It’s been four years farming, two years selling produce and many more getting hyped about naturally sustainable way of living, but no english content on our website. This post’s purpose is to answer to critical questions about us, our farming practices and the produce – this time in english.
Who are you guys and what is Mainio Puutarha?
Mainio Puutarha is what we call our farm. It translates, well… theres no quite accurate equivalent to Mainio in english, maybe superb or dandy would be close enough. The thing is, Mainio is also an old finnish name for a man, so it has a traditional ring to it as well. Puutarha is simply garden. In our superb garden we produce organic vegetables, mainly tubers, potato, cabbage, salad, beans and such on our one hectare field. It’s just the two of us, Jasmin and me farming. No children, dogs, chickens, sheeps or anything too demanding, as of yet at least. We passionately concentrate on learning to farm, grow vegetables and live on the land.
How did you end up farming and how long have you been doing this?
Now this is tricky. Many have asked how we got into farming and there’s still no proper answer. We met with Jasmin as a students in the capital Helsinki. Me studying IT and Jasmin marketing, we were driven to live sustainable and food was a big part of it. We bumped several times to realization that we could not track the origin of the food let alone know if it was truly for the well being of us or the environment. Somehow the plan to start learning to grow our own food and move further from the city came up and the search for the perfect farm started. On 2014 we finally found the place and with way too much land, I realize now, for the plans back then. Soon the thrive to higher self-sufficiency level grew to a small market garden. We are still on the road with the enlarged home garden patch and with this much fun, I think it will last a long time!
Is your produce truly for the well being of people and environment?
This is a question we do take seriously. From the start it was clear we go organic. Not only for the certificate to inform a consumer about usually more sustainable origin, but because the values organic production comes from matched our own. We wanted to learn a way to produce top quality food without using artificial fertilizers or chemical weed- , pest- or fungikillers of any kind. We believed that with a little help the land will provide us with food unmatched in flavor and nutrients. And boy we were right.
To fertilize we mainly use crop rotation and effective green manure strips where sun, water and billions of micro-organisms do the work for us. Aggressively growing specifically chosen for the task, the green manure plants suppress weeds, protect life in the soil and add nutrients through several mowing and mulching on about a quarter of the space each year. For more demanding plants we use composted horse- or chicken manure from neighbouring farms. All the effort is carefully calculated to add nutrients to a bank in soil, not depleting it or letting it run down to close by river to pollute precious lakes disturbing wildlife.
We actively reduce the seed bank in the soil for unwanted plants also called as weeds. Often the weed supressing effect of green manure strips and tight sowing/transplanting does not eliminate all of these pesky invaders and a big chunk of summer goes to mechanical removing of weeds with assortment of tools. We use many human and tractor powered tools to achieve that but sometimes (actually more often than not) it’s our hands, knees and backs that do the work. Before turning into crazed weeding machine though one must rember that weeds are natures own way to protect bare soil and in that they are actually quite beneficial to small microcosmos of life under the surface. Thus any growth that does not bother the main crop will be left to grow as long as it does not seed. Many native plants commonly treated as weed are also potential homes for beneficial insects like ladybirds and food for pollinators like honeybee.
Sounds good, but does it work?
Being a small scale organic farmer on these times of mass production and supermarkets sounds crazy and I can assure you, it is. I would be lying if I said we knew in the beginning that the easier route would be to grow one vegetable on 5 to 10 hectare area with huge machines and sell it all to wholesale market once or twice a year, but where would be the challenge and fun in that? For us the base of the business is to do this through passion to grow as many diffirent vegetables as much as we can and to as many people we can find. Nothing beats the feeling of meeting the end user (or end eater, if you will) and recieving positive feedback of delicious food made from our produce. But in the end, like in all business, you have to think about economics as well.
There were few preliminary conciderations that encouraged us to start on this route. We both had background in two cruicial aspects of successful business – IT and marketing. I was (and am) self imployed software developer and Jasmin had experience in marketing. Combining these two plus the ability to work from home during the winter gave us opportunity to start from scratch with little investment and approach seldom seen within agriculture. The first year of harvest showed just that, well established company with well… some produce, though high quality, to sell.
Last year the main output of produce was in the REKO ruokapiiri, a community in social media where producers and consumers meet and products are later exchanged on dedicated place (usually a parking lot on some neighbourhood of the city). We also had one day of the week when products orderd beforehand could be colleted from our farm. This worked well for us for two reasons: Dedicated time would free us from other work and we could use the time showing new clients around and chat. Pre-ordered veggies would be harvested on the morning being as fresh as possible while saving rest of the produce to left to grow on the field – no leftovers.
This year we focused on achieving a bigger harvest and that we did! New huge flow of fresh produce anabled us to try new channels and some of them work while some of them work really well. We’ve been to many events mainly on close by rural area with some city events coming. Two grocery stores contacted us and our produce is sold there with varying success. Just now we opened our own webstore with several successful testpackets send on national mail service. All and all many new people have found us and we’re happy to be able to bring our lovingly crafted vegetables to a wider audience.
In the future, I’m sure, we will have more content on english but currently we operate on quite local level to mainly finnish speaking community and sadly going multi language content is way too much work on top of all the seeding, planting, weeding, selling, harvesing and marketing. If you have questions left unanswered we are happy to share. Just contact us by means more suited to you (FB, email, phone,..) and if your organic veggie tooth was left aching I think we have a remedy for that as well 😉