Minnesota’s Iron Range region can feed itself

Minnesota’s Iron Range region is known for mining. But that’s only one of the resources provided in the Dakota legend of the Big Man Hills, or Sleeping Giant.

Another has provided food far longer: the soil beneath our feet.

Minnesota’s three major iron ranges hold a bad reputation for farming, due to the high iron content and rocky terrain. But in reality the land here can provide all the food people need, if you know how to use it.

And a recent study backs this up.

The Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation commissioned a study by David Abazs and Ryan Pesch. It shows that using more locally produced food would generate hundreds of jobs and millions in revenue for the Iron Range. More to the point, there is enough quality land here to feed everyone in the Taconite Tax Relief Area a completely local diet.

Some of the interesting findings include the fact that there are market gaps that could be filled here on the Iron Range. For instance, there are no major cheese making operations here. (That one caught my eye).

Perhaps obviously, to live on an all Iron Range diet, the menu might change for most of us — mostly for the better.

Abazs is a farmer from Finland, Minnesota. You might recall his name from a column I wrote about local development opportunities in June.

I heard about the study on a Northern Community Radio morning show segment. Maggie Montgomery and Katie Carter interviewed Abazs and Marlise Riffel from Iron Range Partners from Sustainability. Riffel edited the Iron Range Resources study. You can read a summary and hear the interview here.

Abazs and Riffel will give a public presentation on the study and the potential for locally-produced food on the Iron Range at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23 at the Messiah Lutheran Church on Highway 169 in Mountain Iron.

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