Northern Wilds Magazine
The Lake Superior Harvest Festival draws interest outside the immediate farmer network and includes live music, food trucks, educational demonstrations, vendor booths, and more. | SUBMITTED
Along the Shore

Lake Superior Harvest Festival

Celebrating local agriculture, sustainability, and food resiliency

As summer fades from the North Shore, many local farmers are busy harvesting produce and preparing goods for the 29th annual Lake Superior Harvest Festival in Duluth on September 9.

The event, held each year at Bayfront Festival Park, is not only a highly anticipated event for farmers looking to showcase and sell their goods, but for residents and visitors of the North Shore to enjoy the vibrant tapestry of colorful vendor booths filled with pumpkins, gourds, tomatoes, jams, apples, and artisanal creations.

“I love seeing people walking around with huge flower bouquets and boxes of tomatoes,” said Julie Allen, the chapter coordinator for the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association. “People are so excited to be there. And it’s just really beautiful.”

While the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association is involved in various community-based stewardship initiatives focused on supporting a farmer-to-farmer network, Allen said the September Harvest Festival is the organization’s most significant event. Started nearly three decades ago, the festival aims to highlight the diverse local farmers in the Lake Superior region of northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, and promote sustainable local food production.

The festival draws interest outside the immediate farmer network and includes live music, food trucks, educational demonstrations, and nonprofit exhibitor booths. “There are 120 vendors that we curate,” Allen said.

The Harvest Festival also prides itself on promoting sustainability practices and is proud to be a zero-waste event. In addition, this year, a renewable energy fair will feature electric vehicles and panel discussions. The fall festivities occur from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Bayfront Festival Park on September 9.

As the Harvest Festival takes center stage for the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association in September, Allen said the organization wrapped up a busy summer of educational events and in-person field days. “Our field days are really excellent because you can read all the books you want, but just going to another person’s farm and hearing about what they have tried and what worked and didn’t work is just priceless.”

The Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association educational field days include farm visits to learn about a wide range of sustainable practices, including beekeeping, silvopasture, agritourism, soil health techniques, greenhouse management, and more. “The traditions and the knowledge that is being carried on with that and passed down to future generations is super important,” Allen said.

She explained that the small yet impactful organization experienced an uptick in membership during the COVID-19 pandemic as individuals encountered disruptions in the global food supply chain and searched for locally available food. The nonprofit organization now consists of 130 member households and is primarily operated on a volunteer basis, with Allen as the only paid employee. “We’ve been stronger and bigger since the pandemic,” she said.

The Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association educational field days include farm visits to learn about a wide range of sustainable practices. | SUBMITTED

The organization’s primary mission is to learn from each other, help share tools and knowledge to build markets, and increase food resiliency in the Lake Superior region. “A rising tide will lift all boats,” Allen said. “That’s what we do. We focus on farmer-to-farmer education and networking, research, and demonstration.”

The northeastern Minnesota landscape and more extensive Lake Superior region are not traditionally known for large-scale agriculture like the southern regions of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The varied topography, and dense forests, paired with shorter growing seasons, provide opportunities for farmers to focus on creative small-scale production and contribute to the local food market and economy. “The region is just very well suited for the small-scale farms,” Allen said. “Circulating our dollars locally, over and over again, builds economic vitality within our own communities.”

The Lake Superior chapter consists of a dedicated and diverse mix of northland farmers. “There’s a wide variety, from different types of animals, chickens to cows, fruit and vegetable production, hay and pasture, tree crops, and everything in between,” Allen said. “That’s why for events each year, we try to cover a lot of different topics in the region because there’s a lot going on.”

In addition to her position as the Lake Superior chapter coordinator and Harvest Festival director, Allen operates a small farm between Duluth and Two Harbors, where she raises chickens and grows mainly fruit and vegetables. She enjoys producing and harvesting her own food and deepening a connection with the land. While there is a growing momentum of individuals joining the Lake Superior chapter interested in starting a small-scale farm or homesteading practices, she said there is always room for more.

“We could happily grow the number of farmers in our region by 5,000,” she said. The increase in small-scale farms would help make a dent in reducing the number of food purchased from out of state and increase the economic longevity and resilience in small communities. If the Lake Superior region experienced an increase in farmers, Allen said the organization could host a farmers’ market that resembled the annual Harvest Festival every weekend in the summer. “It would just be so cool for our farmers, the community, and the city.”

To learn more about Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association and the Lake Superior Harvest Festival, visit:

Related posts

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

Verified by MonsterInsights