Indigenous communities relied on cultivated crops for thousands of years to supplement hunting and gathering. Early settlers imported some farm products, but relied on hunting, gathering and small gardens until railroads arrived in the late 1880's. At the turn of the 20th century, loggers and settlers began to till the fresh cutover, launching larger scale agriculture in the Northwoods. Farmers and land speculators challenged the newly founded Department of Forestry's data analysis that the Northwoods was more suitable for silviculture, or the scientific management of trees. The push for robust agriculture will be strong until the Great Depression after which, only a few family farms and few more subsistence farms become the norm for area agriculture.
As early as 1895, resorts also need locally sourced food to attract and retain guests. Some resort owners planted gardens, kept poultry and dairy animals on their premises. Other resorts reached out to local farmers for the freshest farm delicacies.
After WWII, traditional agriculture had faded in Manitowish Waters with the exception of new cranberry marshes. Eight central Wisconsin families move north, hoping to expand cranberry production into the Northwoods. From humble beginnings, the Manitowish Waters cranberry families were able to establish a robust enclave for this specialty fruit.
Other historic agriculture ventures around Manitowish Waters included ginseng, worms, mink, minnows and poultry.
Today, cranberries are a strong part of Manitowish commerce, a few folks continue to tend gardens and keep some farm animals. The MW Community Gardens has been a great addition to our town and follows the legacy of Indigenous communities who live along the shores of the MW chain.
For thousands of years Indigenous communities relied on the land to provide for all aspects of their livelihood. The Ojibwe and other indigenous communities planted gardens along the shores of area lakes and streams, while also hunting and gathering. In 1846, geologist A. B. Gray described the summer residence of Chief White Thunder on Cross (Rest) Lake has, .".. two large wigwams and several acres of ground cleared and cultivated." Fur traders, early loggers, and early settlers tended to import some storable agri-products like corn, flour, tobacco, but relied on hunting, gathering a small gardens as well. The large shift in agricultural practice came with the railroads in the late 1880's.
Debate emerged regarding best practices for Northwoods land use. Farmers and land speculators felt large dairy farms would populate at least 50 percent of the Northwoods landscape, while the newly founded Department of Forestry's data analysis