During the last days heavily filled with snow giving beautiful but time consuming challenges to the making and delivering of foodbags between the farm, its kitchen and the city, and to the keeping of greenhouse and tunnels standing up and at a decent temperature… I found myself accompanied by the wonderful Oxford Real Farming conference. The hundreds of sessions held online, attended to by more than 5000 people registered, and which one is able to replay whenever one wants to listen to them, was truly rewarding. With my Oma maa food cooperative’s agricultural deepdive now going on into its fourth year, and having never attended a meeting focusing on agriculture only, the conference gave me plenty of strengthening new, but also strengthening listening to Urgenci comrades sessions, and to other previously known voices of comrades from the global justice movement.
So I was drawn during the conference to a book launch session by one of the founders of the conference Colin Tudge, of his new book entitled ‘the Great rethink, a 21st Century Renaissance’. During the session, Tudge in a very simple manner laid out thoughts around change which in its fundaments resonates a lot with also Oma maa’s thinking. And I agree with the author, that what we now absolutely also need, is an empowering simple.
(photo of Colin Tudge presentation slide ‘the elements of the Renaissance’)
The starting point for the roadmap is the specifying of the goal : What are we as Humanity trying to achieve? The answer for Tudge to that question is that we should be trying to create convivial societies in a flourishing biosphere. A convivial society refers to a society in which everyone is having the same chance to do what one feels good about. The biosphere means ‘the living world’, the natural world, and is intended here to be a correction to the frequently used word environment, which means ‘surroundings’, and which is an anthropocentric idea that people are the most important creatures, with all the rest around being “environment”. The concept of biosphere puts to the forefront we are an integral part of the natural world.
What then do we need to do to create such convivial societies in a flourishing biosphere? Tudge explains the answer to this question to be lying in technologies, meaning all that we do to manipulate the physical word – including crafts and high technology – that further that goal. Technologies of today need a critical appraisal, as they often do not further that goal. Some technologies make our souls redundant. What we instead do need, are technologies that enhance our lives to strive towards our overarching goal.
For Tudge then, the two technologies that really stand out, and that we really need to get right, are agriculture and food culture. Tudge uses the term enlightened agriculture, in short real farming (hence the name of the Oxford real farming conference.). Enlightened agriculture is compounded by the ideas of agroecology and food sovereignty. In short, the concept of agroecology says we should be treating all farms as ecosystems, and thus design a farm according to the ecological principles of an ecosystem. That will mean first and foremost, the focusing on plant based agriculture, meaning arable and horticulture, and for this thus to be providing the majority of our needed calories and protein, as well as most of our vitamins and minerals, etc. Secondly, this agriculture would importantly also include some animals. The result of such farming would be plenty of plants, not much meat, and maximum diversity.
The resulting diet corresponds with what is seen as a good diet in today’s nutritional theory. This corresponds also with the features of our great food cultures. It is faulty to think that proper farming would result in not eating well. On the contrary. Oma maa’s year around foodbags and farmdining are also an expression of such an agriculture – be it that our foodbags are vegan. But the farm has three cows which are grazing for biodiversity upkeep, as well as chickens of which some members order eggs.
Tudge’s roadmap then continues to infrastructure. To have technology serving us well, we need infrastructure that will encourage such things. This will come from governance, economic structure, and just laws. Governance should be democratic, leading to justice and to the using of everybodies input. This applies to farming as well, as we know. Much better agriculture is achieved by listening to the indegenous in situ peasant voices, then imposing structures from above. This is what democracy in action should look like. This is about the getting of everybody on board to restructure society. And I add here, that this is another way of wording that change in society is to be rooted in peoples process around basic needs, as Oma maa’s thinking has at its core.
Tudge continues then to explore thoughts around economy, again, something to be developed to achieve our stated aim. Tudge calls for the development of ‘green economic democracy’, which looks after people and the biosphere, and he lies down down 6 principles of such an economy :
– All entreprises in this economy should be social entreprises. They should contribute in net to the wellbeing of societies and the biosphere.
-This economy should be a tripartite mixed economy, with state, private and community ownership. For instance, CSA’s like Oma maa are a good example of communities taking control of what is done. And I add, as Silke Helfrich once put it, up with the commons! beyond but not necessarily without state and market!)
-All investments made in this economy should be ‘positive investments’. We can use the capitalist instrument of investing ones money in order to gain some profit, However, we should only invest in activities of social entreprises contributing to the wellbeing of society and the biosphere.
– This economy has a universal basic income, in order to ensure everyone can live and work with dignity.
