range grow community! originally published in Hometown Focus

Ely Community Gardens grew beets!

As we enjoy the twinkling holiday lights in the snow, let’s take some time to reminisce about the gifts of summer. Across the Iron Range, community gardens were in full production this past year. From Grand Rapids and Nashwauk to Ely, local folks dug up the dirt and planted their seeds alongside their new gardening acquaintances, and then harvested all summer and into the fall.

In Virginia, all 40 of Growing Together Virginia Community Gardens’ beds were rented and planted. A recent survey of gardeners revealed that most valued the friends they made and the new skills they learned while gardening. Several suggested a fall harvest meal at the garden as a way to end the season. Lori Schiebe, garden coordinator, made sure that all of the garden soil was amended and ready for planting this spring and she hauled all of the plant waste to the compost pile at the landfill this fall. Essentia Health supports this garden, and the City of Virginia donates all of the land as well as filling the water tanks. Growing Together began six years ago and will expand with the “L’il Gard’ners” program introducing Head Start students to gardening in the Olcott Park Greenhouse in January. In June they will transfer what they grow to a new Children’s Garden south of Pine Mill Court. You can find Growing Together on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/growingtogethervirginia

Virginia North Bailey Lake Community Garden site.

Virginia also has two community food forests. One was planted and is maintained by the Rutabaga Project and the other by 4-H. These are unique gardens planted with fruit and nut trees and perennial fruits and herbs. They are meant to grow to maturity over a number of years and continue bearing. The Virginia food forests are very young, but they have yielded harvests each year. To learn more about community food forests, visit https://communityfoodforests.com/ .

In Ely, Northeast Higher Education District employee Heather Hohenstein and Vermilion Community College student Kesley Ebbs moved and renovated an old garden to Pattison Street to become a community garden. (See photo at start of article) Heather planted beets, beets, beets! With the harvest from these gardens and from gleaning around town, 6 VCC students hosted a class at the Ely Folk School kitchen. They chopped and pureed beets to make chocolate beet brownies. (If you’ve never had them, you can’t imagine how beets could taste this good!) Everyone got to take home 4 cups of pureed beets to make their own brownies. Later the students made kale chips from an Ely resident’s extra kale and pickled garlic with seasonings. What a great learning experience! The Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability helped to launch this garden with a $300 contribution toward water from the City of Ely. Kesley hopes to get more students involved next year and grow the effort as well as the collaboration with the Ely Folk School.

In Nashwauk, the community garden is older than others in the area. Started by Karen Peterson ten years ago with grants from United Way, Blandin Foundation, Operation Roundup and the Nashwauk Community Fund, it is located on city property on the northeast side of town on the road to the pit. Plots are free of charge. The local fire department supplies water all summer. This is one of the few gardens that has a private Facebook group where folks chat about what they’re growing and what the garden needs. Volunteer Jim Vesel runs it, and you can ask to join at https://www.facebook.com/groups/141954312540050 In 2020 there were about 20 gardeners. This past summer, fewer, but there are folks signed up for next year.

Nashwauk Community Gardens

Hibbing’s community gardens are located on the Hibbing Community College campus. Jessalyn Sabin, biology instructor, started them a few years ago. There are 12 raised beds, either 4×6 or 5×10 and they are rented about half and half by college students and community members. Fees are minimal. Before Covid, the beds were fully planted, but the last two summers have seen reduced use due to Covid. Hopefully those numbers will be back up next year. You can find more information at https://hibbing.edu/campus-services/sustainability/community-gardens

Two of the newer community gardens on the Range are in Aurora and Cook. Aurora’s gardens are at the Mesabi East Environmental Education Center (ME3C). This past summer, 20 folks rented garden boxes for $25 each. The students also grow lots of produce at the center and sell it at the ME3C farmers market held every two weeks starting in July. The market and gardens are both hoping to expand. Volunteers connected with the hospital in Cook started a community garden there in 2020 and it is just getting going.

