Finland Wild Rice Project: 2022 Season in Photos

Finland Wild Rice Project: 2022 Season in Photos

Although 2022 may not have been the rebound season that area wild rice harvesters were hoping for after two tough previous years, it was at least an exciting second year for the Finland Wild Rice Project…filled with learning and growth as the harvesting mentorship and processing apprenticeship programs expanded, educational workshops were held, AND the Wild Rice House more than quadrupled its processing capacity from the first year!  Here are some photo highlights of each of those things, as well as a glimpse into what’s ahead for the program.

Maarne Kaeske, from The 1854 Treaty Authority, presented an info table and demonstrated how to puff Nett Lake Manoomin at the Finland Farmers Market in August.

The Wild Rice Harvesting Mentorship program kicked off in early August with preparatory educational workshops in Finland, followed by hands on harvesting practice right on the lakes and rivers during the official harvest season (Aug 15-Sept 30). All in all, there were 7 mentors and 19 mentees involved in the program! The purpose of these mentorships was to facilitate the passing down of skills and knowledge around harvesting wild rice (manoominikewin in Ojibwe) as well as appreciation and good stewardship practices.

David "Slim" Steffens instructs mentees how to make their own cedar "knockers" using a variety of tools and methods.
Knocking sticks are some of the essential equipment needed for harvesting wild rice.
Blake gives a tour of the processing facility to some of the mentees.
Tim and Laurie Melby teach a class on Scouting for Wild Rice (with a focus on the importance of timing your harvest according to natures schedule.) 
Wild Rice Project Coordinator, Meghan Mitchell examines the grains for ripeness.
Mentors, Herb and Woody, explain the different styles of seating arrangements that harvesters can use.
Woody chooses his knocking sticks for the day.
Lisa from Duluth, brought her son when she came back up for a voluntary second round of mentee-ship
Mentor Colby Abazs and mentees from Round River Farms
Kady and Aurora from Central Minnesota
Mentees Erin and Dillon dunked their canoe on their first day.....
....which gave them the good luck they needed to get back out and bring in the best first timer haul of the season!
Meghan and Slim were very happy to participate as mentees alongside as many of the outings as they could.

The 1854 Treaty Authority and the 13 Moons Tribal Community College held an educational open demonstration camp and native traditional skill share on the Moose Horn River.  Attendees had access to hands on learning of everything from equipment making, to harvesting, to hand processing. 

Traditional Hand Parching over a wood fire
Phillip Savage and his son demonstrate how to make a push pole with a natural "y" end. This type of end is preferable to the store bought type because it minimizes damage to the rice plants, and so The Wild Rice Project plans to host a class on this leading up the the next ricing season.

By the end of the season, Blake, the lead processor, and five apprentices, processed around 13,000 lbs of wild rice at the Finland Wild Rice House! 

During the peak of ricing season, both the large and small parchers run almost constantly at the Wild Rice House (processing facility.)
Slim and Blake quickly sweep very hot wild rice out of the large parcher.
Kyle tends the fire under the small parcher
Slim and Dan prepare wood for next season
Blake is often found running all of the machines at once.

The space was also used this fall to experiment and explore the possibility of using the same space and equipment to process other small grains and beans in the off season.

Slim makes adjustments to the fanning mill for a test run of wheat and rye, brought in by local farmer, Kaare Melby
Kaare "dances" his wheat to remove the grains from the stalk, illustrating the need for a community threshing machine
Meghan runs a test batch of sunflower seeds through the small parcher

These two photos show the same rice lake in central MN in two different years, both taken in late August during ricing season. Many lakes in this region that are usually completely covered in rice, showed mostly open water this year. There are many theories being studied as to why this happened: from it being part of a natural cycle, to climate change or drought related, to being caused by direct human impact on the ricing beds…and so far  it seems the answer may be all of the above.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2023, the Wild Rice Project will be focusing on hosting a series of webinars, workshops, and other educational events relating to the history and ecology of wild rice and its importance in local food systems; as well as on facilitating deeper dialogues on related cultural considerations and environmental concerns.

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