– This economy rests on a change of mindset, in which we move away from the idea of having and owning as much as possible to the opposite idea : how little do we need to live a good life. For us in the Western world that probably mean about a third of what we have.
– This economy is a circular economy.
I stop this blog writing and leave the work of Tudge at this, and return whilst continuing on the themes above to the co-drafting of Oma maa’s new vision and action plan. Strengthened once again. Thank you Oxford real farming conference!
Ruby van der Wekken
Omamaan hernefalafelien paras kaveri on krossatut potut
3 – 4 pottua per syöjä
Reilu ripaus suolaa
Persiljaa, rakuunaa tai muuta vihreää yrttiä
Pese perunat (älä kuori!) ja paahda ne kokonaisina uunissa, noin 40 min, 225 °C.
Anna jäähtyä hetki ja krossaa eli murskaa perunat joko lusikalla tai puhtain käsin rouheaksi murskaksi.
Kasaa krossattu pottu annokseksi leivinpaperin päälle, ripottele päälle suoraa, öljyä ja vihreää yrttiä.
Paahda uunissa ylätasolla noin 4 min kunnes perunat saavat rapean värin.
Oma maa 2020 satokausi self evaluation & feedback
Kekri on-line session 31.10.2020 (summary report)
Introduction : The session held is to be seen as part of a process. A next moment in this process will be the Coop day held in January 2021, during which there will be the presentation of Oma maa 2021 farming plan, as well as the drafts of Oma maa’s 2021 action plan & budget. Then too there will be the opportunity for comments, feedback and questions. The actual approval of the 2021 Oma maa Action plan & Budget will follow during the 2021 Annual Meeting, held around April.
During the Kekri on-line session attended by the farm crew and several food and board members, the farm told of its own self evaluation, as also put forward in the end a proposal for a “Oma maa Rapid Response network” to be formed in order to deal with the needs of next years peak season (see point 7). During the time for commenting and question we mainly talked about community building and learning (see point 8)
During the session we addressed :
1.The problems in the past that we wanted to address better this year
2. The year 2020 and what “the Corona effect” meant for Oma maa
3. What we were able to do this season
4. Our Seed sovereignty
5. Our foodbags
7. (Other) Development needs & a Proposal for an Oma maa Rapid Response network
8. Community supported Agriculture, Community building & Learning!
1.This year we wanted to address better the following problems of the past :
A. A better covering irrigation system
B. Improved capacity to deal with weeding
C. A more permanent ground cover
In order to be earlier, and
– Enlarge the amount of fruit trees and berry bushes
– Enlarge the amount of peltovilejly & to diversify the farming
-> Enlarge our Polyculture
And to Increase our seed sovereignty
2. 2020 and “the Corona effect”
This spring we saw an increase in food bag orders, and thus resources. Also more people found their way to the farm, with some of them putting up tents and staying for longer periods. On the other hand, of course activities like our farm dining and community building at large, became more challenging.
3. What we then were able to do this season :
A. Extend our irrigation system
We put up an irrigation system taking in water from Tuusula lake, via an inbetween laying pond, and extending over different areas in the farm. However, the setting up of the system was delayed due to different problems (among other with the processing of our ordering from a small company), so therefore the system was not set up in time. So for instance for our red beet, fava beans, and onions the watering system came a bit too late.
But since we now have the core elements in place, we can put the system up earlier next year, as well as then see for any necessary enlargements.
This then facilitated that
– we were able to plant more fruit trees, berry bushes, pumpkins
– the plants were more alive in the greenhouses (there were water supplying lines running to the greenhouse previously, however, as we had no water filter on it, the pipes running through the greenhouse had gotten clogged)
– The plants fared better on the fields
Also, we planted a part of our root veggies in the autumn, so they got moisture in the spring.
B. To be on top of weeding needs, we put more attention to the seedling pre-growing, and developed our own compost for that.
The weeding need is the most acute when seedlings are small. So if we grow our seedlings bigger in our nursery before planting them, we are making sure we are not challenged by weeding needs we can not live up to.
We for the first time made biochar. However, the biochar pieces should have been smaller. The parts were too large, making the char not always compatible with the planting machine. But this was our first year of biochar making, and we learned.
We also improved and enlarged our tunnel spaces to host more seedlings.
We tried for the first time a soil blocker machine, making soil blocks. It resulted in the moisture level of the blocks being better. A problem with the cups was that they dried out a lot (See also this blogpost “Our land, our soil”).
We then this year also got a second leg for our planting machine. This enabled us to renew the strawberries at a good pace. Beans, fava beans and onions were also able to be planted with the planting machine. We however did have problems with fitting the size of the blocks to the planting machine, this is to be improved for next year.
