From Concept to Completion! Finland Wild Rice House “Caps” its Journey

An early conceptual drawing

The Finland Wild Rice House – Manoomin Waakaa’igan – Villirisi Talo capped off its first season with a shed roof built by Sonju Lake Sawmill and Timber Framing.roof

It has been an interesting season for wild rice. The drought impacted rice stalks and bed numbers, some waterways were deemed inaccessible due to forest fires or lack of water for a canoe, and the fire bans left most processors unable to parch their rice!  However, even with all of the challenges, the Wild Rice House still made leaps and bounds toward its goals!

The Wild Rice House Processing Facility processed over 2000 pounds of finished rice with more than 18 customers. The mentorship program gave 5 wonderful mentees experiences they will cherish for a lifetime and the project team hopes to offer those experiences to many more next season! There are also plans to try out processing other small-grains to potentially serve small-scale farmers in the region.

Blake Hawbaker (Processor) and Abby Rohweder (Wild Rice Project Coordinator) work at the gravity table separating the different quality wild rice kernels.

While it’s true there are a few more bells and whistles to complete, the Wild Rice Project Team went from observing the process (mid-September, 2020) to completing their first rice processing season (October 2021) in JUST ONE YEAR! There are countless people to thank in this process, not the least of which are Joel and Gail Hilgendorf, from whom the equipment was purchased; to Blake Hawbaker, our wild rice processing mentee turned head processor; to Abby Rohweder, our Wild Rice Project Coordinator, who not only helped in the processing, but also helped developed a website at and is working to coordinate other educational aspects of the larger Wild Rice Project which you can check out HERE on the Finland Food Chain website. Countless consultants, tribal advisors, mentors, educators and supporters have made this possible.

The project to build the Wild Rice House – Finland, Minnesota’s own local processing facility for wild rice – was made possible in part by an AGRI Sustainable Agriculture Demonstration Grant, the NE Minnesota Local Farm and Food Projects/AEOA, and the Lloyd K. Johnson Foundation. It has also come out of many years of community members talking about the need for such a facility in our area and then getting organized to do something about it. Friends of Finland facilitated some of these early conversations, and more recently, our Finland Food Chain project to build a localized food system has facilitated more conversation and put in the work to push this idea to become reality. Also, notably, former Finland Food Chain team members Marc Smith, Stefan Meyer and Cindy Hale did the early research and grant writing to get the project off the ground. Go Finland Villirisi Talo!

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