In Herbster, Wis., near the southern shore of Lake Superior, sits a 40-acre farm that uses sustainable methods to help build a stronger local economy. The farm is home to American guinea hogs, Icelandic chickens and a lush variety of produce including (but not limited to) apples, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, tomatoes, elderberries, raspberries, gooseberries, garlic, potatoes, saskatoons, pears and even a greenhouse with a lime tree.
Elsewhere Farm is tended by Chicago-native Clare Hintz, who came north for college and fell in love. Hintz was interviewed for this article on a particularly snowy winter day, but even then she lit up when describing the Arrowhead region.
“I love the creativity and the toughness, and the regard for simple pleasures that I find in my community and in my friends here,” she said, “I feel like I’m living my best life. And I feel like lots of other people have that same attitude. And that’s really delightful.”
Hintz grew up without knowing she could be a farmer.
“I have wanted to be a farmer since I was in sixth grade,” she said. “Growing up in Chicago at that time. No, you didn’t know the word farming! So I thought I was going to be a wildlife biologist.
“I came up north for college in Ashland … and I realized that I could be an environmentalist by growing food for people.”
Two of Elsewhere Farm’s defining characteristics are the abundance of unique crops and livestock on the farm and the way each element integrates into the overall system of the farm. One of Elsewhere Farm’s most unique features is the American guinea hogs.
“The pigs were providing fertility for my annual crops and perennial crops. They’re mowing everything, so I don’t use machinery to do that anymore. They are providing pest control,” she said. “And you get to eat really good bacon. Yeah and they’re sweet. They’re super intelligent animals. I love that I can give them a full life and they’re not in an inhumane situation. They have a great time and one bad moment, and that makes me really happy. As someone who eats meat I feel like it’s important to take responsibility for raising it well, and also knowing how to dispatch it.”
In addition to the sustainable practices Hintz uses to run her farm, she has a hand in incubating local businesses and forming a local connected community through her community-supported agriculture share members. Elsewhere Farm has a 17-week winter CSA and a 20-week summer CSA to support the farm. Hintz likes to connect to the local community through her CSA members and uses the community to make a positive environmental impact along with the initial positive affect of her farming practices.
“I just love the lake,” she said. “The lake is why I live here. It’s amazing. It’s dangerous. It’s beautiful. It’s worthy of protection. And I’m proud that as a sustainable farmer, I can protect the watershed and not only by literally what my practices are, but also by helping feed people so that they don’t have to buy food that is maybe not grown in this with the same care on the landscape.
“There was a threat to the watershed here last year, and I was able to reach out to all my CSA members and say, ‘Hey, write letters.’ So it’s a really great way of being engaged civically.”
For anyone looking to form a stronger connection to their local community through food, Hintz had a lot of ideas on where to get started.
“Have more potlucks! That’s the one thing I’ve missed during the pandemic is we’ve not had any potlucks,” she said, “I think it can be overwhelming to figure out where to get started. But the beauty of a complex system is you can start anywhere, and it’s going to lead you in amazing directions. So whether that’s buying a carrot bag from the co-op and reading about the local farm that provided those carrots, or it’s picking a CSA, there are lots of opportunities, and there’s no wrong way to get started.”
This article was produced as part of a class project at the University of Minnesota Duluth in which students conducted interviews and wrote profiles of people and enterprises engaged in sustainable agriculture.
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