A hummingbird stopped to sip some nectar from a black-eyed Susan flower on the patio of Castle Danger Brewery on Tuesday, Sept. 4, in Two Harbors.
"There's one," Dan Schutte said.
The "one" Schutte is referring to is a native pollinator. The Two Harbors resident has a passion for building and expanding pollinator habitat on the North Shore. Schutte's passion has resulted in a growing business that specializes in designing and installing gardens featuring native plants that encourage healthy pollinator populations.
Schutte's company, Shoreview Natives, has grown significantly since it was established in 2014, with installations from Two Harbors to the Twin Cities. The pollinator gardens have popped up along the Lakewalk in Duluth and along Scenic Drive in Knife River as Schutte and others have spread the word about the importance of bees, butterflies and birds in sustaining healthy plant populations.
Over the past year, Shoreview Natives produced more than 30,000 seedlings that were used to establish more than an acre of pollinator habitat in northeastern Minnesota.
Schutte said his passion for plants and pollinators probably began when he worked as a Peace Corps volunteer just after college. He spent three years in Paraguay, where he trained residents in beekeeping.
When Schutte returned home from Paraguay in 2007, he began learning about colony collapse disorder, a problem that has caused the native bee and honeybee populations across the country to fall to half or less of what they were previously.
Schutte serves on Gov. Mark Dayton's Committee on Pollinator Protection, which promotes statewide collaboration on the subject, with Steve Ellis, owner of Old Mill Honey Co. in Barrett, Minn. Ellis keeps approximately 2,500 bee hives around the country and typically loses half or more of the hives, according to Schutte.
He said there are two main reasons for the problem: overuse of pesticides and the loss of native habitat. The climate and soil on the North Shore doesn't support large scale agricultural production, so Schutte said he has focused on establishing healthy, native habitats.
"If I lived in ag land, I would probably work on the overuse of pesticides," Schutte said. "But living here, I feel like getting habitat on the ground is the best way to help."
Native plants, like black-eyed Susans and common milkweed, also have deeper roots than other brought to the area, requiring less watering than other, non-native species.
Shoreview Natives originally started as a class project, Schutte said. He also works as an environmental educator at North Shore Community School in Duluth Township and installed a garden there with his students. Eventually, what started as a class project became a hobby and evolved into a thriving business.
Schutte is installing a new greenhouse near his home outside Two Harbors to increase the number of plants he can produce each season.
He believes there is a greater purpose to Shoreview Natives than increasing the number of plants he sells or number of gardens he installs: It's about promoting native species and working with people to help them understand importance of healthy pollinator habitats.
"No business or one person is going to solve this," Schutte said. "But getting people educated and empowering people to do good things on their own to help is what's need."