By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers
Just a February day in Embarrass, MN
Don’t let the nickname “the Cold Spot” stop you.
Heather’s Handy Helper Storm
Heather Mahoney found her garden paradise in Embarrass, Minnesota. With her husband of 20 years and her little guard dog Storm, Heather has established an oasis for her family and her Embarrass and Virginia-area community.
Heather summed up her motivation behind her thriving cottage producer business, “My love of learning and desire to be as self-sufficient as possible has resulted in a business that celebrates that lifelong learning AND our homestead – how cool is that?”
Heather grew up in Northern Pine County. After living in Ely, she moved to Embarrass nine years ago. She grows in two large fenced-in gardens (to keep out the deer and other local critters including moose twins!), raised beds, and a hoophouse producing a plethora of veggies including beets, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, rhubarb, garlic and now—celery. The homestead also features a variety of fruit bearing trees.
Heather started canning salsas and pickles to take advantage of the bounty. She also loves berry picking to enjoy the plenty the local woods have to offer. “Of all the items I sell, canned goods are the most popular. I love when people tell me how they enjoyed my pepper jelly at their family Christmas or how my chokecherry jelly takes them back to their childhood.”
Heather founded Heather’s Home Goods in September 2018. She is a Registered Cottage Food Producer. In addition to her canned goods, Heather’s homestead business includes home sewn products (bowl cozies, upcycled feed bag grocery sacks, rice packs, bibs, and plastic bag holders), fruit leather, organic chicken eggs, and baked goods.
Heather Mahoney harvesting juneberries with Storm
Her long-term goals include offering Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares featuring a unique mix of produce, eggs and her cottage foods. This season, Heather began to offer pop up shares featuring eggs, bread, jam, kale, lettuce, berries, and herbs. Heather has also started to plan sewing and canning classes that she’ll teach through Community Ed and other local centers.
Plastic Bag Holders
Heather works to improve fresh food access in northern Minnesota. A completed goal was to be able to accept SNAP/EBT payments for the food she raises and produces. Heather also encourages others to learn about starting their own cottage business. “I like helping new cottage food producers navigate the rules and regs of selling cottage foods in MN. Thanks to my recent work with the Rutabaga Project, I’m also quite familiar with the rules for egg sales, food aggregation, and produce safety,” shared Heather. “I’m a bit of a rule follower and guidelines and procedures seem to stick in my head. Anything I can do to help others locate resources and succeed means more producers in our region to bring yummy, local food to our region.”
Heather’s Jams and Jellies
Heather recently started as Regional Connector for the Renewing the Countryside program. She is the only participant right now northeast of Aitkin and is still learning about that role but she’s excited to be a resource to farmers in her region. Her recent work as the Rutabaga Project manager motivates her to improve food access throughout northeast Minnesota. This community-driven project makes it easier to get healthy, fresh food in the Virginia, MN area. The name pays tribute to the glorious root vegetable that sustained many families during the Iron’s Range’s lean years.
Pop Up CSA Share
In recognition of her work in promoting cottage food producer registrations and education, Heather was named the Minnesota Cottage Food Producers Association’s (MNCFPA) Cottage Food Producer of the month in August 2022. “I was surprised and honored to be selected!”
Heather’s eyes light up when she talks about the community’s need for fresh food. Whether it’s programs that benefit school children or empowering her neighbors, Heather loves to share what she’s learned along the way. “My favorite part is meeting people at events and sharing
Winter Chicken Coop Prep
how I grow or make what I’m selling. I’m actually quite the introvert but ask me how my chickens are doing or my favorite way to process tomatoes and I will chat for hours if ya’ let me!”
Find Heather in person at the Mesabi East Farmers Market this summer. She will also be at the Embarrass Region Fair August 25-27.
Live in the Virginia area? Heather works there during the week and will often meet people with jars of jam or her latest batch of salsa over her lunch break.
“Your support is helping me learn more and get better and what I do. I work full time and have a few side gigs so my home business gets me out of work mode and into fun/creative mode,” shared Heather. “Even if you don’t buy anything I hope my business inspires you to try something new that makes you more self sufficient!”
Follow Heather’s Home Goods on Facebook for pop up shares, market dates, and to learn more about her growing business.
Gardens, Hoop House and Chicken Coop
Contact Heather directly at [email protected]
Follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover more of the people who make Minnesota a tasty place to be!
Upcycled Feedbag Totes