Interview: Keeping Alien Invaders Out

  • Asian Carp is one species that is very dangerous to the Great Lakes ecosystem (Photo courtesy of the US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Nature never made a connection between the nation’s big rivers and the Great Lakes. But Chicago did. A canal was dug connecting the Mississippi River system – including the Missouri, the Ohio and all their tributaries – to all of the Great Lakes at a point on Lake Michigan. It opened up commercial shipping to the interior of the nation.
But it also opened up both bodies of waters to aquatic life you don’t want traveling back and forth. Invasive species such as the zebra mussel have traveled from one to the other. Asian Carp have already caused havoc in the Mississippi. Some biologists worry the Asian Carp will destroy the four-billion dollar fishing industry in the Great Lakes if it gets in. There’s an electric barrier in place, but some people don’t think that’s enough.
Joel Brammeier is with the environmental group Alliance for the Great Lakes. His group is proposing a barrier that will separate the Mississippi system from the Great Lakes completely, to stop those invasive species. He talked with Lester Graham about the barrier:

Transcript

Nature never made a connection between the nation’s big rivers and the Great Lakes. But Chicago did. A canal was dug connecting the Mississippi River system – including the Missouri, the Ohio and all their tributaries – to all of the Great Lakes at a point on Lake Michigan. It opened up commercial shipping to the interior of the nation. But it also opened up both bodies of waters to aquatic life you don’t want traveling back and forth. Invasive species such as the zebra mussel have traveled from one to the other. Asian Carp have already caused havoc in the Mississippi. Some biologists worry the Asian Carp will destroy the four-billion dollar fishing industry in the Great Lakes if it gets in. There’s an electric barrier in place, but some people don’t think that’s enough. Joel Brammeier is with the environmental group Alliance for the Great Lakes. His group is proposing a barrier that will separate the Mississippi system from the Great Lakes completely, to stop those invasive species. He talked with Lester Graham about the barrier:

Joel Brammeier: Well, ecological separation means no species moving between
the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. When you consider the problem of
invasive species, unlike chemical pollution, which you can reduce to a certain
safe level, there is no safe level of invasive species. Once two get in, they can
reproduce, and the damage is done, and there’s no going back. So, an
ecological separation means stopping fish, and eggs, and other critters from
moving back and forth between the two systems.

Lester Graham: How do you do that when there’s so much commercial traffic
and recreational boating, and just the water flowing through?

Brammeier: Well, in our research, we found that tech fixes – electrical barriers,
sound barriers, blowing bubbles through the water to try and deter fish from
moving – those things can reduce the risk. But for invasive species, risk
reduction really isn’t enough – you need 100% protection. And to do that, we’re
probably looking at some physical barrier that prevents water and live organisms
from moving between those two great watersheds.

Graham: I can imagine the commercial shippers are not thrilled about that.

Brammeier: Well, I think it remains to be seen. Nobody’s quite sure where the
best place is to put a barrier. We discussed about half a dozen different
scenarios under which you could implement that kind of separation. The
Chicago waterway system does support about 25 million tons, give or take, a
year of commercial commodity traffic – and that’s a significant amount. The
reality is that most of that cargo is internal to the Chicago waterways. So, there
isn’t a huge exchange of cargo between the Chicago waterway and the Great
Lakes. And that’s a good thing. That means we have opportunities to actually
split the system back to the way it historically was, and at the same time, solve
our invasive species problem.

Graham: Now, we can see how that would benefit the environment, but how
would it affect the economy?

Brammeier: Well, again, going back to this issue of commercial navigation. If we
create a separation in this system that has a minimal impact on most of the cargo
in the Chicago waterway, we’re really talking about potentially a very small
impact. And, frankly, there’s an opportunity here to create a benefit for
commodity movements as well. A lot of the cargo transfer facilities on the south
side of Chicago are outmoded, outdated, and not competitive. And, any
investment in this kind of project that changed that and also allowed cargo to
move more efficiently and created new port facilities, could have that kind of
benefit, besides protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species.

