Brooke Konieska, 10, wanted to go berry picking Monday, June 28.
Brooke and her sister, Brianna, 15, were visiting their grandmother, Deb Konieska, at her Sturgeon Lake home. Instead of going to a strawberry farm or to a farm with more traditional fruits, Deb took her granddaughters to Wrenshall’s Farm LoLa to pick honeyberries.
“I like picking honeyberries,” Brooke said. “I like how big and juicy they are.”
Farm LoLa’s owner, Jason Amundsen, provided the group with a short lesson on picking honeyberries and gave them a couple of cardboard trays to put their fruit in.
“Remember, pick all the berries off the bush you start on before you move to the next one,” Amundsen said.
Honeyberries are a shrub native to Siberia, Poland and northern Japan that Amundsen has tried to add to the roster of berries available at Farm LoLa in the last few seasons.
Farm LoLa started as the “pick-your-own berry wing” of Locally Laid Egg Co., according to its website. Locally Laid sells eggs from pasture-raised chickens to local restaurants and supermarkets.
Despite the sweet name, honeyberries provide a flavor that is a little more sour than sweet.
“The taste is like if you had a blueberry that’s fallen into a pack of SweeTARTS,” Amundsen said.
Farm LoLa sells the berries to members of the public who come by to pick, but also provides them to local supermarkets. Honeyberries have also been used for an ice cream flavor at Love Creamery in Duluth and as the base for beers at several area breweries. Bent Paddle is buying the berries this year and the brewers plan to enter their brew in a competition later this year.
“I’m going out of my way to make sure they get a lot of different varieties, because I’m competitive and I want them to win,” Amundsen said.
Most of the people at Farm LoLa Monday were families looking for an activity that left them with some tasty treats to take home. Kids were running up and down the rows and enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.
Elias Johnson, 3, came to help his mom, Mackenzie, pick, and he already had plans for their haul of fruit.
“We’re going to make jam, and then we’re going to make peanut butter and jam sandwiches,” Elias said.
The ‘post-pandemic way to date’
While most of the people at Farm LoLa were families with children, some came for a special date night.
Mark and Marissa Kallevig, of Duluth, came out a couple of years ago and make the trip to Farm LoLa an annual tradition. They both get off work around 4:30 p.m., which means they can have a fun night out and still be home pretty early. Plus, the fun doesn’t end when they leave the farm.
“We look forward to it all year,” Marissa said. “We were just talking — we’re planning to make a pie together with the honeyberries and maybe some jam — so there are more activities than just picking.”
Lucie Amundsen, Jason’s wife, said it’s not just married couples or those in long-term relationships who visit Farm LoLa on date nights.
“I had more than one couple come up to the booth to check in who said they were here on a date,” she said. “They thought it would be a great way to get to know each other picking berries ... Honestly, it really takes the stakes down ... I think the post-pandemic way to date could be to come berry picking.”
She’d like some folks to come out and weed the rows of berry plants as a date, too, but has yet to find any takers.