A season at Majvik 1
- General information
ThemeAgroecology, food craft
YearApril – November 2023
LocationMajvik, Sipoo, Finland
PartnersAtte Hermansson, Margarita Hunter
Supported bySipoo Cultural Department
During the 2023 growing season I have been managing a small herd of traditional Finnish cows at Majvik a biodynamic farm in Sipoo, Finland. While the cows were on pasture, I milked them once a day by hand and experimented with making cheese. The goal of this project was to explore an alternative way of managing cows and processing milk which is both based on traditional methods as well as contemporary ideas on animal welfare.
Meat and dairy production and consumption is increasingly under scrutiny, but for most dairy farmers it is difficult to change their practices, both due to financial burdens and a lack of time, but also because a lack of available knowledge and examples of alternative methods. That is why there is a need for small-scale experimentation with alternative food production methods. Similarly, market pressure requires standardization of production, which consequently leads to a loss of unique flavors, recipes and terroir that can be found in locally produced products. Consumers are getting used to a narrow set of products and standardized “easy to like” flavors that are available year-round, while more complex flavors disappear from people’s palettes.
Milking a traditional breed of Finnish cows
There are currently only 450 purebred Eastern Finnish Cattle (Kyyttö) left. The government is trying to maintain the breed through a subsidy program and most commonly Kyyttö nowadays are used for maintaining the landscape. Traditionally however, these cows were also milked. The goal of this project is to see if Kyyttö can be of use for small-scale production, and to help to raise awareness for endangered traditional breeds.
Combining dairy farming with another part-time job
Time is the most precious resource at most farms, milking once a day opens up time for the farmer, but requires a different form of management of the animals that is uncommon for most (dairy) farmers. By trying it out I set out to gain insights into the management challenges and opportunities of once-a-day milking. To make the milking possible, I built a mobile milking unit from wood that was laying around on the farm. Because it needed to be moved a couple of meters every day I did not want to have to rely on a tractor. That is why this milking unit is on wheels.
Letting the calves to grow up with their mothers and as part of the farm ecosystem
As more awareness is being raised about the excesses of the dairy industry, there is a need for more alternative animal management approaches. By letting the calves to grow up with their mother, both have more opportunities to express their natural behavior.
Making cheese based on the seasonal qualities of the milk
Traditionally cheese was mostly made during the summer months to preserve the milk for winter. Because this method of preservation is very laborious and dependent on conditions, it is done very differently around the world. For me, one of the most fun parts of the project was to see which method of cheese making best suited the context I was in. In doing so, I looked at time format and time of year, mold and lactic acid cultures.