Klein's honey: An accidental business
By Associated Press
Date Modified: 04/25/2012 9:34 PM
MARSHALL, Minn. — Raymond Klein had never given a thought to being a beekeeper until a college class he was forced to take sparked a passion for the profession. That seemingly unfortunate situation turned out to be a positive step in Klein's destiny.
As the year 2012 rolled in, Klein not only celebrated his 100th birthday, there was also reflection on the 60-year-old family business, which is still going strong.
"My dad wanted to be an agronomist but ended up being a beekeeper instead," said Steve Klein, who, along with his wife, Kay, took over his dad's honey-production business in 1992. "He just loved the bees."
After growing up in the St. Cloud area, Ray Klein decided to attend the University of Minnesota. In the midst of pursuing his agronomy degree, Klein became frustrated when a beekeeping course was the only one he could fit into his schedule one quarter. He quickly discovered a new career path.
"The professor was a partner with another guy that had all sorts of bee outfits all over the upper Midwest and down south," Steve Klein said. "This was just coming off the Depression, still in the thirties, so my dad thought that it could be something. So he took the class and really liked the stuff."
After completing all his beekeeping requirements, Ray Klein had his pick of three locations.
"He could either go to Nicollet, Hallock or Marshall. So my dad decided to come to Marshall because he thought it might be the warmest of the three places," Steve Klein said.
Steve Klein said his dad took the bus to Marshall in 1939, got off at the Atlantic Hotel, which is now the Landmark Bistro, walked over to the Texaco gas station a block away and asked them where the honey farm was. Back then, the business was where the YMCA now stands.
"In a couple of years, he was the manager," Steve Klein said. "When the professor died in 1951 and all these individual places were sold off, my dad bought it and started the Klein's label."
Despite getting stung an average 2,500 times a summer, Steve Klein said that beekeeping was a good business. They had bees in five area counties.
"Your body gets desensitized to the bee sting," he said. "You get the stinger out quick and after a minute or so, you probably couldn't find where it was, unless you were stung in a really sensitive spot, like the face."
A number of studies, including one by the National Arthritis Foundation, suggest that bee stings actually help people with arthritis, Steve Klein said, although honey consumption might also have something to do with it.
"There are studies that said the longest-living profession is the beekeeper," he said. "It's a lot of hard work. You have to move hives around, and you're bending and lifting them up and down off the truck. But it's also very peaceful."
Steve Klein compared beekeeping to farming.
"It's a nice lifestyle," he said. "You have the winter off, you get out in nature and you kind of set your own hours. You become very aware of nature, wildlife and the cycle of the seasons."
In early or mid-March, the honey bees have to be checked on, Steve Klein said, and the goal is to be wrapped up by the first week of November.