The Itasca Community Garden has two locations. The largest is located at the University of Minnesota North Central Research and Outreach Center on Hwy 169 in Grand Rapids. This is the “mother of all” community gardens on the Range with 81 plots in Grand Rapids and 20 in Deer River. They are coordinated by Get Fit Itasca. https://www.getfititasca.org/itasca-community-garden. This past summer there were about 35 gardeners in Grand Rapids using all 81 plots and 10 in Deer River using half the plots. The others were planted with sorghum as a cover crop. Find them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/itascacommunitygarden

Handicap access garden, part of Grand Rapids Community Garden

From very large to tiny, community gardens span the Iron Range. Such gardens vary in terms of who owns the land and who coordinates the gardening. They vary in terms of cost and physical accessibility. There are a few garden beds built for wheelchair and standing accessibility. Virginia has nine of those (currently being relocated) and Grand Rapids has one at Crystal Lake Park. Gardening guidelines vary too. Most community gardens in the area ask that you use non-toxic chemicals, if any, on your garden plot. Many suggest organic products that fulfill this criterion. Some gardens regularly replenish the soil with compost and manure. Some are fenced and some aren’t. But they all have gardeners who get to know each other and form a growing community. Check out your community garden!

Formal research on community gardens in the U.S. shows that participation improves mental and physical health and creates positive socializing opportunities, connection folks to other resources (Draper & Freedman:2010) And in relation to diet, community garden participation boosts fruit and vegetable intake significantly (Litt et al:2011) Those are pretty significant benefits! What we know from experience is that community gardens can also be sites of vandalism, volunteer burnout, and sometimes even social conflict. But we move forward, those of us who support community gardening, because we believe it’s worth it.

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Draper, Carrie, and Darcy Freedman. “Review and Analysis of the Benefits, Purposes, and Motivations Associated with Community Gardening in the United States.” Journal of Community Practice, vol. 18, no. 4, 2010, pp. 458–492., https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2010.519682.

Litt, Jill S., et al. “The Influence of Social Involvement, Neighborhood Aesthetics, and Community Garden Participation on Fruit and Vegetable Consumption.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 101, no. 8, 2011, pp. 1466–1473., https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2010.300111.

Profile 63: Grown on the Range Music! Iron Range Original Music Association is alive and ready for 2022! originally published in Hometown Focus

I usually profile farms and growers in the column, but this holiday season I’m excited to write about MUSIC that’s grown on the Range. It’s a revival! The bands of the Iron Range Original Music Association (IROMA) have been relatively quiet as of late. When the 218 Taphouse closed, IROMA lost its most reliable and trusted venue for local original music performances, and when Covid hit, the pandemic further curtailed live, in-person performances. Despite the hurdles presented to artists worldwide over the last two years, the musicians who hail from the Range have been busy writing new music, and plans are underway to bring it all back in the spring of 2022 in several new venues.

The Range currently boasts upwards of 20 bands and performers who write and perform original music all around our part of the state, and the area is also home to a nationally renowned recording studio located in Sparta MN. (https://spartasound.bandcamp.com/) Rich Mattson opened Sparta Sound in 2005 when he moved back to The Range from Minneapolis. He went to look at an old church for sale and it struck him that it would be a perfect studio. There he has recorded, among many others, Dave Rave and the Governors, Trampled by Turtles, Leslie Rich and the Rocket Soul Choir, the Holy Hootenanners…and his own music. He and his partner Germaine Gemberling and friends make up Rich Mattson and the Northstars, and their latest album, Skylights, was given rave reviews in Duluth Reader, Goldmine, No Depression and several other national publications.

Last year the Iron Range Tourism Bureau contracted with Sara Softich to write and record a song touting the Iron Range. She recorded her song with her band playing outside in the woods around a campfire. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Jg95w7wuzk) Who wouldn’t want to come visit the Range after hearing this? When the love of a place unites musicians, their music builds its culture—that’s our culture! Their life experiences, told in their songs, reflect the life experience of all Iron Rangers and we share that resonance when we hear the music. It’s different than going to a concert performed by strangers—these are our neighbors. They wake up to the same sunrises, fish the same lakes, ski the same trails, and hear the same loons and wolves at night that we do.

It’s economically challenging to be a full-time musician, and many band members have “day jobs” that keep them fed, but evenings and weekends are for music, for writing, practicing, and performing. Guitarist Eric Krenz, for example, spends his days working for the Virginia Housing and Redevelopment Authority and plays with Sara Softich and Friends and with Heather Surla as Horse Fzce. Heather Surla works as a mortgage loan originator at American Bank. IROMA co-founder Karl Sundquist works as an attorney by day and plays with his new band, Pocketknife, whenever they can. Ellen Root of Van & the Free Candies is a social worker by day and she and Van also have a big farm.