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Great Lakes Call for Help

  • Some feel the Great Lakes are being ignored by Congress (Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA)

The Great Lakes might be the most ignored
resource on the continent. Great Lakes advocates
say they have not been able to get enough attention
or money from Congress. Rebecca Williams reports
one group is outlining what needs to be done to fix
the Lakes before climate change makes things worse:

Transcript

The Great Lakes might be the most ignored
resource on the continent. Great Lakes advocates
say they have not been able to get enough attention
or money from Congress. Rebecca Williams reports
one group is outlining what needs to be done to fix
the Lakes before climate change makes things worse:

Washington D.C. is a long way from the Great Lakes. Most members of
Congress don’t live near the lakes. And many don’t understand just how big
they are.

Don Scavia used to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration in Washington.

“I’ve spent 15 years inside the Beltway and I just know that the Great Lakes just don’t
have the same sense of urgency and importance inside the Beltway as some other places like the Chesapeake Bay and others have. Senators and
Congressmen don’t have boats on it like they do on the Chesapeake. I think
it’s a matter of if you haven’t been here, if you haven’t seen them, you
really don’t get it.”

These days, Don Scavia is a scientist at the University of Michigan. He’s a
co-author of a report on global warming and the Great Lakes. He says we
need to help the Great Lakes adapt to the changes that are already happening
because of global warming.

“The restoration strategy is put in place specifically to increase the
resiliency of the Lakes, increase the buffering capacity of the Lakes, to allow them
to adapt to this near-term climate change.”

Just about everyone around the Great Lakes has noticed that water levels are
dropping. Recreational boats can get stuck. Big cargo ships can’t get into
harbors. And they have to carry lighter loads when lake levels drop. That
means more trips, and, eventually, higher prices for all of us. And
climate change might make it worse.

On top of that, the Great Lakes are struggling with fisheries collapsing,
invasive species damaging the ecosystem, and pollution that’s never been
cleaned up.

Jeff Skelding is with the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

“When Great Lakes effort began, we had a lot on our plate to deal with and
then we looked at the science of global warming and its impacts on the Great
Lakes it kinda froze us in our tracks. Now we’ve got global warming to
contend with.”

So, what do the advocates want from Congress?

There’s a $20-billion price tag on Great Lakes restoration.

Bits and pieces of it have gone before Congress. And there’s been some
progress on money for things like restoring wetlands. But for the most
part, most of the time, the Great Lakes just haven’t been a priority in
Washington.

Rahm Emanuel is a Congressman from Illinois. He holds a leadership position
among the House Democrats. He says he hopes the money will be approved by
Congress sometime soon.

“I don’t want another study, I don’t want to pay for another analysis, I’m
over studied, over analysis-ed. We know what it takes to fix it, we know
what the pollutants are, now we’ve got to put our money where our mouth is.”

Politically, the time might not get any better for Great Lakes advocates.
There’s a Census coming up and new Congressional district lines will be
drawn. The Great Lakes region will lose representation in the US House.
That means the Great Lakes states will lose clout in Congress.

So, the region’s members of Congress need to get a Great Lakes restoration
package to the next President before that happens. Great Lakes advocates
are hoping the next President – whether it’s McCain, Obama or Clinton – will
give the Great Lakes more attention, and money.

For The Environment Report, I’m Rebecca Williams.

