Simone Beck-Friis is 25 years old, a daughter of Swedish nobility and heir to a timber-and-farming business that her family has operated in the countryside north of Stockholm for the better part of 300 years.
And she can work.
Beck-Friis (beck-FREECE) has spent much of the past two months grooming trails, clearing culverts and plucking invasive vegetation on Sonoma County open-space preserves managed by the Santa Rosa-based LandPaths.
Erin Mullin, the nonprofit’s stewardship coordinator, said the unusual intern hasn’t been one to stand and watch as others toil.
“She knows how to work,” Mullin said during a break in her and Beck-Friis’ endeavor to help prepare for winter rain and runoff at the rugged Bohemia Ecological Preserve, located between Occidental and Monte Rio.
“The volunteers have loved working with her,” Mullin said. “I’ve loved working with her.”
Beck-Friis is scheduled to leave California Monday and return to Sweden, where she anticipates that in time she’ll assume a more direct role in running Hargs Bruk, the historic enterprise that she and her older sister, Beata, inherited upon the death 10 years ago of their father, Baron Carl Beck-Friis. The company manages tens of thousands of acres of land, much of it involved in timber harvesting.
“I want to use everything that I learned,” Simone Beck-Friis said as she wrapped up her hands-on educational sojourn in America.
She was only 14 when her father died at age 84 and left Hargs Bruk to her and her sister. She joined the family business’ board of directors when she was 18, about the time she enrolled in the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences to study the business of agriculture.
The 2015 graduate said Hargs Bruk is run by managers and senior directors whom she intends to join one day as an active participant in the directing of the company she co-owns.
“I guess my goal would be to be chairman of the board,” she said, adding that her sister, who’s 34, is not involved in the running of Hargs Bruk.
Beck-Friis came to Sonoma County in October to expand her knowledge in the areas of environmentally responsible land management and sustainable agriculture.
“It was good to be away and have someone else teach you,” she said.
Though Hargs Bruk is involved mostly in timber harvesting and forestry management, Beck-Friis is right now most interested in the efficiency of the arm of the company that raises beef cattle.
“We sell to slaughterhouses. They sell to butchers. They sell to restaurants. That’s the chain I would like cut a bit,” she said. She imagines that the price to consumers could be reduced were the beef to pass through fewer hands.
The other farm-related aspects of Hargs Bruk grow wheat and barley. “We just started with rapeseed,” Beck-Friis said.
Much of her internship at LandPaths focused on the management of large tracts of land. The nonprofit oversees more than 1,400 acres at five Sonoma County preserves; Beck-Friis visited and worked at all of them.
While at the 124-acre Rancho Mark West, northeast of Santa Rosa, she learned that Jim and Betty Doerksen, who sold the property to LandPaths at a bargain price in order to assure that it would remain perpetually as open space, long grew Christmas trees there.