The following text was written to support the reader in getting a comprehensive overview of the process Oma Maa is, its vision, mission and objectives, and thus what to expect and how to contextualise things when you join the coop’s activities by ordering a foodbag or otherwise become involved. It’s a long read! But we hope it helps to understand things more…
Towards flourishing life
Oma maa wants to work towards a world where people live within planetary boundaries by building together a sustainable, meaningful future in which, in addition to humans, the entire spectrum of species flourishes.
(Oma maa’s vision, Plan of Action 2021-2025)
Osuuskunta Tuusula Oma Maa – ‘Our Land’ cooperative – in Tuusula (30km from Helsinki), was founded in 2009 and is building an all-year-round ecological community process around Good Agriculture. Agriculture for Oma maa refers to the caring, cultivation and development of the land to fulfill the community’s needs in food, as well as (in the future) other basic needs such as energy in order to make good, ecological life possible.
Since 2014, the cooperative is working according to community-supported agriculture principles, which means that the coops producer and food members form a network of mutual support, co-working and learning, in which the risks and abundance of the farming season are shared. The coop has several active producing members working daily on the farm (no full salaries yet possible), some 80 active food bag ordering members, some of whom are having central roles in the coop for instance carrying out administrative and distribution tasks. In addition there are also ‘try-out members‘ who after a 3 month period decide whether or not to join the coop.
Oma Maa’s activities are rooted on the Lassila farm (in the Lassila family since 1697) and Kauko farm in Tuusula, with product distribution and activity points reaching out to the cities of Järvenpää and Helsinki. Through its cooperation with both farms, Oma Maa develops and takes care of 80 hectares of land, 30 hectares of forest, 3 ha of gardens and around 1.5 hectares of forest garden. In addition, there are 1.44 hectares of protected land, where the Lassila farm’s three cows graze in summer and fulfill their role as guardians of biodiversity.
Oma Maa’s process around Good Agriculture aims for systemic change in society. Oma maa wants to bring to the forefront that by changing our basic needs systems – meaning by changing the production, distribution, and consumption of our basic needs such as food and energy – we can develop pathways towards more socially, ecologically better, and healthier communities both locally and globally.
Important here is that this systemic change in society is to be rooted in people’s processes around their daily needs and is not to be captured nor left to financial profit-seeking markets, for they will not deliver the desired change. In other words, putting this and the previous together, changing the systems of our basic needs as food and energy can lead to systemic change, if and when these processes are in the hands of people.
Oma Maa’s process around Good Agriculture is guided by a number of values and working principles.
Whilst working together according to the principles of permaculture and polyculture, Oma maa members together as a coop take care of the land of Lassilan and Kauko tila farms in order to increase its vitality : to strengthen its upkeep of biodiversity, which importantly includes also its capacity to offer for its animals (there are three Lapland cows and chickens on the farm), insects and birds a safe place to live and feed; to strengthen its capacity with regards to carbon sequestration, and to strengthen its efficiency with regards to the recycling of nutrients. For example, Oma Maa has a contract with the Tuusula municipality to remove excessive water plants as well as fish from the eutrophic Tuusula lake and feeds this into the compost of the Lassila farm.
Oma Maa’s activities are designed not just to reduce our ecological footprint, but to enlargen our ecological handprint!
And it is through first of all this caring for the land, that Oma Maa then strives towards self-sufficiency and food sovereignty, including importantly self-sufficiency of seeds.
Good Agriculture -> Good Food
Oma maa’s food is a direct expression of Oma maa’s good agriculture, and by ordering the coop’s foodbag you are supporting and enabling Oma maa’s caring for its land – including its animals, i.e. its ecosystem, in its totality and all year around. All this in turn supports importantly our health. We are learning all the time more and more about how our soil’s microbiomes are connected to our gut’s microbiomes, and this in turn to our overall health.
