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Duluth farmer finds niche in native perennials, bees

“Not everyone wants to be a beekeeper," said Claire Lande, of Farm Lande. "There’s something a little more hardcore about it."

Claire and Pete Lande pose with their dog, Howie, at Farm Lande
Claire and Pete Lande pose with their dog, Howie, at Farm Lande in rural Duluth on Aug. 19.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DULUTH — Fat and furry honeybees slipped in and out of their hive made from a set of color-coded boxes. The bottom boxes, or deeps, are where the queen creates new bees, said Claire Lande. The top two are where the honey is stored.

Standing a few feet from the hive, Lande reflected on what drew her to this.

“Not everyone wants to be a beekeeper. There’s something a little more hardcore about it,” she said.

Claire Lande picks beans at her farm, Farm Lande, in rural Duluth
Claire Lande picks beans at her farm, Farm Lande, in rural Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Silver White garlic dries in the garage of Claire and Pete Lande at Farm Lande
Silver white garlic dries in the Landes' garage.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Honey and beeswax products are just part of the offerings at Farm Lande ( farmlande.com). In her second year on her land, the formerly landless beekeeper specializes in native perennials, vegetables and honeybees.

She grows broccoli, cabbage, kale, peas, zucchini, pumpkins and potatoes. And her native perennials run the gamut of golden Alexander, purple coneflower, rattlesnake master and stiff goldenrod.

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Claire Lande shows off some of the Tye Dye Tomatoes at Farm Lande
Claire Lande shows off some of the Tie-Dye tomatoes at Farm Lande.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

This is her full-time focus, and her husband, Pete, builds farm infrastructure, such as a cooler and irrigation system.

The homestead was built in 1911 along the Talmadge River, originally as a dairy farm. Former owner Kathy Jensen purchased and cultivated what would become Talmadge Farms.

Chickens pop out from under a portable building at Farm Lande
Chickens pop out from under a portable building.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

During her more than 40 years there, Jensen built the homestead up, adding a commercial kitchen, a heated greenhouse and high tunnel.

She began making jams, relishes and jellies along with growing veggies to sell at farmers markets.

The hand-off to Lande (pronounced Landee) started by chance in September 2020.

“I happened to know this woman from the farmer market,” Claire Lande recalled. “She knew I was interested in farming and was serious. We just went for it.”

It was the exact location they wanted and had been seeking, but the timing wasn’t ideal. They had a 6-month-old child, and Lande wasn’t working.

“I love being a stay-at-home mom. I was also ready to do the next thing, but didn’t know what it was without having farmland,” she recalled.

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Howie, an American Dingo, keeps watch over a plot at Farm Lande
Howie, an American dingo, keeps watch over a plot.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Jensen’s property was unlisted at the time, and everything fell into place. Jensen has since built her new home on 10 acres next to the Landes.

In the house, the Landes replaced windows, the water heater and furnace. They added insulation, sealed cracks and refinished the upper floors.

A bee gathers nectar on a coneflower in the Pollinator Garden
A bee gathers nectar on a coneflower in the pollinator garden at Farm Lande.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

And Claire Lande prepared the land for farming and using solar energy. She moved her hives from other people’s farms to her own before scaling back to free her up for other farm demands.

Lande’s beds are in rows of five and divided by a permanent pollinator row. She hopes to help increase ecological resilience of the Northland by growing native perennials. And, she aids the community, helping folks with native plants, and teaching a beginner beekeeping class at the Duluth Folk School.

Education runs deep for the Virginia, Minnesota, native. She studied biology and entomology in college, where she regularly interacted with farmers on integrative pest management.

“Every time I’d go to the farmers market, I’d want to be the one behind the booth,” she recalled.

Claire Lande picks beans and throws them in a bucket at Farm Lande
Claire Lande picks beans and throws them in a bucket.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

With enough time and overlap, she realized farming was a better fit than the office work that accompanied pursuing entomology on an academic level.

“There’s a lot of intersection between bugs and farms," so it was a natural progression, said Lande.

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Claire Lande and her dog Howie look over a newer plot on the Farm Lande property
Claire Lande and her dog, Howie, look over a newer plot on the property with vegetables and pollinators.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
Pete Lande talks about tomatoes in one of the greenhouses at Farm Lande
Pete Lande talks about tomatoes in one of the greenhouses.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

She returned to Duluth in 2017 and began working with Doug Hoffbauer of Hoffbauer Tree Farm. He said sharing his lifetime of experiences is part of his mission of service to others.

“As we edge towards retirement, we hope that Claire and other younger growers can continue these causes. We wish Claire the best of luck,” he said.

Honey bees move in and out of the hive at Farm Lande
Honeybees move in and out of the Landes' hive.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Claire, while walking with Pete, talked about her investment in a good bee suit; it makes it no fun to get stung.

They stopped in the barn, where garlic stalks crowded table tops. They’re here to cure, and the air smelled a rich mix of earthy and pungent.

Claire palmed a snake free from a spider web before checking the crop.

She said her work is about finding a balance at providing for pollinators and people.

Asked how she feels being the farmer at the market today, she said: “There are days when it feels great, and other days when I feel really humbled.”

"On Our Farm" is a profile of Northland farms and the people behind them. If you have one to recommend, email Melinda Lavine at mlavine@duluthnews.com or call 218-723-5346.

MORE BY MELINDA LAVINE
“Gratitude makes it that everything is enough," said Carolyn Ripp, of Nest Wellness Studio in Cloquet.

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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