Birkkala Farm from Salo growing organic spelt, won the Organic Farm of the Year Award

 

Birkkala Farm, situated in Suomusjärvi in Salo, won the Organic Farm of the Year Award presented by the Finnish Organic Association on November 3. Approximately a million kilos of spelt is handled on the farm yearly. In addition to the ten spelt products, new products made of the spelt husk and supported by the Leader project Ykkösakseli, will be developed next: spellettes, fodder and bedding materials.

Organic spelt has been grown on Birkkala Farm since the 1990s. As the production volume grew, the quantity of husks became so great that the people on the farm started to think how the husks, instead of throwing them to waste, could be utilised.

The Leader project Ykkösakseli granted 20,000 € in the spring of 2020 to the conversion of the husks into various products. Now, as the harvesting is done, people on the farm will concentrate in making something new.

The meaning is to develop new products like fodder, bedding materials and spellettes, i.e. pellets made of spelt, during the winter, says Simo Larmo, who together with his spouse Riina Larmo, runs the farm.

The husk of the spelt contains a lot of fibre, and that is why the Larmos think it will be suitable as fodder after it has been processed somewhat. In addition to husks the fodder contains pea flour, which will increase the protein content. In a couple of months, the animals will have the first taste of the new fodder.

– When the production of the husk products is started, one more person is going to be employed on the farm. So, this new investment is going to have a positive effect on the employment situation as well, Simo Larmo says.

At the moment the farm employs three people in addition to the entrepreneurs.

The husks of the Birkkala Farm spelt are going to be refined to fodder and bedding materials during the winter.
Spellette is a new Birkkala Farm product, which can be used in heating in the similar manner to wood pellets.

30 years – 10 products

Birkkala Farm has grown spelt for almost 30 years. The production was started by Simo Larmo’s parents Jaakko and Pirkko Larmo.

– They were among the first to start growing spelt in Finland. I remember from my childhood how people wondered what’s the use of growing spelt when we already have Sunnuntaiflour in Finland. Nowadays, one can find a long line of different flours on the shop shelves, but then it was something new, Simo Larmo explains.

Spelt is not gluten-free, but it is suitable for people who get abdominal symptoms from cereal products for other reasons. Spelt contains less FODMAP carbohydrates that cause some people abdominal bloating or pain than other cereals.

At the moment there are 229 hectares being cultivated, but as the crop rotation in organic farming is very long, spelt is grown in only 100 hectares yearly.

– We also buy raw materials, so we deal with approximately a million kilos of spelt a year, Simo Larmo says.

Simo Larmo’s mother has developed 500 spelt recipes, and now Riina Larmo continues her work in the recipe development. Birkkala Farm produces, among others, spelt flour, spelt flakes and spelt pasta. At the moment there are ten different products in the assortment, which are delivered to retail shops, restaurants, bakeries and industry. Export is performing well too. Birkkala Farm exports spelt products to Israel, the UK, Russia and Norway to mention a few.

– Spelt is much bigger in other countries compared to Finland. It is the most popular in Germany and its the neighbouring countries, the Larmos explain.

Simo and Riina Larmo took over the farm six years ago. The recipe book of Simo’s mother is in daily use in the Larmo kitchen. The cover of the book features a picture of the farm’s main building.

The sixth generation growing by the power of spelt

Birkkala Farm was mentioned in the annals for the first time in the 16th century, but the Larmo family got possession of the farm in the 19th century. Simo Larmo represents the fifth generation on the farm and his children the sixth. Spelt is an enjoyable ingredient at the dinner table of a family with children as it contains a lot of fibre and proteins and also zinc, phosphorus and vitamin B1.

Spelt flour can actually replace wheat flour in all recipes. Spelt pasta is especially appreciated in families with children as it cooks in only three to four minutes. Pearled spelt can be used as rice in making food.

– Many people praise the taste of spelt. We still have a stone mill that gives our spelt flour a taste of its own compared to the industrially milled spelt flours. Bakers using sourdough starters say that our flour always starts to process well, Simo Larmo says.

Riina Larmo advises that when you buy spelt flour, you should always buy both the white spelt flour and the wholemeal semi-fine spelt flour.

– When I made my first blueberry pie of spelt flour, it turned out hard as stone, as I used only the wholemeal flour. The best way to succeed is to mix the different flours, she advises.

For example, when making a pizza dough, use half and half of wholemeal and white spelt flour. You will get a tasty dough with good viscosity.

Birkkala Farm was founded already in the 19th century. The new stone mill was built with the support of Leader project Ykkösakseli in 2018, and now new products are being developed also with the support of Ykkösakseli.

