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