Related Links

Interview: Great Lakes Compact

  • Map of the Great Lakes, the basin, and the 8 connecting states. (Photo courtesy of Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, NOAA)

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Compact is an
agreement to stop shipping water out of the Great Lakes
basin. But all eight Great Lakes states and Congress
must approve it first. Lester Graham talked with Peter
Annin, the author of the book “The Great Lakes Water
Wars.” Annin says some of the states have been reluctant
to approve the treaty because Michigan has an image of saying
‘no’ to water requests from other states while putting
almost no water restrictions on its own towns and businesses:

Transcript

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Compact is an
agreement to stop shipping water out of the Great Lakes
basin. But all eight Great Lakes states and Congress
must approve it first. Lester Graham talked with Peter
Annin, the author of the book “The Great Lakes Water
Wars.” Annin says some of the states have been reluctant
to approve the treaty because Michigan has an image of saying
‘no’ to water requests from other states while putting
almost no water restrictions on its own towns and businesses:

Peter Annin: “Michigan has been a laggard in monitoring and regulating its own domestic water
use. And so it’s seen by some other states as being somewhat hypocritical in the water debate.
For example, Minnesota, which is the most progressive domestically, if you’re going to withdraw
water from the Great Lakes at 10,000 gallons a day or more, you have to get a permit. In the state
of Michigan you can go up to 5 million gallons of water withdrawn from Lake Michigan per day
before you have to get a permit. 10,000 gallons in Minnesota, 5 million gallons in Michigan, and
this is what is causing tension between Michigan and some of the other Great Lakes states.”

Lester Graham: “Lets assume that all 8 Great Lakes states do pass this within the next year or
two, Congress then has to pass it – and many of the members of Congress are in those thirsty
Southwestern states. What happens then?”

Annin: “Yeah, that’s a really good point. We have to remember that the compact is just a piece of
paper until it passes all 8 Great Lakes legislatures and then is adopted by Congress. And there
are a lot of concerns among the general public, given that we have these dry-land states that have
a lot of problems with water perhaps opposing the Great Lakes compact. I’m not so certain that
that’s going to be an issue, because those states also have a lot federal water projects that come
up for renewal all the time that require the Great Lakes Congressmen to sign off on. And I’m not
sure they’re in a position, given how precious and important water is for them to survive on a daily
basis down there, that they’re really that interested in getting into a water fight with the Senators
and Congressmen in the Great Lakes basin. But, we’ll see.”

Graham: “I’ve looked at different models for getting Great Lakes water down to the Southwest,
and economically, they just don’t seem feasible. It would be incredibly expensive to try to get
Great Lakes water to the Southwest states, yet, State Legislators say again and again ‘oh no,
they have a plan, they know how it will happen.’ And as water becomes more valuable, they could
make it happen. How likely is it that there would be a canal or pipe and pumping stations built to
divert Great Lakes water, if this compact doesn’t pass?”

Annin: “It looks highly unlikely today, for the reasons that you just mentioned. It takes an
extraordinary amount of money to send water uphill, which is what would be to the West, and we’d
certainly have to cross mountain ranges if you’re even going to send it a shorter distance, to the
Southeast. To the point where it would be cheaper for many of these places to, even though it’s
expensive, to desalinate water from the ocean and then send it to inland places. But, you know, a
lot of water experts in the United States say ‘never say never’, because the value of fresh, potable
water is probably going to skyrocket in this century. We’re leaving the century of oil; we’re entering
the century of water. But, for right now, you’re absolutely right, it is extraordinary cost-prohibitive.
But let me say one other footnote here, it’s hard to find a federal water project in this country that
actually made economic sense.”

Related Links

Disappearing Act at Bottom of Food Chain

A researcher says the decline of some tiny aquatic animals at the bottom of the food chain continues in the Great Lakes. The GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

A researcher says the decline of some tiny aquatic animals at
the bottom of the food chain continues in the Great Lakes. The
GLRC’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:


There’ve already been some signs that organisms vital as food for
Great Lakes fish are dropping in numbers. Now comes the first batch of data collected
for the EPA in all five lakes from 2001 to 2005.


Project Director Mary Balcer of the University of Wisconsin-Superior
highlights one species that seems to be in more trouble:


“One of the more important things is that the diaporeia are disappearing. These are small
shrimp-like animals that live down in the bottom sediment. And scientists had been noting
decline in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron for several years and our data confirms that
the organism are continuing to go down in numbers.”


