The availability of fresh local agricultural products in our area has risen dramatically, with the number of outlets increasing each year. People across our region and our country are discovering that when you know and support the farmers who raise your food, not only is the food better but we develop connections with each other, and an appreciation for the land we live on. Carlton County has become the breadbasket for Northeastern Minnesota: beef for the Duluth Grill, pork for Northern Waters Smokehaus, milk for school lunches, and produce for nearly 800 families through CSA vegetable farms – all of it produced in Carlton County. Local food not only creates connections between producers and consumers, it also supports an ethic of stewardship—consumers gain an appreciation for the health of the land that grows their dinner, and farmers feel a responsibility to provide the healthiest produce because it goes to people, not just a system. It’s no accident that the farms that provide the vast majority of produce for the Duluth area are in Carlton County. This area is blessed with areas of prime farm land that are the most productive in the region—and we need all of these farm acres to satisfy the growing demand from restaurants, hospitals, universities, and families.
What farmers do on a daily basis is the slow and steady work of investing in the health of our land. Northern Minnesota does not have the deep, rich topsoil that much of the state enjoys, so we truly appreciate the value of good soil. The proposed Enbridge Sandpiper crude oil pipeline, ironically named for an endangered sea bird, would cut across hundreds of acres in our county, destroying woodlots and maple sugar operations, decreasing the productivity of land used for hay and row crops, and making production of sensitive specialty crops nearly impossible. We just learned that our land would be affected by this project 3 weeks ago, and the process is moving very quickly. Enbridge says that the project is in early stages, but we hear they plan to file a Certificate of Need with the Public Utilities Commission as early as September. Once the route is proposed to the PUC, it is very difficult to make significant changes to it. Unfortunately, there is no avenue for public comment on the project at this stage. Landowners have attempted to meet with Enbridge to make our concerns clear. Unfortunately, they will not meet with groups of landowners or discuss our concerns about the route in general, instead seeking to single us out individually and only discussing our small pieces of land, not the route as a whole. As a result, we have formed a group we’re calling Carlton County Land Stewards.
Lacking official avenues to address the issues directly with the company, we have decided to go public with our concerns. We feel that with this route Enbridge has been too cavalier in regards to the importance of the farm land and forests that provide food and protect water quality in our region as a whole. The impact on individual farms varies from disheartening to tragic, yet we are at least as concerned about the impact on the growing local foods economy and the health of Lake Superior and its tributaries. Personally, we feel that the 6 crude oil pipelines that already run through our area should be enough. It would be better for all communities if as a nation we were slower and more deliberate as we develop the oil fields of North Dakota. The chaos, disruption, and crime seen in boom towns like Williston stand in sharp contrast to the steady investment in our farming communities of Wrenshall, Carlton, Barnum, and others. However, if this pipeline must happen, Enbridge could take care not to disrupt what we have so carefully built by following existing pipeline corridors or an abandoned railway that runs just a few miles south of the proposed route. This also happens to be the position of our Soil and Water Conservation District and many of our elected officials. We sincerely hope Enbridge will listen to the advice of this community.
– Carlton County Land Stewards