Carlton County land stewards take up politics


May 20, 2022

About 30 county residents, including farmers, conservationists and entrepreneurs, met at the Carlton County Transportation Department Thursday, May 12, for two hours discussing politics and stewardship of our land. With the November election in view, participants shared ideas about government roles in encouraging return on investment, regulation, subsidies and community involvement. Jeff Dotseth, a real estate agent, meat producer, and Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 11A, participated in writing with support for the meeting and for community involvement. Pete Radosevich, an attorney and DFL candidate, attended and outlined a centrist position on issues affecting the district.

Bruce Savage of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa spoke of tribal rights and federal regulations of property ownership on the reservation. Ann Gustafson, a teacher and owner of Leaning Barn Farm in Esko, recounted that part-time farming gives a “magical” connection with the land and with customers, but high land values make it hard for young people to see that as their future. Ryan Clark, a water quality specialist with the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District, described how government regulates agricultural practices to ensure that natural resources are beneficial to the community and to the environment. Heather-Marie Bloom, owner of Rising Phoenix Farm in Barnum, related the pride she finds in providing food to the shareholders of her Community Supported Agriculture membership; she highlighted the economics of small agriculture entrepreneurs competing with corporate giants. Caleb Anderson, who owns The Road’s End Ranch in Mahtowa, elaborated on raising beef cattle with techniques that aim for environment-friendly goals of carbon sequestration. Jan Salo Korby, a respiratory therapist from Cloquet, gave a dramatic demonstration of problems facing citizens in an economy where half of personal bankruptcies are caused by crushing health care expenditures.

During an open discussion period, I raised the question of taxpayer-funded support for the arts in rural areas, and Pam Brumfield of Holyoke returned to health care as an ongoing issue where, among the developed nations of the world, the U.S. stands alone for lacking a comprehensive public system that promotes the health of its citizens.

Other District 11A participants in the discussion were Steve Schulstrom and Rita Vavrosky, owners of Spectrum Farm Strawberries in Carlton; Kelly Smith, retired forestry specialist with SWCD; Burnell Peterson and Ann Carlander, owners of Woods and Meadows Farm Nature Breakfast in Wrenshall; John and Jane Fisher-Merritt and Ben Fisher-Merritt of the Food Farm in Wrenshall; Craig Sterle, retired DNR field specialist; John Peura of Moose Lake; Judith Brumfield of Holyoke; Ron Everrson; Gretchen Madison and her husband, of Blackhoof; Susan Zmyslony of Barnum; Richard Gehrke of Mahtowa; and Peter Klitzke of Cloquet.

The event, “We’re in This Together,” was organized by Paula Williams of Barnum and Timothy Soden-Groves of Carlton and sponsored by the Land Stewardship Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) group in the Cities that advocates for rural communities, family farms and the land.

The group plans more gatherings in the months ahead. To find out more, visit the Land Stewardship Action Fund website at or contact Emily Minge at [email protected].

Writer Sandy Dugan and his wife are stewards of 54 acres in the Wrenshall area. They tend two acres as gardens and pollinator habitat; most of the land is rented out to grow forage for organic beef; a barn serves for occasional regional arts events.


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