At the meeting point, a crowd is slowly forming. While the guests arrive, the volunteers carry out a big casserole of pumpkin soup – made from the locally harvested pumpkins from the garden at Gartneriet, just a short walk from the farm. Between chatter and cheers, everyone gets a taste of the rich, orange soup, and when everyone has arrived and all have been served, we divide ourselves into four groups – because Bygdefesten is not just about meeting people and eating a delicious meal – it is also about learning, discovering and getting inspired.
So while some of us head over to Hengsengen, following Linda Jolly for a lesson in biodynamic gardening , compost and soil quality, others join small scale farmer Veslemøy Olavsbråten to meet the cows and learn more about milk. Those who are brave enough to get their hands dirty and their art on go with Amy Francescini from Flatbread Society, and the rest of us wander off with Marianne Leisner to see what will soon be known to all as Gartneriet.
It is a short walk from Bygdø Kongsgård to the place where – in the latter half of the 1800s – an orangery was built on the instructions of King Oscar. Unfortunately the buildings and surroundings have been neglected for years, and in the early 2000s the greenhouses were torn down. But when a small group of people wanted to find the best place in Oslo for a rural farming-center; a place people could access easly, learn more about urban farming, borrow equipments and collect soil, Gartneriet came to life once more.In 2016 it will be ready to open up to the public. A center for urban farmers, with a beautiful garden of newly planted fruit trees, a field of flowers and a small kitchen garden. In the old buildings a café will open – making organic and locally grown food for the guests. It’s easy to vision the place once its finished – and hard to imagine it being anything other than a success.
We are trying not to rush it, but instead be thorough. We want to incorporate sustainability in every element, Marianne explains.
The brick stones are leftovers from Aker brygge, and we are also looking at reusing textiles, she mentions, guiding us around the area, to the garden of fruit trees – where each of the sponsors and organisations behind Gartneriet got their own type of tree. One for each.
Marianne talks about how their goal is to create a place people can come to participate in hands-on knowledge of gardening and farming, listen to talks and lectures, or just for a relaxing sunday trip to a café in green, peaceful surroundings. It is all about inspiring people to make different, more sustainable choices in their everyday lives. At Gartneriet they want to show how the biological cycle works, from season to season, by setting a standard and showing that it is possible.
In our modern society most of us lead our lives far removed from where our food is produced. We easily forget how much time it actually takes to make dinner. It is not just that one hour sweating over the stove – it is several months of preparing the soil, planting the seeds, weeding out the weeds and finally harvesting and preparing the vegetables. When you think about eating according to the season, it might feel constraining – like there is so much food you can not eat. But what eating in season also means is that when you grow your own food, in a small kitchen garden or a bigger field – you actually get the chance to plan for next year. If you want to eat more kale – you plant morw kale. If you want more strawberries, you plant more strawberry plants. The food we eat does not appear magically out of thin air. People decided to grow it. They prepared the soil and put the seed in the earth – then tended to them all through summer.
Just like ØKOUKA did when preparing the dinner for Bygdefesten. The seeds for the vegetables that we are going to eat tonight, was put in the ground in May, and grew over the summer till they were finally ready to be harvested by the chefs. They were here in Gartneriet’s garden harvesting the produce just a few days before our visit. Even after the harvest, there are still lots of vegetables left. Among the kale and the sunflowers a few gigantic pumpkins can be spotted – orange and green and heavy.
When we have finished the guided tour and learned about Gartneriet, the sun sets. As we walk back to Bygdø Kongsgård, in the autumn chill, to find the chefs, led by ”bondelagskokk” and Smalhans-chef Karla Siverts, busy preparing dinner outside the barn. We gather around the burning fires to get some warmth into our bodies, before walking over to the barn, finding some spare seats on one of the long tables.
From good quality soil comes good produce, and with the creative help from knowledgeable chefs the produce turns into wonderful meals, treats for taste buds and eyes alike.
Have a look at the photographs of our evening here.
Words by Hanne Gideonsen
Photographs by Alexander Benjaminsen.