Early followers of IROMA may recall the group’s inception in early 2009 when Mac’s Bar hosted IROMA’s inaugural day-long multi-band showcase. The group produced three compilation CDs including music from Iron Range Outlaw Brigade, Hobo Revival, the Josh Palmi Band, the Wheeler Dealers, Matt Ray, Mark Henderson, the Prodigal Sons, Four Horse Johnson, Shotgun Daisy, Mellowdrama, the Modern Antiques, Swing Dogs, the Christopher David Hanson Band, and Mojosaurus. Since the reactivation of the organization’s social media accounts, a buzz has flowed through the local music community creating new connections with additional performers such as Van & The Free Candies, Kim Nagler, Gene LaFond and Amy Grillo, James Girard and BossMama & the Jebberhooch. Everyone is clearly ready to rock and roll again with fresh shows this spring!

IROMA is planning monthly acoustic “house concerts” at Mesabi Unitarian Universalist Church, a sweet 110-year old building with an intimate atmosphere and great sound located on the south side of Virginia, along with regularly scheduled singer-songwriter shows at local bars in addition to one or two larger day-long rock shows later in the season. They’re starting something totally new to generate support for local music, and there will be something for everyone. Following the model of CSA (community supported agriculture) groups where shares are sold in the spring for regular deliveries during the growing season, they’re going to offer Iron Range Original Music Shares for sale starting this holiday season. Making the move to community supported local music, a $50 share will provide admittance to all six concerts at the Mesabi UU venue. Other groups across the U.S. have successfully used this model to support community music scenes, and based on the past outpouring of support from Iron Rangers proud of their own unique brand of local music, the group anticipates that regional music fans will step right up to purchase shares. Music is a vital part of our collective culture, and IROMA has a vested interest in building community resilience through promoting local artists and strengthening the bonds between musicians and audiences. IROMA intends to re-establish their brand, elevate the stature of all local musicians, and proudly broadcast the stories and sounds of the Iron Range to the world, and they invite everyone here in N.E. Minnesota to join them in achieving those goals.

Green Gifts

The information below was prepared by sisters Astrid Newenhouse PhD (Senior Scientist in the Environmental Resources Center and the Department of Biological Systems Engineering) and Sonya Newenhouse PhD (President of Community Car, LLC)

Look for these gifts at your local garden center or hardware store. If not available, check the mail order companies listed. Source is listed for items that are difficult to find locally.

Gifts Under $10

  • Building and Using Cold Frames and or Improving Your Soil Handbooks $3.99 www.growingorganic.com (Peaceful Valley store, CA)
  • Eco Watering Spout, new design to make a watering can from a plastic bottle $6, Womanswork
  • Easy Turn Tap Grip for faucet, $3.50 many places and also Lee Valley
  • Mesh bags for onions etc. $5–7.50, Seed Savers
  • Canning funnel
  • Nail brush
  • Soil and Compost thermometer
  • Stainless Steel Apple Wedger $9.95 www.realgoods.com
  • “Pesticide free zone” sign for lawn or yard, Beyond Pesticides, www.beyondpesticides.org
  • Amaryllis bulb in a pot or tulip, hyacinth, and narcissus bulbs for indoors
  • Double hose connector so one faucet can handle two hoses
  • Good quality tape measure for home or field
  • Seeds
  • New types of garden gloves, nitrile,flexible, or cushioned, or fit to women (see Womanswork)
  • Fair trade mittens, scarves, hats ($9-12) Fair Indigo www.fairindigo.com (800) 520-1806
  • Naughty Goat Soaps, Under A Rock Farm, LaFarge WI Facebook
  • Organic maple syrup, sugar, maple cream or candy www.MapleValley.coop (800) 760-1449
  • Reusable bowl covers
  • Eco pots made from grain husks, $9 Gardeners Supply
  • Traditional paste glue, $4.95, Lee Valley