All in all, there are different things to improve with regards to our seedlings for next year, we should also yet again try to be earlier next year .., however :
-> We were able to grow more seedlings
-> Due to the infrastructure improvements, the circulation and spacing, the timing of different plantings will be better in the future.
So for instance our tomatoes in the new tunnel got a disease, but also, since we got the tunnel late (the tunnel was bought when Corona gave us a rise in bag orders..) we were also then late with the tomatoes. At the moment however a nice amount of those tomatoes has been ripping in ranankouko, and is being dried to make sun dried tomatoes!
On Kaukon tila, the weeding remained a larger problem and needs to be improved. However also there, the weeding fared better than previous year.
C. We increased our ground cover
but also here there is still room for improvement.
Peltoviljely / The farming on the fields : Oma maa had two interns with this summer, Ahmed and Jutta, who were able to be alongside Jukka on the tractors. This meant we were able to enlarge the farming part more, and in its totality the harvest has been larger and more diverse than last year.
There is however no grand harvest to be expected of anything, as there was considerable drought in the beginning of summer (and as such the customary cooperation with other local small farms from which a part of our grains come will continue also throughout the next year).
Even if no grand harvest, If thinking of things in terms of carbon sequestration and nutrients : All that wanted to be put into each land part (lohko) was planted, so we can be concluding that on the whole carbon sequestration was improved with regards to previous years. In every lohko, a minimum of two, up to six varieties were planted!
4. Our Seed Sovereignty, we worked (a lot )more on that this year. We also got some new varieties that now have only a smaller yield, but of which we are saving the seeds in order to get more harvest every year.
These include :
- Garbanzo beans
5. Our Food bags
Our foodbags have felt to have been ongoing in 2020 in a stable, continuous, fashion.
It was nice we could this year also hand out again our own Rypsy oil. Due to corona our mill was closed for several weeks, and we during that time had to mill all we could in our own small mill, making it impossible to for instance grind seitanjauho to get seitan pasta into the bags. But still, we were able to keep the bags going also for that period.
Our Greenhouse bag saw a good start, but we would not have been able to keep it up neither larger nor longer. There would not have been enough for more people, so in that sense it was not anyway from the normal food bag orders. This was a learning for our first greenhouse bag season from which to learn and draw up improved plans for next year.
From the food bag perspective, we are going into winter with more roots than last year, and also our pumpkins did well and are still within the foodbags.
6. Farm dining
We had to stop our farm dining dinners with the onset of Corona. Currently we are holding farm dining dinners for small groups of people, but unfortunately it is then not really possible to hold larger and more community building intended membership dinners in that manner. We would like to develop more possibilities to hold farm dining on the farm in the nearby future.
7. Things that happened outside of core workings, but which were important from an ecosystem point of thinking, as well as income.
We carried out different kind of works, and engaged in different processes :
- A number of environmental works : cleaning of lake Tuusula taking our water plants anf fish for our compost, maintenance around the local associatively governed swamp,
- Youth Climate camp
- International Agricultural camp (received funding, hopefully we can hold next year)
- Starting up “hands on” courses development with university
- Different lectures and interviews were given by producer members
8. Development needs :
Our challenges are linked to the transparency of activities at the farm. How to continuously follow what is happening and stay on top of things in each area?
We have identified that we need to:
- Make and create a clear division of the responsibilities of each area of work also outside of “office hours. (E.g. how to be keeping an eye on things, are the windows closed at night in the greenhouse, how is the temperature?, etc.)
- Be able to deal better with the peaks of season (E.g. ripe strawberries, dry hay, etc).
These peaks are very weather dependent, so there can be rather unpredictable fast arising needs on particular days for people to be there.
In spring time we were able to be systematic in managing work and we had also weekend shifts in place, but in the busy growth season, summer, that did not work well anymore.
PROPOSAL to improve our capacity to deal with the peaks of summer season : a ‘rapid response network’
Members could already before summer chart on our excel sheet which weeks/days in summer they could be available “on call”. Regardless of whether or not the call to come to the farm is put out, it would give us at any time an increased capacity to see who is available to come out, so that we can react to ripe strawberries, to the ready hay bales etc.
This takes a step further what we have already put increasingly into practice this year – to move away from the conceptualisation of talkoot as being something that a separate invitation is meant to go out for, to an continuously open invitation to come to co-work on the farm. In this manner we also promote more compatibility with the needs on the farm and the plans of people.
