West Nordic local food cooperation
Local food efforts in Norway are a success, and great political will is an important reason. To become even better, we can lift our eyes and find inspiration and knowledge from other countries. This is precisely what the project “Strengthening the bioeconomy in the NORA region” is about.
The website nordiclocalfood.com has been developed by the project to inspire local food producers from the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland and Norway. The Icelandic Matis has been the project manager.
“Every year, new local food producers appear and a key task for us is to provide both new and existing producers the opportunity to acquire the knowledge and expertise they need, by means of courses, visits and by participation in the network,” says Stine Alm Hersleth in Nofima.
She is project manager for the Competence network for local food, Region East Norway, and Norway’s representative in the West Nordic local food cooperation.
Fish, sheep and fermentation
To sum up the knowledge and expertise, the project participants gathered at iNOVA in Torshavn on the Faroe Islands. The harsh conditions on these islands make a poor growth basis for vegetables and grains. Most local food producers use fish and sheep for their local food products, but there are exceptions. Tari has developed products from Faroese seaweed, and Gomagott produces chocolate with herbs from the islands.
Fish represents about 90 per cent of the export income. However, the islands have got a name and coat of arms from the sheep. There are about 70,000 sheep on the islands, and they resemble the Old Norwegian Short Tail Landrace. Both fish and sheep are important parts of the Faroese kitchen, and traditionally, cod and sheep are hung for air drying in a hjallur, which is a Faroese wooden shed with airflow. The islands’ weather ensures a bacteria flora that enables spontaneous fermentation of the meat, and adds to it a unique taste. Scientists are about to find out just which bacteria and other micro-organisms are to be found in the Faroese air, so that the old traditional handicrafts also satisfy today’s specifications regarding food safety.
Tool box for food entrepreneurs
“The public focus on local food is stronger and more offensive in Norway than in Iceland and the Faroe Islands. At the same time, they can be a source of inspiration to us. From, for example, Iceland’s investments in packaging design and how Torshavn facilitates and supports all type of entrepreneurship,” notes Stine Alm Hersleth.
She has contributed with expertise from the Norwegian model in the development of a toolbox at nordiclocalfood.com. The goal of the toolbox is to make it simpler for producers to:
– structure their own work
– find out what knowledge and help they need
– set realistic goals and create development plans
– and not least, find inspiration.
The inspiration is first and foremost to be found in the stories of selected local food producers. Examples from Norway are goat meat from Heidrun and the cheese from Stavanger Ysteri.
Chocolate with a taste of the Faroe Islands
Gomagott, with founder and chocolatier Kristin Hammer, is located in the middle of Torshavn, where the products are produced, sold and eaten. From here, she sells increasingly more chocolate. So much that she now employs five people.
Initially, Kristin Hammer hired herself in to Hugskotid. This is Torshavn’s StartUpLab, something like Idémakeri. Here, General Manager Jonhild Rasmussen offers assistance to anyone who plans to start or has started their own business, regardless of the industry.
“We do our best to stimulate entrepreneurship in Torshavn, and the number of entrepreneurs increases. Because even though unemployment is low on the Faroe Islands, those who wish for somewhat untraditional jobs must create these jobs themselves. We help with affordable premises, advice and networks, and we see that our contribution results in more people succeeding,” says Jonhild Rasmussen.
Support for tough weekdays
How Hugskotid is organised and functions inspires and provides ideas for the further development of local food efforts, including across national borders. Here entrepreneurs are encouraged to work together and share knowledge. They receive help and support, and are pushed to be a little tougher than they feel they are. And a similarity that all the local food producers have in the North Atlantic areas (NORA region) is that they often must be a little tougher than they feel they are to succeed.
“It’s tough to be a small food producers no matter if it is on Iceland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands or in Norway. It is often a lonely job and all the usual roles of a traditional business must be filled. Nor is it always easy to find good assistants when you are new as a food producer. Those who are active in the network of good supporters and competence communities, and have a high level of contact with other local food producers, are often the most successful,” says Stine Alm Hersleth.
She hopes this Nordic cooperation project will contribute to increasing knowledge about where there is help or how to find a local contact person. Then, perhaps, the path for the individual may be easier.
“We see that local food efforts create new jobs and that there is value creation, especially in the districts. To succeed, good guidance and competence raising is necessary, and in this way cooperation is also important across national borders,” says Jon Georg Dale, the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food.