I launched my work to revitalize the landscape at Lillklobb back in late 2016. It was to be my first attempt at starting a farm from scratch. With a shoestring budget and the time afforded to me by Finland's "start up grant"- which covers basic income needs of a new entrepreneur- I was able to gain a foothold.
At first I implemented way too many of my own ideas and tried to do too much at once. After one season of that I knew I should go back to basics and copy as close as possible the patterns laid out by successful market gardeners.
I was able to slowly but surely eliminate the weed pressure and build up soil fertility by following in the footsteps of others. I am forever grateful to the many interns who then followed in mine for each growing season. Without their help and dedication the gardens would not be as abundant as they are today.
Over the years I continually updated my sales model to account for lessons learned and the little market garden at Lillklobb has managed to serve customers from our local neighborhood through to diners at some of Helsinki's most prestigous restaurants. Some vegetables have even wound up in the kitchens of embassies in the capital.
All of that effort led to a situation where I was learning an incredible amount, but also growing dissatisfied with the amount of time primary production- as the main means of generating an income- required on a "commuter farm." My plans to develop the whole place into a demonstration site with multiple kinds of patterns at play were moving too slowly.
By late 2019 the work of myself and others in the field more broadly was becoming better known and a joint project with Unga Teatern and Learning in Nature Ltd was initiated: the Theater Forest Garden. Although the coronavirus has slowed down our work, this project will allow the full site to receive the care and attention it deserves.
From the beginning I was never quite sure as to what to call my company and what I was doing. As the years went on, I understood that no one knew about Lillklobb, nor what the word "permaculture" meant. Therefore the name of my company was doubly meaningless to most people.
That's really not a good business strategy. At the same time, I was becoming aware that my prolonged efforts to set up the market gardens as the primary economic engine of my company were overshadowing the actual thing I was attempting to do: demonstrate different ways of interacting with nature to bring about positive outcomes for the whole.
Most people thought of me as "that vegetable guy" (who won't pack baby lettuce into a bag). They had no idea that the vegetable farm was just one part of a bigger picture.
I wasn't telling my story properly. I had been so driven to make things work that I failed to document my own farm as well as I had other projects in the past. A lot of the skills I had brought with me on this journey were falling by the wayside.
These were among the reasons I chose to change the name of my company heading into 2021. Oddly enough, I had always named my company this in my private documents but it never felt right until now to make it public.
With this new name and stronger focus on education, Lillklobb will continue in much the same manner as before. The key difference is the recognition that my actions are as much about my own motivations and interests as much as they are about bringing this once-underused place back to abundance. Lillklobb is an integral part of a greater whole.
Lillklobb is my Field Studio. This is where I am free to pursue what interests me and try to find novel patterns. Lillklobb is a living emodiment of my creativity, an ongoing trial. It is extremely important for me to actually live with and work on the systems I teach about. Without a home base, I'd have to live through other people.
Although it will be increasingly a place of discovery, I remain committed towards ensuring that the systems make sense both intellectually and in the many ways one can interpret yield. The idea isn't innovation for innovations' sake, but rather to pursue potential solutions to problems with small scale market farming and land use in general.
THEATER FOREST GARDEN PROJECT
Way more than a "food forest," the Theater Forest Garden aims to provide the impetus for bringing the other half of Lillklobb to life by opening up ideas related to sustainability, citizen engagement, art, and marginal spaces through collaborative design
Since pitching the concept behind what was then Lillklobb Permaculture to the Culture Department of Espoo back in 2015, the eastern half of Lillklobb has been slated for what I called "public oriented design." There were many reasons for this: upon completion of a thorough site analysis, almost all the signs pointed towards this area of the property not being conducive to the kinds of systems I would need to implement for a commercial farm. Rather than fight against the soil, light availability, and land-use expectations, it made much more sense to work with all of the above. "Public oriented design" means the same thing now as it did then: the systems should support their surroundings and provide a useful example to the public at large.
Development of the yard around the house and the old apple orchard has been slow for a variety of reasons. Besides being planned as a secondary enterprise, working with places that are literally under the nose of other people requires a bit of consideration than just "doing it." As the commercial side has found its stride in recent years, more attention has been turned to this area of the farm year over year. However, it was slow going given the reality of running a high turnover market garden.
My initial ideas were given a new lease on life after a staff member of Unga Teatern participated in the "Introduction to Children in Permaculture" course taught by Gaye Amus of Learning in Nature, Ltd- which I had invited her to host at Lillklobb. By means of a third party the connection between permaculture and theater clicked and soon Unga Teatern was writing an entirely new outdoor performance for their 60th Jubilee year and funding was applied for to weave the two together.
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic has completely altered the project's timeline, but our dedication to designing a one-of-a-kind "Theater Forest Garden" continues. Fortunately, the Culture Department of Espoo was willing to donate wood chips and the Helsinki Region Environmental Services (HSY) donated "green waste" compost made here in Espoo to the project at cost. Besides a lot of labor, these two inputs are the main things one needs to protect and nourish the soil in order to prepare forest garden beds for planting.
See below for the current trajectory. As updates become available I'll make them live here and on social media.