HACKENSACK, Minn. — For some, a backyard offers an escape from the world and a place to decompress. Such sanctuaries have been vital during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the various lockdowns throughout the nation, many opted to add new additions to their backyard and become more self-sustainable, adding bees, chickens or perhaps even both.

Luckily for these new found hobbyists, there is a one stop shop for all their beekeeping and poultry needs: Mann Lake.

“It's definitely been a growing trend, but with the pandemic so many people were just stuck at home and going into their backyards. So they decided to get chickens and have their own eggs, become a beekeeper and make their own honey or even to produce their own meat with their poultry,” said Jenna Prososki, Mann Lake sales and customer service manager.

All the buzz

Jack and Betty Thomas were avid beekeepers themselves and noticed potential in the beekeeping industry to start a business with one thing in mind: producing and selling premium products for beekeepers.

Mann Lake offers everything a beekeeper may need, including the bees themselves. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Mann Lake offers everything a beekeeper may need, including the bees themselves. (Emily Beal / Agweek)

“What the owners found, as they were hobby beekeepers, they found there was an opportunity to bring in products that other businesses were not interested in providing. They were very innovative, and they had a lot of new ideas. They started building this business because the industry was not able to deliver to their needs and they just continued to build and build and build,” said Dave Peterson, Mann Lake director of manufacturing.

The Thomases started Mann Lake out of their garage over 30 years ago. Though their business had a humble beginning, it soon outgrew its original headquarters. In addition to the Hackensack, Minn., hub of the business, they have added locations in Kentucky, California, Pennsylvania, Florida, Oregon and Texas.

Mann Lake sells anything and everything a beekeeper may need, from bee suits to smokers.

“Everything associated with beekeeping is what we want to be able to supply our customers. We offer anything related to the beekeeping industry, all essentials a beekeeper would need,” Peterson said.

While Mann Lake produces common beekeeper items, they also produce items many would not think about, such as bee probiotics and bee medication that helps combat colony collapse disorder, parasites, viruses and fungi issues.

The company has seen an uptick in popularity when it comes to bees and wanting to become a beekeeper, something they are particularly excited about.

“We're very excited about the ‘save the bees’ mindset that has grown in popularity. We know the importance of honey bees. One of every three bites of food is tied back to bee pollination. We have seen a lot of new hobbyist beekeepers throughout the pandemic. They have time at home due to the lockdown situations, and more people are getting interested in self-sustaining,” Peterson said.

Mann Lake's Director of Manufacturing, Dave Peterson and Mann Lake's Sales and Customer Service Manager, Jenna  Prososki. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Mann Lake's Director of Manufacturing, Dave Peterson and Mann Lake's Sales and Customer Service Manager, Jenna Prososki. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
In addition to their increasing popularity, people are not letting their place of residence stop them from becoming beekeepers.

“Urban beekeeping is becoming more popular. We are having high rises that actually have colonies on top of the buildings and more of the backyard beekeeper or the gardener,” Peterson said.

Mann Lake also offers beginner beekeeping kits full of all the supplies a beekeeper would need. They also sell the actual bees themselves in the spring, rationing out about 500 crates of live bees to those who purchased them.

“When you see someone come to pick up their bees for the first time, they are so excited. They come, they have their family with them, they get bee suits for their kids, they just can’t wait to get home and put their bees in their hive and make their own honey,” Prososki said.

A semi unloads bees at Hackensack. about 500 packages are picked up locally, while the rest are shipped out to surrounding states, she said.

The Mann Lake teams hold a true passion for the bee industry, and enjoy helping those who share the passion.

“We’re providing a service that helps mankind. Obviously it is a business, but it is exciting that you can do something to be good stewards of the environment and help spread the word about how important the bees are,” Peterson said.

Spreading their wings

Mann Lake recently bought Stromberg’s Chick and Game Birds. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Mann Lake recently bought Stromberg’s Chick and Game Birds. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Though Mann Lake has their hands full providing all the necessary tools for beekeepers, they decided to expand their horizons, or rather spread their wings.

Mann Lake purchased Stromberg’s Chick and Game Birds about two years ago, a business solely dedicated to providing all things the poultry enthusiast may need. While some may think bees and birds are an odd combination, it has proven to be a successful purchase.

“The idea behind it is that so many beekeepers also have chickens in their backyard. Beekeepers in general are people that are just very conscious of the environment. They want to be self-sustainable. So they are in their backyard with their bees, their garden, and they usually have chickens too. We just decided we want to be that one-stop shop where anybody can get for their backyard hobbies. It happens all the time where somebody comes in and they need to get something for their bees and they look and think ‘I could get into chickens too.'” Prososki said.

Many of Mann Lake's products are made in their facilities to ensure quality. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Many of Mann Lake's products are made in their facilities to ensure quality. (Emily Beal / Agweek)
Like their bee products, Mann Lake makes many of the items they sell to their customers on site to ensure their customers are receiving quality products.

“We really strive to provide products that are going to keep both your bees and your birds healthy, so we do make all of our feeds on site here so we can control the quality of it and provide the very best products out there,” Prososki said.