CORNUCOPIA, Wis. – Buy a burger from a fast-food place in a big city. Chances are it will be the same as any burger from the same fast-food chain in any city. Ask the counter person where the beef in the burger or the wheat in the bun came from. About all she or he will be able to say is, “A big truck.” Nor is it likely they will know the nationality of the cattle from which the beef originated.
Many folks across the nation long to know who grows their food. Connection is difficult in urban areas where people often don’t even know their neighbors. But in many rural areas folks do know them. And there are still small towns that are vibrant because people are connected. In those small towns even strangers from big cities can form a connection with people on the land.
Cornucopia is a small town on Lake Superior, with the northernmost post office in Wisconsin. The town has an active harbor with a fishing fleet that supplies fresh fish to the locale and the region. Fill a water bottle at a public artesian well. Walk a few blocks from a public beach past the museum through the harbor to the business district. There on the right is an outfitter to take adventurers on sea-kayak voyages among the Apostle Islands. On the left is a bar next to the post office. There are rooms for rent, churches, places to eat and a gas station. Across the street is a general store, and a store that sells fresh, fried, pickled and smoked fish.
Across from the fish store is a small neat building with a sign that reads, “Siskowit Farmhouse.”
A sign next to the door reads, “Local Beef, Pork, Lamb, Cheese, Jewelry, Maple Syrup, Honey ...” The list goes on. Open the door to go in and be greeted by the proprietor, Jody Hipsher. Ask her where any of the goods offered were made, or where they came from, and she will answer without hesitation. To a group of strangers inquiring the providence of the baked goods she replied, “My mother made them.” Doubters could verify the statement because Hipsher’s mother was standing in the store’s neat kitchen a few paces away.
“For years my husband, Matt, said we should have a store downtown,” Hipsher said. “For years I said, ‘No.’ This building became available four years ago. I finally gave in and here we are. There are so many great artisans in our area. People are doing great things so we invited them in so we can showcase what we have in this area. It has worked out really well.
“We have our farm, Siskowit Galloways, up on Siskiwit Lake Road. We have been there for 20 years. We’ve been selling meat from the farm for 18 years. People come to the farm; the (farm) store is self-serve.
“This is our third year at our new store in Cornucopia. We’re open six days a week in the summer, and two days a week in the winter. Everything in here is made by someone I know. The beef, lamb and chicken (are) from our farm. The pork is from friends of ours who farm up the road. Today we have a roast-beef sandwich made from our chuck roast. The hamburgers are from our ground beef; we make patties every day. They’re a big seller. We make fish chowder with fish we get from Halvorson Fisheries across the street. We make cream puffs and my mom does a lot of baking – winebread and other things.
“I grew up on a dairy farm; my folks transitioned to beef cattle. My husband, Matt, grew up here in Corny (Cornucopia). We started with four cows, and it worked into more and more. Our neighbors noticed we had beef. Things kept getting bigger and bigger.”
What started out as beef just for family grew into a herd of about 50 brood cows on the 120-acre farm started by Matt Hipsher’s great-grandfather. Siskowit Galloways now offers beef by order, breeding cattle, and cuts of meat and eggs at the farm. The farmhouse store in Cornucopia carries a wide array of fresh homemade baked goods, frozen cuts of meat, clothing, jewelry and other locally produced artisanal goods.
On the shore of Lake Superior in Cornucopia, it’s not difficult to connect with produce and the people who make it. The produce is local and the people live nearby. To start all one needs to do is visit Siskowit Farmhouse on Superior Street.
Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He’s a retired educator, a retired soldier and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy Dillenschneider, and Red, a sturdy loyal Australian Shepherd.