March 8th, International Women’s Day is now less than a week away and today we continue with, Women of the North Fork. We began this series to highlight some of the women behind the scenes of our local “land and sea” environmental conservation movement. Some of these women have been instrumental in the preservation our waters and wildlife, as well as in the promotion of our culture as an agricultural and maritime community. Yesterday we featured Karen Rivara, oyster farmer and entrepreneur and today we are featuring Laura Klahre, Beekeeper, entrepreneur/owner of Blossom Meadow Honey, and conservationist.
As you read about all of these women, you will see that the journeys have been lengthy and diverse but it will also become evident that the passion and determination in all of these women, along with the ingrained work ethic, is what makes them all similar. It is what has set them apart from those who dream and those who do.
I met Laura several years ago when she first moved to the North Fork to work for the Peconic Estuary Program and then for the Nature Conservancy. Back then, I fell in love with her dedication to nature and so did her now husband, winemaker, Adam Suprenant of Coffee Pot Cellars. Her store is located on Main Road in Cutchogue, a space share with Coffee Pot Cellars.
Tell us about the journey that led you to your current career?
I was always fascinated with science and nature. I received my B.S. in Marine Sciences from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida and my M.S. in Marine Environmental Sciences from Stony Brook University here on Long Island. My first real job was working as an oceanographer for the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington DC protecting fish habitat during offshore oil and gas exploration projects. I became frustrated with the lack of immediate impact so moved back to Long Island to work for Suffolk County Department of Health Services as the Suffolk County Coordinator for the Peconic Estuary Program. After seven years, it was time to shake things up and began working for The Nature Conservancy as the Director of Terrestrial Programs focused on invasive species and prescribed fire. From there, I worked part-time for the Town of Southold in Land Conservation developing and implementing park management plans and trails. Finally after more than a decade of working several jobs and apprenticing with other beekeepers, I worked up the courage to forgo a steady paycheck. In 2013, I quit my job to more fully focus on the bees and open our store in Cutchogue.
When considering that we are celebrating International Women’s Day, how do you feel your career choice can inspire other women to improve their lives and their communities?
Bees are the very symbol of empowerment. There are 4,000 bee species nationwide and 447 species in New York State alone. The female bees are largely responsible for the way our world looks and the food we eat as they are the chief pollinators. All bees are vegetarians and visit flowers for food but the female bees collect pollen (their protein source) and nectar (their carbohydrate source) to feed not only themselves but also their babies. Bees also work together for a better life – an inspiration to me every day!
Please share your views on the economic viability of your career choice and how can it be possible for other women to support themselves in the pursuit of their aspirations?
It is not really economically viable to be a beekeeper on Long Island, but I keep trying. Continuing to build upon the definition of beekeeper, I now raise native mason bees and leafcutter bees for pollination contracts (they are 2-3 times better at pollinating than honeybees) and have expanded my product line to include lip balm, lotion bars, and seeds. I still keep a limited number of honeybee hives and make beeswax candles. To me, profit is only one way to gauge the success of a business. We live a nice quiet life bound by flowers and bees buzzing around. The bees make me whole and I can’t imagine being without them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Our biggest hurdles are the ones in our own minds. Challenge traditional ways of thinking and make your own path in life. It is your life so live it your way!