 

Text: Janica Vilen

Translation: Sirkku Viitanen-Vanamo

Riistapaja in Mynämäki helps to thin out the white-tailed deer population

 

The white-tailed deer was introduced in Finland in the 1930s. Nowadays the growing deer populations in the southwestern Finland have given a lot of trouble in the region. There are over 100,000 deer, and in some areas, fields need to be fenced in and collisions with deer are becoming more and more frequent numbering in thousands a year. A couple from Mynämäki came up with an idea to increase the demand for deer meat.

Hunting season has started again, which means that at Riistapaja in Mynämäki, deer carcasses are flayed into the night. The company founded by Ville and Saara Kalluinen a year ago has found clientele from near and far, because similar game inspection facilities cannot be found in the vicinity.

The business idea was that the hunters can bring their kills to Riistapaja where a veterinarian inspects and stamps the carcasses. Today, for example, the food processing industry, commercial kitchens and shops as well as most of the restaurants only buy meat inspected by a veterinarian.

– When deer populations grew to be enormous also the number of hunting licenses was increased to keep the population in check. Many hunters, however, kill only one deer as it fills one’s own freezer. The sale of deer meat has previously been so difficult that the hunters have not felt motivated to kill more than one can eat oneself, the longterm hunter Ville Kalluinen, who is involved in Riistapaja business, explains.

In the picture, the room and equipment of the veterinarian. The stamp is locked away in a cupboard the code of which is only known to the veterinarian.

Riistapaja can act as the middleman between the hunter and the buyer, but Riistapaja buys and sells meat as well. Ville flays the animals and cuts the meat, Saara in turn, is responsible for the marketing operations.

– Last year we sold a lot of deer as carcasses, but nowadays buyers prefer cut pieces, like fillets. If we only sell the fillets, we can make sausages of the leftover cut meat. We cooperate with companies like Perniön Liha and Auran Palvituote. In our assortment we have, for example, sausages, sausages made with groats, and cured meat, Saara Kalluinen says.

The deer population in Mynämäki is big, but the population in Loimaa region is even bigger. The biggest part of Riistapaja’s customers come from the Finland Proper region and Satakunta, but every now and then, game is brought in from Pirkanmaa and Uusimaa. In addition to dealing with deer, Riistapaja deals with elk and roe deer.

Only first-rate products

Ville Kalluinen flays the game and makes the first inspection before the vet arrives. In the picture, the fawn to the farthest left looks so red that the vet will not give a stamp. Beside the carcass of the fawn, there are deer carcasses where the blood has been let properly.

The restaurants have been satisfied with the quality of meat. Riistapaja sells only first-rate products. If there is even a slightest risk of the meat being off specification, it is not sold. For example, Riistapaja does not accept collision animals at all, because experience has shown that the meat of collision animals is contaminated without exception. Even though the animal might look perfectly all right from the outside, the entrails have often been broken.

– The highest quality is acquired when a skilled hunter shoots a clean shot to the lung of the animal, then the animal dies quickly and the blood flows from the muscles to the lungs, Ville Kalluinen explains.

Many customers want to buy the meat directly from Riistapaja, as without middlemen the price-quality quota is better. To the day only the restaurants from the neighbouring communities have ordered game, but recently some sample batches have been sent to Helsinki too.

From onion storage to abattoir

Leader Ravakka via Satakunta EDTE Centre rural development fund subsidised the building of Riistapaja.

Riistapaja was founded as a part of the Kalluinen farm. Handling game was easy to incorporate to the functions of the farm, grain growing and hennery, as the hunting season usually starts when harvesting is done.

The facilities of Riistapaja were built into the old onion storage. Leader Ravakka subsidised the investment costs, and the facilities were built at once according to the directives of Finnish Food Authority.

The building was finished in October 2019, so we have been in operation for a year or so, the couple Kalluinen says.

Deer meat is a wonderful cooking ingredient

The deer sausages were popular among customers last summer. When the sausage orders from the restaurants could not be delivered due to COVID-19, the locals bought the whole Riistapaja sausage stock.

The meat eaten in the Kalluinen family is predominantly game. Game is used even in the most common dishes like meat and macaroni, meat sauces and stews.

– Now we have learnt new recipes, for example, smoked topside roast and salted deer. The salted deer was so tasty that Ville hardly recognised the meat as deer at all, Saara laughs.

– For the past 40 years I have eaten mainly elk and deer meat for meat, so I might have had my fill, Ville clarifies.

Deer meat is tender and contains a lot of minerals and microelements of nutrients. It has, for example, less fat than pork and it is more environmentally friendly.

Ville and Saara Kalluinen, natives of Mynämäki, started their farm in 2012. The whole family hunted for a hobby. Even the children in the family recognise the different footprints of animals in the woods.

 

Text: Janica Vilen

Translation: Sirkku Viitanen-Vanamo