9. Community supported Agriculture, Community building and learning
On the farm we have already identified two aspects we want to improve on for next year
- To keep up regular discussion moments together with all people working at the farm, during which there is a focus on how everybody and everything is going. These discussions are to be organised on a regular basis, even during the peak seasons.
- To create time to celebrate finalised achievements.
During the meeting, in particular the aspect of ‘How do we learn at Oma maa?’ gave rise to interesting discussions, and also brought to the forefront this being a two way street : One issue is how Oma maa can facilitate learning, but the other side of the coin is what is a person’s capacity to learn in a given situation.
As to how can Oma maa facilitate learning, we discussed that increasingly besides our main farmer Jukka also farm crew members can and should be passing on knowledge. We also discussed the possibility of making lecture type video recordings to both make and watch whenever suitable. We will be further developing our answer to this question.
As to a person’s capacity to learn in a given situation, it was brought to the forefront that the asking of questions is an important tool to use. Also, understanding needs to be developed that in most cases it is not possible to have a substantial learning process if not coming out to the farm on a regular basis. Learning importantly happens at Oma maa from doing and from whilst doing being able to increasingly able to connect the dots. This then can be supported by reading useful material as well as the asking of questions.
Thank you to everyone who participated!
This year we wanted to come to host more honeybee pollinators on the farm’s fields and start up honey production. Oma maa friend Jean Poignot had some first experiences with his own beehive, and offered to put his skills and knowledge he gained so far to the use of Oma maa, with the aim to also start up a participatory process to learn around bees and beekeeping together.
Thirty four Oma maa coop members signed up to support this process, and put together the money needed to make the initial investments. And whilst due to different factors we could not make this first year a very participatory process, over the last two weekends a little group of us extracted this years honey – Kiitos besides Jean also Minna, Tuula ja Emmi!
During the extraction we removed the cappings of beeswax on the honey holding cells in the frames. The frames were then placed in an extractor, which spins them so that most of the honey gets removed by centrifugal force.
We also looked back over the process, which started in May 2020, with the purchase of two swarms of bees, 40.000 bees each. Jean explained a bit more on the basics. The beehive, the house of the bees, has a floor, a body and a roof. The body of the beehive is a wooden box, with 10 frames in it. The bees will use the frames to make their honey in hexagonal prismatic structured cells made of beeswax, which are called honeycombs. Once there is honey in them, the bees will be capping the cells with wax for storage. As the season goes by, boxes are added as frames get full of honey. In our process, Jean set out a total of six boxes.
Regularly checks will happen as to how the bees are working, which depends on factors as weather and the presence of flowers. Finland has a short season, but just like farmers, bees will make the most of it, and in summer be flying up to 20hours a day!
As busy as a bee – as busy as a farmer!:)
As we talked about, it was very dry in the beginning of this summer, which will have affected the flying around of the bees. Then followed quite some rain – and bees do not work when it rains. In the beginning of August it was harvesting time, meaning that Jean collected the boxes. As he stressed, he took what the bees do not need over winter. Two boxes were left for the bees. Jean then fed the bees with liquid sugar, and also gave them treatment to avoid disease, which could make for loss up to 50% of the colony. By the end of September the bees were asleep. Under 12 degrees they will not move anymore. Instead, they will be keeping eachother warm at a temperature of about 35C, untill about the month of April (pending the outside temperature).
The raw honey we extracted during the last two weekends will be standing for at least two weeks, after these two weeks, we can bottle our honey! We have collected approximately a small 60kg of honey. As Jean commented – our raw honey is not being transformed. We can however be sure of the fact that up to 90% of honey in supermarkets is modified with water and sugar.
Besides fluid honey we also collected honey combs with a more cristalised honey on it. A wonderful produce to chew on we will also be giving out!
We also already talked about next year. As we have already discussed previously, for this first year , the cost per participating member has been 50 euros (with each member set to receive some 1-2 kg of honey). For year 2 and year 3 then, the cost per member will be 30 euros (and each member would receive again 1-2 kg of honey). The cost for a newly joining participants would again be 50 euros during their first year, since more participants means also again more of everything.
But importantly also, we would want to set firmer grounds to the participatory mutual learning angle of this process during the next season. The proposal is to get together already during winter, forinstance in January. The frames are then to be cleaned as also rebuilt, using the wax we collected this year. Following that we can have a learning session with Jean, during which we would go over the proceedings that will need to be carried out in preparation and during next season, and form a team around that. A next invitation for that will still follow.
Thanking Jean and ofcourse the honeybees! Up with honeybees@omamaa!
t. Ruby & co.