One of the main features that attracted me to DIS was the immersive learning approach incorporating travel. On my class’s short study trip to Bornholm, we admired the scenery along the rocky coast, met actors working across the food system, ate lots of delicious and beautiful vegetarian food, and saw sustainability play in real life. I identified some of the common threads in these six things I learned in Bornholm:
Lesson 1: Follow your passion and persevere
Many of the speakers we met were first-generation farmers who left a more “conventional” way of life in the city and/or a career. Because they were so focused and determined to achieve their dream – whether it was to run a biodynamic hemp farm or a kombucha business – they are still standing tall and continuing to innovate.
The first time we heard this lesson was at Hostet (“harvested”), Denmark’s first organic sea buckthorn plantation. Co-owner Mads Meisner said if you can perform at your best and believe in yourself, then you should. Otherwise, you would be wasting your time and resources on other activities. Or, as my homeroom teacher would say, the fact that you dare to do something might inspire others to make a change themselves.
Lesson 2: Keep your nose in the dirt and put your fingers in the ground
My classmate Shannon and I dropped by the historic grocery store Svanke Kobmandshandel to try the licorice sticks and ended up chatting with the friendly owner, Susanne. She believed that people are too disconnected from the land and one of the best things you can do is start growing your own food. She also mentioned that it’s kind of silly how hyped probiotics and gut health are when our grandmothers have been fermenting foods forever. It’s been a while so I can’t remember all the details, but I remember reading Wendell Berry on the ferry ride to Bornholm and being surprised to hear Susanne preaching the same values in person.
Lesson 3: Your body is a garden
Along the same lines, here are some practical tips from Malene Rossil, registered nurse and founder of Nordic Fermentation (website, instagram). Basically, she means that we should eat a variety of foods to take care of our bodies. Just as a thriving garden should be planted with all kinds of flowers, vegetables, and trees, we and our microbiomes benefit from a diverse diet.
Lesson 4: The power of networking and organization
Bornholm is a small island with big ambitions for renewable energy and its biological resources (LAG Bornholm) . A few of our speakers have said that being an island makes it easier to organize and network. Below, you’ll see how various groups create a narrative or label that makes Bornholm so strong, according to one of our speakers.
- Through its museum and its house of food culture, Garden preserves the past and promotes the future of Bornholm agriculture through education. They also have a store or “the pantry” showcasing the wares of Gourmet Bornholm from teas, sweets, gin, juices, etc., so you can continue the Bornholm experience at home.
- Gourmet Bornholm also helps produce the free magazine Crazy & Mennesker (“Food & People”) showcasing all things culinary happening in Bornholm.
- Økobornholm helps young (organic) farmers get started by providing land, tools and access to other shared resources.
- Finally, the cooperative FoodBornholm encourages farmers to grow plant-based proteins that have a much lower carbon footprint than meat.
I noticed we saw some of the same items like Høstet marmalade and Bornholmerhampen tea blends on shelves across the island and notably, at comparable prices. Malene also spoke about his relationship with Høstet who provides the torn up leaves for its tea, and Høstet’s farm shop offers local honey and other Bornholm beauty brands. As a first time visitor, I was able to clearly see the food history of Bornholm and how this network benefits small business owners and the environment they manage.
Lesson 5: You don’t have to be against something to be for something
Our speakers all had some sort of sustainability agenda, but none of them demonized meat eaters or conventional farmers. Instead, they recognized that it’s hard to change your mindset and choose to lead by example. At Hammersly Farm (website), part of Økobornholm, the farmer we met said that if you work for something, then you can go on much longer.
Lesson 6: Food is too cheap
Many of the speakers we met shared a common sentiment: the current price of food does not reflect the labor and environmental impacts associated with it. Admittedly, this is a complex and personal issue, especially with rising inflation and the developing energy crisis. Some of the practices Bornholm producers use to help justify the higher price of their products are 1) attaching a personal story to the product and 2) creating value-added products. In the future, we may need a carbon tax, to redistribute subsidies, revitalize cooking and food culture, or a combination of the three so the environment and marginalized farm workers don’t pay the price. by themselves.
Phew, that was long, but I wanted to share what I managed to learn in three exciting days on beautiful Bornholm. Thanks for staying with me!
Written while sipping hemp and turmeric tea.