Balcer says scientists believe zebra mussels might stealing the food
the tiny organisms used to eat.


For the GLRC, I’m Chuck Quirmbach

Related Links

Ten Threats: Saving Wetland Remnants

  • Winous Point Marsh Conservancy and Duck Hunting Club's Roy Kroll collects millet. (Photo by Julie Grant)

Among the Ten Threats to the Great Lakes is the loss of thousands of square miles of wetlands along the lakes. From Superior to Ontario and on up the St. Lawrence Seaway, we’ve lost some of the most important wildlife habitat along the edges of the lakes. For example, 200 years ago, much of the southern shore of Lake Erie was a huge swamp. Most of those wetlands have been drained and filled since European settlement. Julie Grant reports on efforts to maintain the little bit that remains:

Transcript

In our next report in the series, Ten Threats to the Great Lakes, we’re going to hear about changes to a large area that drains into the lakes. Our guide through the series is the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham:


Among the Ten Threats to the Great Lakes is the loss of thousands of square miles of wetlands along the lakes. From Superior to Ontario and on up the St. Lawrence Seaway, we’ve lost some of the most important wildlife habitat along the edges of the lakes. For example, 200 years ago, much of the southern shore of Lake Erie was a huge swamp. Most of those wetlands have been drained and filled since European settlement. Julie Grant reports on efforts to maintain the little bit that remains:


Researchers from the Cleveland area park district have been driving hours to get here to this bit of swamp nearly every day since last spring. Biologist Rick Spence and his partner wade through two feet of boot-sucking mud. They’re looking for turtles. Blanding’s turtles, to be exact. With a distinctive bright yellow chin and throat, it’s designated as a ‘species of special concern’ in Ohio…


“The Blanding’s originally were found in this area in the southern portion of Lake Erie, along this basin area. And so there’s a lot of the Blanding’s in here. It doesn’t get any better than this. We have nothing like this really around the Cleveland area that I know of.”


This area is the 150 year-old Winous Point Marsh Conservancy and Duck Hunting Club. It’s the largest privately owned coastal wetland in Ohio. It’s a thin strip of marsh that runs eight and a half miles along the shore.


Roy Kroll has been Executive Director of the Duck Hunting Club for more than twenty years. He keeps busy balancing the needs of researchers, biology classes, and reporters.


Kroll takes me onto the marsh in a wooden boat. He uses an old-fashioned pole to push us through water that’s only a couple of inches deep. It’s slow and quiet. He stops and uses the pole to slap the water for a call and response with migratory birds. (slap) He can hear who’s hiding in the cattails, arrowhead, and other emergent wetland plants…


(Kroll slaps water twice, birds respond)


“Well, looks like the teal have left and the rail are here.”


Kroll says the 4,500 acre marsh harbors over 100,000 waterfowl, mostly ducks, during November’s peak migration. There aren’t many places like this left on the Lake Erie coastline. More than 90 percent of the region’s wetlands have been drained. Most of that was done in the mid-1800s.


The area was once known as the Great Black Swamp. It stretched from Lake Erie all the way to Indiana. Much of it was under a dense canopy of hardwood trees. Kroll says it was a great system to filter river waters entering the lake. But European settlers and land speculators cut down most of the trees, dug ditches and straightened stream channels to move water quickly off the land. They built roads and transformed the swamp into rich, productive farm fields.


“You have to put yourself in the time period. Rightfully so, that was considered progress. And now we have to look back and say, well, yeah, it was progress and now it looks like it’s not progress. And if we’re not going to eliminate all these wetlands, we’re going to have to take some proactive measures to do it.”


