Tag Archives: ecological living

We want local food – but what is it?

Where do you come from, broiler?

Local food is a big thing in Finland these days. It’s truly in fashion, at least the trendy people of Helsinki constantly talk about how they want their food local.

New (expensive) stores selling local products pop-up all around the city. Like this one, Anton&Anton in Töölö.

Of course, the elder generations know better and have been consuming local food all their lives – without making a fuss about it. Still, I think this one is a good trend – as long as it doesn’t make the prices go up too much. And there is another major problem: nobody really knows what actually is local food?

This weekend I’m visiting my parents in Tampere and yesterday the local newspaper Aamulehti published an opinion about local food, which will surely provoke debate.

A guy called Visa Merikoski, the director of MTK Pirkanma, the local division of Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners, claimed that soon even broiler from Brazil will be considered as local product, if the current trend continues.

He says that yes, local food interests the consumers a lot, and this is way so many supermarket chains are now thinking hard how to take the advantage of the trend. They sell images and when it comes to local food, the tendency is to lie – just a little bit.

Why? Because “at its worst” Polish wheat, Danish pork or Brazilian chicken might end up being local food as in most supermarkets one can already find products, whose origins are not announced correctly.

As consumers prefer local food, it seems logical that the main reason for hiding the origins is that they are not from near here… not even from Finland. In the end, the consumer believes he/she’s buying something he isn’t. This could be called cheating, or at least hiding the truth.

The thing is that everyone has the right to define local food from their own point of view. The consumers think that only small-scale production means local and they hate the idea of industrial production. Some connect local food to organic food.

The food production industry thinks that what counts is where the food is made, not from where the ingredients come from.

Then there are the farmers, who want ingredients that arrive from as near as possible – at least from inside Finland.

And the food production workers think that domestic work is very important.

One might guess that all these different ideas cause a mess when it comes to marketing local food.

(Finnish?) rye bread

For example, Mr. Visa tells that in one local supermarket they don’t tell the origins of a pork product, whose name refers to something 100% local (the product in this case was Tapolan ylikypsä kinkku). Probably it had been made right here in Tampere, but not telling it makes one suspicious… naturally.

So why don’t the producers tell the facts, when the information would attract more consumers??

One might also find bread – on the shelf reserved for local food – whose wheat has travelled a long way. The bakers tend to explain that domestic wheat is not always available, so they cannot commit to using it. This is not true: one can always get domestic wheat, it just might not be as cheap as the foreign ones.

In brief, every Finn has encountered products that carry a Finnish flag or other symbol referring to it being national, even if the product might be something totally different.

Does this mean it’s Finnish – really?

If we don’t talk about this openly, the same tendency will continue – and someday we won’t have any means to know from where our bread, salad, fruit, meat, fish or chocolate comes from. No thanks, we have the right to know – and to be able to choose.

Everyone (the politicians, media and food producers) know well what’s going on – so please do something about it!

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Flea markets make you happy. Why?

You can find kirpputoris’ (flea market, also literally) all over Helsinki. There are tiny ones put up among friends in someone’s livingroom and huge ones organised in old warehouses and such.  There are the daily self-service ones and the ones that attract hundreds of people to sell their extra stuff in a big hall early in the morning.

Valtterin kirpputori is such a place. A couple of times I’ve been selling there with my friend. We woke up at six, packed our sandwiches with all the stuff we hoped to sell and joined the crowd. Valtteri takes place mostly in weekends in an old warehouse in the neighbourhood of Vallila. The atmosphere is special.

I love kirpputoris. Why?

  • For me, kirpputori brings out a special solidarity among people. We are all there, together exchanging: one’s trash is another one’s treasure.
  • Buying gets personal. You chat with the person from who you are buying a thing and hear the history of the item. Today I bought a blouser and found out that the owner had bought it from Paris and it’s been dear to her. Nice.
  • It’s ecological, so you feel better buying, or “giving a new life to an item”.
  • You save money and find things and cool clothes that you never would at H&M etc. Kirpputoris’ got popular in Finland during the recession in 1990s. Today my boyfriend bought 11 good CDs for 6 euros.
  • All kinds of people go there: snobbish ladies and poor students, immigrants and even children (with a little help for the parents.)
  • It feels so good to get rid of things! I just packed 3 big sacks of clothes for kirpputori. And it’s a special feeling to meet the person who will be the next happy owner of your jeans, book, toaster, mug…
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