Gift Ideas $10–25

  • Folding pruning saw, also for camping, Fiskars, $15
  • Mechanical water timer for faucet
  • BeesWrap Beeswax and cloth food storage alternative to plastic wrap, www.beeswrap.com/ and other wraps for food
  • Cherry-It Pitter pits 4 cherries at once $15, Bed Bath and Beyond www.bedbathandbeyond.com
  • Hip holster for tools, phone, $16 Womans Work, others
  • Hori Hori Knife, (cross between a trowel and a knife) $22 Gardener’s Edge, others
  • Soji Solar Lantern, white 10’ round $21.99, Real Goods
  • Bare root trees, fruits, perennials locally or check Fedco coop in Maine
  • Leonard soil knife, $18, GardenersEdge
  • Melon and squash cradles for the ‘perfect unblemished melon’ $12.50, Gardeners Supply
  • White floating row cover fabric or Reemay for veggies , local garden center or garden catalog
  • Support hoops for row cover fabric on veggies $15 Gardeners Supply
  • Raised bed corner brackets (metal) Lee Valley or Gardeners Supply
  • Pot maker $12, a form to make seedling pots w/ newspaper, Lee Valley or Gardeners Supply
  • Bushel Basket with handles $14.99 www.groworganic.com
  • Rotary tool sharpener for hoes, spades, to use with your drill $16, Johnny’s
  • Collapsible canvas bucket $16.90 Lee Valley
  • Radius Junior Spade 36 in. or Rake 39 in. $16.50 Lee Valley
  • Over-the-sink-colander, $17.50 www.leevalley.com (800) 871-8158
  • Siphon to empty rain barrel or garden pond $13 Lee Valley, www.leevalley.com (800) 871-8158
  • Min max thermometer
  • Metal plant labels
  • Canning funnel stainless steel $12 , household stores or Lehmans
  • Canning One Handed Jar Lifter $9.50 www.lehmans.com (888) 438-5346
  • UW Extension gives local classes on food preservation
  • Hummingbird feeders, all kinds
  • Wire suet or fruit spirals (3) $10, Gardeners Supply
  • Downspout diverter for rainbarrel $20 Gardener’s Edge
  • Tupperware sandwich keeper $12 for 2 www.tupperware.com
  • Glass food containers for leftovers Vermont Country Store
  • Hanging pocket shoe organizer for tools, gloves, seeds
  • Orchard Mason bee nests for pollination, several places including Garden Supply, Lee Valley
  • Seedling Sprayer $16.50 Lee Valley www.leevalley.com
  • Soil Scoop $19.90 for container gardening Lee Valley www.leevalley.com
  • Transplant Knife $ Lee Valley www.leevalley.com
  • Knee pads or kneeling pads of all sorts, new version has memory foam
  • Soji Solar Lantern, white 10 ft. round $21.99 www.realgoods.com
  • Stainless steel compost pail for kitchen counter $19.95-23.50 Lee Valley
  • Earth Flag, $24.95 www.realgoods.com
  • A string of LED lights to decorate your house using 90% less heat and energy
  • Good quality min/max thermometer, simple large copper or electronic thermometer or wireless
  • Sprinkler stand $40, holds it higher up so it works better
  • Noodlehead flexible sprinkler Gardeners Supply, GardenersEdge
  • Water meter for hose or sprinkler
  • LED headlamp for gardening at night
  • Floral shovel for working in flower beds $16 GardenersEdge
  • Hand-Crank Coffee Grinder $22, Real Goods
  • Good quality hand tools such as DeWit cultivator (Dutch made)