Even at Winous Point, some of the wetlands are in poor condition. Standing on a man-made dike we look one way and see all kinds of plants: cattails, duckweed, and lily pads. But look to the side that’s not protected by the dike, and there’s no vegetation. Hand-drawn maps from the 1800s show a diversity of plants here, but now it looks like an open bay…


“What we’re looking at now is an open water wetland. And again, with no plants, we don’t have the structure for fish, invertebrates, and even plankton and algae to colonize on plant stems. It’s nowhere near as productive.”


Kroll says it’s not nearly as productive as the protected area. He says high lake levels, invasive carp, and pollution running off the land and into the rivers that drain into the lake have all made it tough for marsh vegetation to survive. Without plants, Kroll says the wetland can’t clean water running off the land…into the lake. He says it’s unrealistic to expect a short band of remnant wetlands to do the job of a hundreds of square miles of swamp forest.


“The key is to start at the upstream far upstream head of the watershed and begin restoring wetlands from there down to here.”


There are some efforts to re-store small parts of the Great Black Swamp. But Kroll says it’s also important to protect the little bit of the original coastal wetlands that are still left.


For the GLRC, I’m Julie Grant.

Related Links

Defense Department Re-Opens Cold War Barrel Mystery

  • The Department of Defense is working on cleaning up barrels dumped into Lake Superior. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior)

The Department of Defense will re-open the case of 14-hundred mystery barrels secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. The barrels were dumped in an area where the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians have territorial rights. The DOD now has an agreement with the Red Cliff Tribe to investigate the weapons dump site. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has this report:

Transcript

The Department of Defense will re-open the case of 1400 mystery barrels secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. The barrels were dumped in an area where the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians have territorial rights. The DoD now has an agreement with the Red Cliff Tribe to investigate the weapons dump site. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has this report:


Documents show barrels of weapons scraps manufactured by Honeywell from 1958 to 1962 were secretly dumped by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers a few miles east of the Duluth-Superior harbor.


Red Cliff Environmental Consultant Dave Anderson believes there is an imminent danger to Duluth’s water supply. The barrels are rusting away 100 to 300 feet deep near the city’s water intake. He says he’s found evidence of PCB’s and unidentified ash.


“Right now we know that there is more to these barrels than what has been disclosed in the past. That the barrels are not just scrap steel grenade parts. There are other wastes that are hazardous that are contained in the barrels and we now know that the barrels are leaking some of those substances.”


The DoD has awarded the Red Cliff Tribe a 105-thousand dollar grant to assess and further investigate this 20 mile square site and report the findings in October for possible clean-up.


For the GLRC, I’m Mike Simonson.

Major Dock Corrosion Stumps Officials

  • The Duluth Seaway Port Authority's bulk cargo dock is typical of many in the port. Officials are troubled by corrosion appearing on the docks in the harbor - the steel is corroding much faster than normal. (Photo by Bob Kelleher)

Corrosion is eating away at the steel walls that hold one of the Great Lakes’ busiest harbors together. The corrosion is unlike anything known to be happening in any other Great Lakes port. But other port officials are being encouraged to take a closer look at their own underwater steel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Bob Kelleher reports:

Transcript

Corrosion is eating away at the steel walls that hold
one of the Great Lakes’ busy harbors together. The
corrosion is unlike anything known to be happening in
any other Great Lakes port. But other port officials
are being encouraged to take a closer look at their own
underwater steel. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s
Bob Kelleher reports:


Some kind of corrosion is eating away at the Duluth
Seaway port’s docks. The docks are those long
earth-filled metal rectangles where ships from around
the world tie up to load and unload. Those docks are
lined with sheets of steel, and the steel is rusting
away. Jim Sharrow is the Duluth
Seaway Port Authorities Facilities Manager.


“It’s corroding quickly – much faster than people expect
in fresh water. And our main concern is that we’ll lose
the integrity and the strength of the dock long before
expected, and have to do steel replacement at $1,500 or
more per lineal foot, much earlier than ever would have
been expected.”


