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questions on move to E. Min/W. Wi  RSS feed

 
Dennis Lanigan
Posts: 175
Location: Philomath, OR
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My partner and I are thinking about moving to Minnesota/Wisconsin in the Spring and I have lots of questions since I've never lived in the Midwest. We'll be living near Minneapolis at first and then searching for land after we get settled.

Are there places with good farm land, water rights, and access to wild foraging all in one place? Ideally I would be able to grow annuals for subsistence as the perennials take off, and also hunt and gather items like bear fat, deer meat, mushrooms, and ramps (etc.) to round out the diet. Is that possible?

Are there busy farmer's markets that need more farmers to join and sell everything from veggies to tanned sheepskins?

Do MN/WI gardeners have specific bioregional growing books like they do in Cascadia like Growing West of the Cascades?

Is it hard to start annuals early because of occasional late frosts? How long and when is the growing season near the Twin Cities?

In looking for land is there any areas I should focus on? Any areas I should avoid? Viroqua, WI and Winona, MN seem interesting.

I have a lot more questions, but I'll start with that.

Any help would be great. Thanks!





 
Cassie Rauk
pollinator
Posts: 92
Location: Southeast MN (Zone 5b)
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Hi Dennis,

I am a SE Minnesotan (I live across the river from La Crosse WI) so I will try to help you out if I can.

There are lots of placed in SE MN where you can find good farmland, my sister just got a nice 14 acre chunk near Lanesboro, MN. And even if you chunk is ideal, with some sweet talking your neighbor will probably let you do some foraging. I haven't heard of people having problems with water rights, but then it is the land of ten thousand lakes.

The Twin Cities, Rochester and Madison all have large farmer's markets. I have not been to the Madison personally but have heard good things. Most of the small towns have farmers markets too, but if you are selling something unusual (like tanned sheepskins) word of mouth will help you loads.

I start most of my seeds under grow lights and many use cold frames. I usually don't plant outside until the last week of May. In my neck of the woods the season runs from Mid May to Mid Sept. But we have not gotten and official frost yet this year, so I am still pumping out tomatoes.

You will find lots of like minded folks in the Viroqua area and Winona is beautiful. Many of the small towns outside of Rochester are nice, like Chatfield. Also a nice place to check out is Decorah, IA which is right across the border.

 
Bill Busse
Posts: 25
Location: South-Central Minnesota USA
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We are in South Central Minnesota now. We used to live outside of Viroqua, WI.

My favorite region in the Minnesota/Wisconsin area is the Driftless Region. This includes cities like Winona, MN, La Crosse, WI, Viroqua, WI. This area is exactly what you are looking for. As for as bioregional books are concerned I would like to suggest Mark Shepard's Restoration Agriculture published by Acres USA this spring.


I am happy to try to answer any questions you have.

 
Dennis Lanigan
Posts: 175
Location: Philomath, OR
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Thanks Bill and Cassie. I just got Mark Shepard's book from the library.

Here's some more questions.

I am a bark tanner of deer hides and I am excited about going to a region with lots of white tail deer and tannic trees (oaks, willow, sumac). Although new to permaculture (both the idea of leather and myself), I feel creating leather this way is integral to a permanent local system that desires locally made shoes, clothing, belts, etc.

So, are there ways to collect oak bark/galls, sumac leaves, and willow (for baskets too) besides being lucky to have them on your own property? Do you happen to see a lot of oak galls/acorns on state park/national park lands begging to be collected? Or is it just as simple as asking a neighbor? If it's possible to say, are people usually nice enough to allow this?

Are there a lot of deer in the SE part of Minnesota? I have collected hides near Mora before, but not in the SE.
 
Bill Busse
Posts: 25
Location: South-Central Minnesota USA
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Dennis,

South East Minnesota is over run with deer. Without natural predators the deep population has skyrocketed.
 
Cassie Rauk
pollinator
Posts: 92
Location: Southeast MN (Zone 5b)
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Bill is right about the deer, they are everywhere.

I think once you move into the area and meet your neighbors they will be happy to let you do some foraging. And then if you grease the well with a little gift (like a neighbor that mushroom hunts, leaves us with some morels) and then you are in!

And don't worry Minnesota Nice is a really thing.
 
Bill Busse
Posts: 25
Location: South-Central Minnesota USA
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When we lived in the Driftless, we had neighbors who would routinely take more deer than they wanted to deal with. I think they gave us three deer that fall. We would come home after dark and just find a deer hanging in the barn ready to skin.
 
Dennis Lanigan
Posts: 175
Location: Philomath, OR
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That's good to know that people are so generous. And, especially being a hide tanner, knowing there's so many deer is getting me very excited. Things have changed and we are planning on moving before the snow (early November) so all this information is very helpful to a long time cascadian. Thanks.
 
Dennis Lanigan
Posts: 175
Location: Philomath, OR
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For anyone still following this post: Where do folks in the Twin Cities or Driftless area get seeds? Are there regional seed growers? From a google search it seemed people recommend joining Seed Savers Exchange and just looking for Minnesota heirlooms. In Cascadia they are blessed with tons of open pollinated seed breeders and sellers. Anything like that in MN and WI?
 
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