Oma Maa works towards the production of diverse and tasty food which provide for all the nutritious needs of its members. On the lands of Lassila farm and Kauko farm, Oma Maa cultivates grains, raps for oil, and legumes, garden plants such as potatoes, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumber, salad greens, radishes, roots, onions, fava beans, hemp, and corn, as well as strawberries and black currant berries. Cooperation continues to take part regarding grains with local surrounding farmers in Tuusula.
In is food production, Oma Maa wants to contest profit-based notions of what can and can not be grown in Finland, and thus eaten as local produce. The coop has been experimenting with different grains and is developing a food forest, where different fruit, berries, and other perennial garden plants such as pears and plums are grown according to permaculture principles. Oma Maa intends to expand the food forest every year, in order to come to every year yet longer periods of fruits. In our self-built greenhouse (warmed in the winter by bioenergy) and covered tunnels made from a lot of recycled material, we grow seedlings and a variety of different experimental plants such as figs and citrus fruit.
And in this manner Oma Maa wants to enable food sovereignty for up to 200 households. This is the capacity of Our Land. The produced food is distributed to Oma Maa members throughout the year in the form of food bags.
Good Agriculture -> Good Food bags & Farm dining
The food bags contain a lot of seasonal products, but also products that are conserved, refined, and processed by Oma Maa to better suit members’ needs. Such ready-made products include wheat and rye bread, falafel, seitan, and oat yogurt, various fermented and dried produce, and different grains, groats, and flakes.
In addition other items will be made for the bag pending on seasonality. For instance, we have been adding wild herbs and nettle pesto with our hemp seeds to the baggs. Additional items also depend on what produce has been able to be conserved over winter, which is linked to the harvest and to our collective capacity to harvest. This can lead to for instance a fruitroll or a berry cream of wheat being added to the foodbag.
Every month also, the aim is to have the following “dry products” in the bag : 1kg groats (which can use like rice), 1.5kg flakes, 1 kg flour, 500 gr Bulger, 1 kg crushed favabeans (and as soon as our pasta machine is fixed again, also speltpasta). In addition also whole beans and pulses find their way regularly to the bags.
Oma Maa wants to integrate local and traditional methodologies of both efficient and ecological resource use with global practices and tastes and with this process address the issue of what can and should be the food of the future. Through its practices, Oma Maa gives a whole new ring to the sound of what future food actually could really be about.
Oma Maa offers the same foodbag for all and there are solid reasons for doing so. The bag is wanting to promote comprehensive food system change and is thus not to be seen as ‘pick and choose shopping’. The foodbag also wants to holistically address health related issues resulting from our no longer eating of local, organic produce. In addition the bag wants to comprehensively address the carbon footprint as also handprint of food production. Oma Maa’s foodbag is about a change of food culture, challenging the illusion of freedom when buying from a grocery store. Last but not least, our foodbag is also about the democratising of our food production and with this also importantly a democratisation of our work. The latter then relates to for instance how many days in the week anyone of us will be working in our Rannankoukku kitchen, in order for other people not to work in their own kitchens.
With Oma maa foodbags being presently Oma maa’s main income bringing activity, we see an ordering of 100 foodbags per week as our sustainability threshold, enabling daily operations, enabling a strong enough core team on the farm. Currently (January 2022) the coop has some 60 (whole) bag orders (meaning the total sum of every week (whole) and every other week (half) orders counted together). A tight fit posing challenges we as a coop are addressing constantly.
Besides Oma maa foodbags, Oma Maa does also offer and develop its three-course Farm Dining dinners (all ingredients from the farm, and produced by the cooperatives farmers and cooks) in its member and restaurant space in Helsinki on Kaarlenkatu 15, or sometimes on the farm. The dinners are typically accompanied by joint discussions around issues of the cooperative or broader societal issues and are open to members and friends. They have been nice and informative moments to get up to date but also introduce Oma Maa to new friends.
