Know Your Farmer: Finndian Farms

Nestled between the Hiawatha National Forest and Lake Michigan on the Garden Peninsula, Gail Sulander and Greg Gierke co-own Finndian Farms in Manistique. The name is exactly what you think– Gail is Finnish and Greg is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. Together, they produce maple syrup, care for chickens, and restore the property by introducing native plants and letting nature do its thing.

“This is where I want to be, this is what I want to do,” Gail answers when asked what motivates her. The main goal of their work is to restore the land they reside on.

Their property is over 40 acres of mostly forest. 

The space is welcoming as soon as you arrive, Sage and sweetgrass grows all around the yard, and Rain, a.k.a. Gimiwan, their black Moyen Poodle, is there to greet you. One of the first things you see is an outdoor cooking space outside the log home that Gail built –she even sanded the rough sawn, square logs herself. You need more than an afternoon to tour their property because both Gail and Greg have so many great stories to tell.

Gail grew up North of Minneapolis and went to college at the University of Minnesota where she enrolled in Native American studies and played ice hockey. After that she spent time in Sweden playing Bandy, a team winter sport, much like field hockey but played on ice. Gail eventually went back to school at the University of Wisconin-Stout to study dietetics.

In 1996, Gail moved to Manistique and began working for the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Health Division as a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. She also purchased the property they live on today, and spent thirteen years living in a small cabin with no electricity or running water. The building still stands and is just one testament to all the hard work she’s put in since then. 

Greg, originally from Sault Ste. Marie, moved downstate to Southeast Michigan as a kid. He hunted in the Manistique area with family in the fall, which is how he and Gail got introduced years ago. Greg eventually moved up north and in 2018, after attending the Michigan Family Farm Conference in Kalamazoo, they began Finndian Farms together.

Gail recently retired after 25 years, though she is still a part-time Registered Dietitian for the LMAS (Luce, Mackinac, Alger and Schoolcraft counties) Health Department. She hopes to spend more time on restoring her property, and most of all wants to keep busy and keep learning.

Gail & Greg are excited to get to know folks in Northern Michigan and the Great Lakes Region who want to connect and share knowledge related to land stewardship, hunting and plant medicines. They hope to share what they have learned and also seek to learn themselves.

You can find Finndian Farms on Facebook. Another great page to follow is the Tribal Food Sovereignty Collaborative

Gail also has a Great Lakes local foods dog treat business called Gimiwan Goodies. These natural dog snacks are made with simple ingredients from around the Great Lakes and available for online ordering and delivery. 

Alex Palzewicz is the Upper Peninsula Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference was lucky enough to visit Finndian Farms this Summer. (All photos in this article were taken by her!) Miigwech to Gail and Greg for such a warm welcome — and for the sage and sunchokes!)

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