Trip to Apostle Islands and FUE

This is bound to be a lengthy post, so feel free to just scan through the photos for a glimpse of a cool part of America you've probably never seen—or even considered as a destination! 

As I mentioned in a post last week, our family recently traveled to Bayfield, Wisconsin to attend a training event sponsored by Farmer's Union Enterprises (FUE).

FUE is a division of Farmer's Union that includes five states: Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. What started as a collaboration to start a business to benefit the local farmers eventually grew into several businesses, all in the agricultural industry. You can read more about the businesses they own here. They are also behind a restaurant in the Washington, D.C. area that serves farm-to-table food directly from farms in our 5-state area. How cool is that?

As for how we got involved, this is an excerpt from North Dakota's website about the program.

Farmers Union Enterprises has a program for couples in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin and Minnesota in which each state selects one "Couple of the Year." The participating couple receives hands-on training on issues important to National Farmers Union such as advocacy leadership, becoming good communicators, NFU involvement and how to coordinate a meeting.

Tom and I weren't members of Farmers Union and weren't very familiar with their policies. However, we had fortune of meeting the previous year's couple at a Couple's Ag Conference we attended last year. We somehow made enough of an impression on them that they recommended us for this program as the 2014-2015 couple from Montana. What an amazing opportunity—so we jumped on it. 

Our first event took us to Wisconsin, which crosses a new state off my list. We were invited to bring our families for this event, and we gathered with both the outgoing and incoming couples from each state. We had a day of training (overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior) and then were able to meet and visit with the presidents of Farmer's Union in each state. 

These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

These are the couples we will be meeting with throughout 2014-2015. They represent a variety of ages and types of farming practices, and we will really enjoy getting to know each of them better!

In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

In this photo we are joined by the outgoing couples, including the awesome couple from Montana (front left) to whom we owe our thanks for recommending us! 

Future events will take us to our Montana State Farmer's Union convention in October, the National Convention in Witchita, KS next March, and another family gathering with the new incoming couples in the Black Hills next summer. And the cherry on top—next year we will fly to D.C. and meet with the Committee leaders who influence our farm legislation. We are beyond excited for this educational opportunity.

But back to our trip.

We flew into Minneapolis, rented a car, and drove the 4-1/2 hours north to Bayfield. Bayfield lies right shores of Lake Superior. Our first glimpse of this massive lake was cresting over the hill into Duluth. 

Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

Duluth is an interesting place—full of ships, barges, bridges, and docking yards. It lies on the western-most point of all the Great Lakes, so of course it is a huge thoroughfare for goods moving back and forth to the East coast. 

We stayed in the charming Bayfield Inn right on the waterfront, and immediately stretched our legs wandering along the shore and taking photos.

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We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

We thought this bench was pretty funny because it makes it look like Abby weighs a ton. Ha ha. 

And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

And here is Eva with her classic camera pose.

The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

The gardens around Bayfield were amazing. It's obvious they take pride in their little community.

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We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

We let Eva pick a few flowers. :)

The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

The girls made a few new friends amongst the other farm families. The Wisconsin Farmer's Union camp counselors provided activities for the kids while the adults were in training, and they had a great time.

A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

A look back towards the town. There are a lot of beautiful old houses from the days when the fishing industry flourished. Now it is mostly tourism keeping the town afloat.

The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

The vastness of Lake Superior is amazing. It is the largest of the great lakes and the largest freshwater lake in the world (by surface area). If you dumped all the water of the other 4 great lakes into an empty Lake Superior, you still wouldn't fill it up. A big highlight of our trip was taking a 3-hour boat tour around the Apostle Islands, a chain of sandstone island formations that, with the exception of one populated island, are now all part of a National Park reserve.

Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

Over time the water has weathered deep caves into the sandstone. Apparently you can reach these caves over ice in the winter time and the ice formations within them are amazing. We heard quite a few interesting stories about traveling over ice roads from our boat captain, a native of the area.

There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

There are several lighthouses on the islands. Even though the islands are unpopulated and the lighthouse technology is no longer necessary, they are still trying to maintain them as part of history. This lighthouse was under construction. 

Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

Some of the caves are large enough to take a small boat into, but we were warned that one must keep an eye out for large ships passing by because the resulting waves could cause some pretty bad bumps to the head if you were caught in a cave.

Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

Eva soaking in our friend's backyard pool, and sporting her signature camera pose again. 

We drove through some beautiful Wisconsin farm land on our way back to Minneapolis. I didn't get many photos of our time there, but we had an awesome night with some old friends and enjoyed their new pool. The next morning we met up with more friends and had a quick trip to the Mall of America before we had to head to the airport. 

Harvest was just getting rolling before we left, so we couldn't tarry. We definitely hit the ground running when we landed at home!