In the future Oma Maa wants to open its Farm Dining to the general public, Also in the future a wish is to hold Farm Dining dinners at the farm. This will require developing the cooking facilities on the farm. A future project is for example the building of an artesanal oven.
Good Agriculture -> Good Community
Co-working, learning and decision making
Oma maa is importantly a community process. Earlier in this writing it has already been brought to the forefront as to how Oma maa sees this as the basis for the ecological and social change it wants to be working towards.
Oma Maa therefore has a continuous open call for members to join in the learning and co-production around all that is done. Besides occasional specific talkoots, or participating in food bag distribution, people can drive along to the farm on any given day to work along with the farmers. The cooperative is also open to members wanting to learn and co-produce on a more permanent basis. So there have been food members staying for a certain period on the farm and bringing in also their skills with regards to for instance food bag content.
Our farms can then be seen as places of learning, with regards to food but also, as Oma Maa has been envisioning, ecological building and energy provisioning. Core starting questions in this process are : What is it we want to do? What are our resources to do so? and What are our skills to realize this? – and to then learn how to do the math with regards to the material costs, financial costs and carbon footprint of anything we make. The goal here is to empower by doing and co-learning. Whilst for such a process to take a more institutional form is of course a longer term process, in different ways Oma Maa coopers are already engaged in such collective and experimental co-learning processes.
Needless to say, besides bringing the ecological and social pedagogical angle of Oma maa’s process to the forefront, everybody’s participation is also important as to in how far Oma maa can be realising its potential, whilst at the same time we collectively as a coop do understand not everybody can be taking part in all of this, nor to the same extent. In any case, how well we manage collectively to be for instance weeding when weeding is really necessary, or harvesting when harvesting really needs to happen, of course matters and affects. It has been also in 2021 fantastic to see how much we can achieve together when up to 15 people come out for a Saturday or Sunday potato harvesting – the power of one can be impressive and often times a driving and inspirational must, but the power of us is ultimately what really will make a difference!
Oma Maa coop has a board, producer members, and food members, and different working groups such as communications, administration, and financial issues, foodbag handout, and talkoot (communal works). The farm has its own daily morning meetings.
The board meets about once a month in meetings all members can attend, whilst the different working groups are organised in different ways, using different tools like whatsapp groups and other media.
An important annual meeting is the presentation and discussion regarding the year’s farming plan, and every year there is also the co-op’s annual meeting. No ecology without democracy – whereas also in Oma Maa coop, the exercising of democracy is a constant process in need of evaluation and development, and importantly will need to entail space and willingness for learning.
The working and learning of Oma Maa does not happen in isolation, but has been happening in cooperation with local farmers and partners such as Eetti, Ehta Raha and other Finnish CSA’s, five of which together in 2019 founded Kumpanuusmaatalous ry, and importantly also as part of a global movement. Over the years a good number of comrades have been visiting us or doing things at Oma Maa’s premises in the city as part of different movement process, such as around solidarity economy building and the commons (mm the RIPESS network, Cooperation Jackson) whilst we also participate in Urgenci’s community supported agriculture european and global network.
Oma Maa’s Good Agriculture is a process
… in a full fledged developmental phase.
When ordering an Oma Maa foodbag, one is ordering importantly a local organic vegan foodbag, which is bound up with its production – with the coop’s capacity to make for a good harvest in summer and to then conserve produce for winter, as well as with the available time and resources to experiment and develop secondary production.
Important is also to look at the bag not from a singular bag perspective, but to look all season long and see along the line the moments of abundance and of the periods when there is less so.
But beyond its foodbags, Oma Maa is a process of people taking (a part of) their food system into their hands and to try to realize the potential for transformation that it can give in different areas. Efforts in this process should be viewed from a short term but importantly also long term perspective, as also from the perspective that a sufficient level of engagement is core to realizing this potential.
A challenge entirely worth pushing for.
Ruby & Oma Maa crew