We love hearing success stories about farming, but they don’t come without struggles.
Today we’re talking to Buddha of Los Perros an urban farm in Malmö, Sweden. They’re going into their 5th year farming and have faced a lot of challenges recently. Despite those challenges, they are having success and growing their farm brand. Online sales are a big part of their success. They’re also bottling and selling their own value add products and selling it in their own store/cafe.
How have things been since the last time we talked – you said things were busy on the farm right now? (2:00)
Things are busy on and off the farm. Since we last talked we’ve had to move the farm, and at our new location the city is our landlord, which can be challenging to work with since everything moves so slowly. We do everything by hand and it can be slow as well. We just got water set up so now we are playing catch up.
We were hoping we didn’t have to move, but the city needed to use the land for their next project in order to secure funding. For us, it was difficult to move but thankfully the soil has been fantastic so we’re looking at it positively. We are looking to start by putting things together perfectly. We’ve invested in some more tunnels. There was a period of time where we were watering by hand. It took up to seven months to get the water installed on the property.
We made a post recently describing our water shortage on Instagram and shared how difficult it had been. We think of farming as physically exhausting but it can be mentally exhausting as well. We got such a strong response from so many people offering support it was really uplifting. It makes us so happy to be part of this worldwide community of support.
You and your partner Sofia were going through this hardship together, how do you prop each other up when you’re both going through the same thing? (11:00)
We haven’t talked about it much before, but we realized recently that the other one is up when one of us is down which is so helpful.
Having Sofia transition onto the farm full time now has been amazing. Even though we faced the worst drought we ever have, we were better suited to going through it together. We also have so many more ideas we can develop while working together.
How do you feel about being represented in the press and your role in representing farming, as a sort of ambassador, to the greater community as a whole? (16:30)
I feel like the word ambassador is a bit daunting, but we love that we can be a part of the growing movement and public awareness around local food. We are selling as part of an online sales platform that has become 12,000 people strong where producers and customers can find each other. Sometimes it feels like a small community, but then I see something like this and it feels so much bigger.
I’m not aware of any system like this in the US. How does this work? (20:00)
For the REKO-Ring there are 5 of us producers that each post on FB in this group, and each looks after our own ads independently. We post what we have available and then organize how to sell it. Someone looking for food can also post what they’re interested in and a farmer will reply. We transfer funds using apps that exchange money between banks. Everything is pre-ordered and pre-paid so there is no food waste.
We do drop off every Thursday and have for a year and a half now. Ads get deleted from the group every Friday. We have some guidelines for producers, such as they need to grow organically, and sales need to be direct from the producer. There are multiple products available, including meat, eggs, and dairy. The pickup is only half an hour from 5:30-6:00p.
Tell us about your plans to open a shop. (31:10)
We’ve always had a dream about opening a little place, for years now. We walked by one place we’d thought would be perfect and one day it actually had a for lease sign. We looked at it on Saturday and had keys for it by Monday. We didn’t have much time to think about it, but now Sofia is there right now painting the walls and putting shelves up. We can now use my skills as a chef and open it as a cafe with coffee and sandwiches. We’re renovating the place ourselves, and enjoying using a lot of second-hand materials. It’s been very exciting.
How do you balance the work between you two? (36:00)
That’s the ultimate challenge. The most important role we have is being the best parents we can be. Thankfully our child can come with us to work sometimes, and we have her in kindergarten 5 days a week. We can have the cafe open two days a week now, but hopefully during the winter, we’ll have it open more. Maybe eventually we’ll hire someone to be there full time. We’ve also talked about having other farmers there managing the store a few days a week to utilize for their pickups and operations.
For balancing work it’s all about what the other person can do in the moment. Some work we share but sometimes the other person needs to do the job by themselves, like working in the field was mostly on me when Sofia was pregnant.
How has creating the shelf-stable value-added products in your hot sauces worked out? (44:20)
It’s brilliant. I’ve been able to use my background as a chef and now we can use all of what we grow. There’s been a lot of work to get it started and considerable cost. We got the bottles that we wanted imported from Germany. Then we have to rent a professional kitchen two days a week. We had to pay an artist to design the labels, and then to print the labels. You then make the product, which for our chili sauce didn’t take a long time, and then you need to market it.
Looking back over the last year what are you most proud of? (48:40)
We won the environment prize for this region in Sweden. That really boosted us and made us feel like we are on the right track.
Compared to when we started people are much more receptive. Now restaurants actually approach us. We are seeing more farms starting in the city. It feels like people are making more conscientious choices.
Do you and Sofia keep a work-life separation at home, or are you ok with allowing work to be discussed at home? (59:00)
We live our work. As much as we strive to focus on our kid when we’re with her there are moments when we can’t help but discuss what’s happening on the farm or an idea for what we want to plant next. It’s always there since we treat it as more of a lifestyle. Sometimes it’s a struggle to turn it off, but ultimately we find it so exciting so no one feels left out.
Do you feel like your life-style as a farmer restricts what you want to do sometimes, such as having another kid, for example? (1:05:30)
It’s always in there somewhere, but we’re such firm believers that it’ll all work out we don’t let that stop us. It’s never the right time to have a kid, never the right time to start another business, so we just make it work out because we believe in it.
You can connect or follow along with Buddha and Sofia of Los Perros Farm on Instagram @LosPerrosUrbanFarming and on the web at LosPerrosUrbanFarming.com. Check out their recently opened cafe @FlaxMalmo.