Corrosion should be a slow process in Duluth’s cold
fresh water. But, Sharrow says, there’s evidence it’s
been happening remarkably quickly for about thirty years.


“What we seem to see here is corrosion that started in
the mid 1970s. We have steel that’s 100 years olds
that’s about as similarly corroded to steel that is 25
to 30 years old.”


It’s a big problem. There’s about thirteen miles of
steel walls lining docks in the harbor that serves
Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. There’s half
again as many feet of wooden docks, held together with
steel pins. There’s corrosion on the legs of highway
bridges and the giant
steel ore docks that ship millions of tons of taconite
– a type of iron shipped to steel mills in Gary,
Indiana and Cleveland, Ohio.


“We characterize this as a 100-million dollar problem in
the harbor. It’s a huge problem, and what is so odd
about this is that we only see it happening in the
navigational area of the Duluth-Superior Harbor.”


The harbor links the St Louis River with Lake Superior.
Go a few miles up the river and there’s little corrosion
. So it doesn’t seem like the problem’s there. But, back
in the harbor, at the current rate of corrosion, Sharrow
says, the steel will fail quickly.


“I figure that in about 10 years at the current rate,
we will have to start replacing steel.”


“Particularly marginal operators could decide rather
than repair their docks it would be better for them to
go out of business, and we’re hoping that that isn’t
the case here.”


While the cause is a mystery, there’s no shortage of
theories. It could have something to do with stray
electrical voltage; water acidity; or the kinds of
steel manufactured in recent years. Chad Scott
discovered the corrosion in the late 1990’s. He’s an
engineer and a diver. Scott suspects
a micro-biological connection. He says there might be
something growing in small round pits that form on the
steel.


“We cleaned up the water. That’s the main thing –
that’s one of the main changes that’s happened since
the 70s, is we’ve cleaned up our water. We’ve cleaned
up our harbor, which is a good thing. But, when we
cleaned things up we also induced more dissolved oxygen
and more sunlight can penetrate the water, which tends
to usually promote more growth – more marine
microbiology growth.”


A team of experts met in Duluth in September to share
ideas. They came from the U.S. Navy, The Army Corp of
Engineers, and Ohio State University. And they agreed
there’s something odd going on – possibly related to
microbes or water chemistry. They also recommend that
other Great Lakes ports take a closer look at their
underwater steel. Scott says they at least helped
narrow the focus.


“We have a large laundry list right now. We want to
narrow that down and try to decide what is the real
cause of this corrosion. And these experts, hopefully,
will be able to get us going on the right direction,
so we can start doing testing that will identify the
problem.”


With the experts recommendations in hand, port
officials are now planning a formal study. If they
do figure out the cause, then they’ve got to figure
out how to prevent it. They’re in a race with
something, and right now they don’t even know with
what.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Bob Kelleher.

Related Links

Organic Farmers Look for New Recruits

  • A neighbor feeds Sir Herman, a calf at Beaver Creek Ranch. Herman is a Scottish Highland bull. Highland cattle are raised in the Midwest for their lean meat. (MPR Photo/Cynthia Johnson)

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:

Transcript

Organic food has become so popular, it’s hard to keep up with demand. For organic farmers, that booming market is a mixed blessing. When they can’t supply as much as the customers want, it puts pressure on the farmers. Some farmers are trying creative ways to fill the demand. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Stephanie Hemphill reports:


About a year ago, chef Kirk Bratrud and his family built a small restaurant near the harbor in Superior, Wisconsin. It’s called The Boathouse, and it features fresh-caught fish, local vegetables, and — Scottish Highland beef.


“It’s a very lean but tender piece of meat, it has a slightly peppery flavor, something approaching elk but more like beef.”


Bratrud says his customers love Scottish Highland beef.


“Our problem with beef however is that we wish more of it was available.”


He has to take it off the menu when he runs out. It’s hard to find, and the only way he can get it at all is because three farmers in the area raise it. One of them is Doug Anderson, owner of Beaver Creek Ranch. He says Highlands offer plenty of advantages to a farmer.