Gift Ideas $25–50

  • Nut gathering rake, for picking up walnuts from your yard $40-$50. Gardeners Supply, others
  • Kits to grow your own mushrooms $14-$60, Field & Forest Products Inc. www.fieldforest.net, (800) 792-6220 (Peshtigo WI)
  • Ceramic Berry Bowl with drain holes, $24.95 many locations and also Gardeners Supply
  • Stoneware Pickling Crock $29-$199, antique stores (beware lead), or new at Gardeners Supply
  • Foley food mill $35-$45, Lehmans,
  • GardenGlide cart $30, GardenersEdge
  • Gardener’s Hollow Leg, a belt sack to collect prunings or harvest $30 Gardeners Edge
  • CobraHead weeder made in WI $25 www.cobrahead.com (866) 962-6272
  • Cape Cod Weeder, other hand weeders
  • Pruners with ‘power gear’ $36, Fiskars, endorsed for Ease of Use by Arthritis Foundation, GardenersEdge
  • On Plug Power Switch $11 single or $29 for three Real Goods
  • Oven Gloves, great for canning, many places and also Lee Valley
  • Smart Power Strip $39, Real Goods
  • Kneeler, $35, folding, with pad, GardenersEdge
  • Power bulb planter to put on drill, $30,
  • Drip irrigation kit Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Gardeners Supply
  • Waste Free Lunch Kit $45
  • Garden rocker seat $49, Gardeners Edge, Gardener’s Supply
  • Solar powered lights as accents or along walkways, some change color
  • Natural organic clothes, robes, baby clothes, household linens, or pillows
  • Hand crank radio to listen to “Garden Talk” without any batteries
  • Corn broom, Lehmans
  • Laundry line kit and wood wall mount laundry line, local hardware store or Lehmans
  • Upright dandelion weeding tools such as Speedy Weedy, Weed Hound, Grandpa’s Weeder
  • Colorful spiral vegetable stakes $35 Gardeners Supply
  • Root Vegetable Storage Bins $29.95, Gardeners Supply
  • Organic, Made in USA T-shirts (by a Wisconsin Company) www.fairindigo.com
  • Gift certificate to Community Car for access to hybrid cars, vans, a truck, and a mini cooper www.communitycar.com (608) 204-0000
  • Instant Garden Fence kit $45, Gardeners Supply
  • Garden Hat, many places including Clean Air Gardening

Gift Ideas $50–$100

  • 6 months menu planning service by personal chef Patricia Mulvey of Local Thyme $60, cooking with local produce, www.localthyme.com or basic membership $15/year
  • Colorful rubber hoses $69.95 rubber hose in rainbow color choices Gardeners Supply
  • Kits to make your own cheese: $57-73 The Cheesemaker (WI) www.thecheesemaker.com, $25, New England Cheesemaking Supply www.cheesemaking.com (413) 397-2012
  • Earth Box self contained planter system $55, http://store.earthbox.com (800) 821-8838
  • Flame weeder, Gardener’s Edge, Gardener’s Supply
  • Over-sink cutting board with removable colander $59, Real Goods,
  • Garden scoot on wheels with tractor seat Gardener’s Supply or Gardener’s Edge
  • Food dehydrator
  • Cast iron cookware
  • Organic cotton items such as sheets, towels and blankets, www.Gaiam.com (800) 869-3446
  • New England clothes dryer (50 feet of drying space) $99, Real Goods
  • Drip watering irrigation system, $60 Gardeners Supply, others
  • LED solar powered white holiday lights $80 Gardeners Supply, others

Gift Ideas $100 +

  • Broadfork, $95 Lee Valley or $180 Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • All-Terrain Landscapers Wagon $129 ,Gardeners Supply
  • Beekeeping starter kit, $150, www.mannlakeltd.com (800) 880-7694
  • Seeders for large scale garden farm $80-$500(with video) Johnnys Selected Seeds
  • Electric (Ni-Cad battery) hedge trimmer, string trimmer, pole saw, Gardeners Edge
  • Mehu-Liisa Steamer Juicer from Finland, check internet (Amazon) and also Lee Valley
  • Weather station: electronic data on temp, rainfall, wind speed, humidity
  • Toro e-cyler cordless push electric lawnmower
  • Push reel mower
  • Standing raised bed garden, Gardeners Supply
  • FairShare CSA(Community Supported Agriculture) Coalition, buy a weekly subscription for veggies in the growing season www.csacoalition.org
  • PowerKraut subscription $140 and up, http://www.agrilicious.org/Powerkraut (608) 675-3737
  • Rain Barrels $119 – $299 many places including Gardeners Supply, Clean Air Gardening
  • Chicken coop, many places including Clean Air Gardening

