Monday, March 04, 2013 By Aaron Brown
Biwabik landowner wants to put farm into production
Shawn Callahan is looking for a few good farmers.
Callahan, who owns and operates Green Gate Guest House, a sustainably built guest cottage near Biwabik, is hoping to put new life into his historic farmstead.
“I’m reaching out to community members who have farming experience, but no land, and would like to use this property for gardens and even livestock,” Shawn explained. “There’s great agricultural potential for this property, but I simply don’t have the time or knowledge to work the land at this point.”
According to Shawn, the land was a 13-acre working farm for nearly a century. Infrastructure, such as fencing, a chicken coop, a rainwater collection system, and fruit and berry orchards are already in place.
Callahan doesn’t wish to profit from the land, just put it to use. “For the right person or group, this is a great opportunity,” Shawn said.
A U.S. Department of Agriculture Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative grant sweetens the deal. Callahan recently received the grant to help construct a commercial-sized greenhouse designed to help improve plant and soil quality, extend growing seasons, and reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation.
The person or group who fits best with Shawn’s hope for the property will be in good company with other farmers/producers. Despite northern Minnesota’s relatively short growing season, more than 50 local growers can be found in the region. Their operations range from Cami Kolstad’s organically grown garden produce and gourmet preserves in Soudan and Mirror Lake Beesworks’ honey, candy, syrup and wild rice, to Tom and Danyel Fillipovich’s Eveleth-area heritage breed chickens and turkeys or the MooNeigh Farm’s natural garden produce in Goodland.
“There is a thriving and, literally, growing movement across the country to embrace sustainability,” said Ardy Nurmi-Wilberg, Virginia resident and board member for the Northeast Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnership with the University of Minnesota. “It’s no different in northern Minnesota. There are many existing growers and a lot of really great projects and initiatives to promote local foods and a variety of other sustainability topics. Whether it’s the wind mills in Mountain Iron or solar panels at the Hibbing library or even interest by regional restaurants to incorporate locally grown food in their menus, northeastern Minnesota isn’t shying away from this great combination of technology and tradition.”
The sustainability movement has more implications than renewable energy, waste reduction or healthy food. Regional job creation and even tourism are impacted.
“For a lot of people, experiencing local cuisine is an important part of travel, and knowing something is locally produced makes it even more attractive to visitors and residents alike,” said Beth Pierce, director of Iron Range Tourism Bureau in Eveleth. “It can really be a win for restaurants to incorporate locally grown products into their menus, and for tourists who are after a unique dining experience.”
For Callahan, letting the right person or group put the land to good use could mean another source of locally grown food for those who live on the Iron Range, and those who visit.
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