“There is no waste in the animal, as the fat is on the back of the animal rather than a heavy marbling. And our animals are not grained at all. We don’t even have a feedlot. When we’re ready to take an animal to processing, it will just be picked out of the herd, put in a trailer, and go for processing.”


The animals graze in pastures. They don’t need the antibiotics that are routinely fed to animals in feedlots. Anderson has nearly 50 Highlands. The herd is growing, but it takes time to raise cattle. About 20 steers are ready for market each year.


When he started selling to The Boathouse in Superior, he realized there was a bigger market out there than he could supply. He’s recruiting his neighbors to help out. Three nearby farmers have bought brood cows and bulls. Anderson says when their animals are ready to butcher, he’ll put them in touch with The Boathouse and his other markets.


Three miles away, another organic farm has a different specialty – aged cheese made from sheep milk. Mary and David Falk milk about 100 sheep, and make about four dozen cheeses a week. The aging cave is a concrete silo, built into a hillside.


(sound of door opening)


Inside, it’s dark and cool. Nearly a thousand cheeses are resting on cedar planks. Mary Falk enjoys the different molds growing on the rinds of the cheese.


“We’ve got a gold mold, there’s a mauve colored mold, there’s a blue mold, there’s a soft green. So each one of those little molds adds a a hint of flavor and complexity to the cheese.”


The Falks used to sell their Love Tree cheeses to restaurants in New York and San Francisco. But after September 11th, the orders dropped off suddenly, and the Falks found new customers at a local farmer’s market. Now, they don’t have enough cheese to satisfy their local retail customers AND supply restaurants and cheese shops.


To boost her production, Mary Falk tried buying sheep milk from other farmers, but it didn’t taste the same as milk from the flock on her Love Tree Farm. So she tried to recruit farmers to buy some of her sheep and sell her the milk. A couple of neighbors tried it, but quit after awhile.


Her latest idea is what she calls the Love Tree Farm extended label program.


“What Love Tree is known for is our grass-based milk. And if somebody is making a high quality cheese on their farm, we are willing to put that into our market for them. We would put the Lovetree label on their cheese, like “Love Tree introducing Johnny Smith.”


Falk says it would give customers a chance to learn about new cheeses from a name they trust, and it would give new farmers access to an established market.


It takes time and ingenuity to match producers and consumers. But more and more people want organic food. Farmers who’ve been successful are trying to recruit other farmers to join them in the organic producers movement… an effort that can be profitable and easier on the environment.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Stephanie Hemphill.

Related Links

Will Trout Coast to Recovery?

A sport fish native to the Great Lakes region is famous for its looks and its size, but overfishing and habitat loss have driven its numbers down. Now, some fish experts are helping the coaster brook trout make a comeback. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports:

Transcript

A sport fish native to the Great Lakes region is famous for its looks and its size… but over fishing and habitat loss have driven its numbers down. Now, some fish experts are helping the coaster brook trout make a comeback. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Rebecca Williams reports:


Coaster brook trout, or coasters, cruise the near shore waters of Lake Superior most of their lives, and only swim into rivers to spawn. Male coasters turn vibrant red when they’re spawning. And the trout grow much larger than their inland relatives… an 8 pound fish is a trophy.


But coasters are rare, so Trout Unlimited is working with other scientists to boost their numbers. In the last 2 years, biologists have released baby coasters in 4 rivers in the Upper Peninsula.


Bill Deephouse is president of Trout Unlimited’s Copper Country chapter.


“You can’t protect all of these little creatures. So you put… and this certainly isn’t exact… but you put 10,000 fish in, you hope a few thousand of them make it. Maybe a few hundred make it to adulthood.”


The biologists say it may be some time before fishermen will feel one of the reintroduced coasters on the end of their lines. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Rebecca Williams.