Books and Magazines

  • Cookbook “Farmstead Chef” by Lisa Kivirist and John Ivanko $19 http://innserendipity.com
  • Farm Fresh and Fast, FairShare CSA Coalition cookbook $25 www.csacoalition.org
  • Michael Pollan’s new book ‘Cooked, A Natural History of Transformation’
  • The Year Round Vegetable Gardener, Niki Jabbour $19.99 www.groworganic.com
  • The Complete Book of Home Preserving, by Judi Kingri and Lauren Devine $22.95
  • Root Cellaring: Natural Cold Storage of Fruits & Vegetables by Mike and Nancy Bubel $14.95
  • Landscaping with Native Plants of Wisconsin, Lynn M. Steiner $24.95 Voyageur Press
  • Square foot Gardening by Mel Batholomew $25 www.squarefootgardening.com
  • The Human Powered Home by Tamara Dean, www.Newsociety.com $29 author has grain mill, blender, coffee grinder powered by her bicycle.
  • EnAct: Steps to Greener Living by Sonya Newenhouse, $14.95 (second edition) www.enactwi.org (608) 280-0800
  • Set of “Growing Fresh Market Vegetables in WI” series of UW Extension publications
  • HortIdeas email Newsletter $25, Gravel Switch, KY, [email protected] (606) 332-7606,
  • Growing for Market $33 www.growingformarket.com 800-307 8949
  • Mother Earth News (guide to leading a more sustainable life) www.motherearthnews.com $10/yr
  • Mother Earth Living (green lifestyle and design) www.motherearthliving.com $14.95/yr
  • Mary Jane’s Farm (simple solutions for every day organic) www.maryjanesfarm.org 19.95/yr
  • Small Green Roofs: Low-Tech Options for Greener Living by Nigel Dunnett, Dusty Gedge, John Little and Edmund Snodgrass $24.95 Timber Press www.timberpress.co.uk

Home Made Gifts
Seed saver binder (three whole punch sturdy zip lock bags with dividers), Floral stakes or garden stakes made from wire of campaign signs. Cloth napkins, cloth grocery bags, Leopold bench, rain barrels, garden record book, bookmarks, potpourri, wreaths, garlands, soothing neck wrap, homemade soap, oil and vinegar infusions, tinctures, bath salts, window boxes, note cards, pinecone peanut butter bird feeder, trellis of branches or wood, doggie dooley

The Gift of Time
Certificates for services such as soil sampling, tool sharpening, raking, visits to botanic gardens (even in winter), hauling mulch or compost, building a raised bed or trellis, preparing a garden bed, or a massage for the gardener

Gift of Education

  • Furniture, trellises, fences, art made of rustic woods, Midwest Woodlanders Gathering www.woodlanders.com in July, Shake Rag Alley Mineral Point
  • Cheesemaking The Cheesemaker (Mequon WI) www.thecheesemaker.com (414) 745-5483
  • Driftless Folk School www.driftlessfolkschool.com (888) 587-6540
  • Schools for Beginning Market Farming, Dairy Farming, Apple Growing, or Flower Growing www.cias.wisc.edu


  • UW Extension Publications: from your WI County Extension Office or learningstore.uwex.edu (877) 947-7827
  • Gardeners Supply, Burlington, VT www.gardeners.com (800) 427-3363
  • Gardeners Edge, Piqua OH www.Gardenersedge.com (888) 556-5676
  • Gemplers www.gemplers.com (800) 382-8473
  • Clean Air Gardening www.cleanairgardening.com (888) 439-9101
  • Lee Valley, Ogdensburg, NY (a Canadian company) www.leevalley.com (800) 871-8159
  • Lehmans www.lehmans.com (888) 438-5346
  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds www.Johnnyseeds.com (877) 564-6697
  • Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org (563) 382-5990
  • Jungs, www.jungseed.com (800) 247-5864
  • Gardens Alive!, Lawrenceburg, IN www.gardensalive.com (812) 537-8650
  • Canada’s Office of Urban Ag (plans for doggy dooley) www.cityfarmer.org
  • Satara https://www.satarahome.com/ and Hempen Goods www.hempengoods.com in Madison, WI
  • Maple Valley coop maple products, Cashton, WI, www.maplevalley.coop, (800) 760-1449
  • Real Goods Catalog www.realgoods.com (800) 919-2400
  • Fedco Seeds, (also plants and trees) www.fedcoseeds.com, Waterville, Maine
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm shares, Fair Share www.csacoalition.org
  • Vermont Country Store www.vermontcountrystore.com (802) 362-8460
  • Womanswork, Garden products designed for women Womanswork.com, 800-639-2709
  • Community Car, Madison, WI www.communitycar.com (608) 204-0000
  • EnAct: Steps to Greener Living www.enactwi.org (608) 280-0800

Contact Information
Astrid Newenhouse [email protected]
Sonya Newenhouse [email protected]
Source: Enact Wisconsin