Farming in Finland

In the ag industry, and in life in general, it's easy to limit our focus to our own geographical boundaries. Being based in the US farm belt, Modern Prairie Woman thought it would be interesting to showcase what agriculture is like outside of our own geographical area, so we met with Ida Similä, 5th generation grower from Laihai, Finland, to share her story as a woman in agriculture outside of the United States.

 
 

Ida was in the United States visiting her host families from a previous Rotary International youth exchange. She and her boyfriend Yoni, who actively farms with her father, spent a week in central Illinois visiting friends and learning about the various facets of American agriculture. Though there are some differences to farming practices in Finland, Ida noted that there are many similarities.

"Our farm has been in our family for 27 years. My dad took over after his father died," she said. 

Ida's family farms a total of 170 hectares (417 acres) of rye, malting barley, malting wheat, and canola, and has an additional 200 hectares (494 acres) of forest. Her father initially started with just 30 hectares. 

According to Ida, "Planting season in Finland is almost the same as the United States. We plant malting barley, wheat, and oilseeds starting in May. We plant winter wheat at the turn of August," she said. "Harvest takes places throughout August and September for barley and rye, while oilseeds are harvested in October."

The growing season in Finland has a similar timeline to many areas in the United States, however, certain crops must be harvested early due to decreased daylight, as well as rain and sometimes even snow. Likewise, the growth stages of crops vary from those in the U.S., she explained. 

"Finnish summers are short and moist. During harvest, the grain moisture is usually about 20%, sometimes 30%," she described. "Brightness is important to the rich flavors of crops like caraway and rye. Finland has one third of the world's market of caraway because of its rich flavor, and Scandinavian rye is famous due to its strong taste."

When asked about sustainability and the role it plays on the farm, Ida explained that it is their top priority, and that "their strategy is to grow step by step, which makes it possible to farm in the future."

The use of fertilizers, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, is limited by the European Union's Environmental Program and Nitrates Directive, and is based on a soil fertility analysis. Furthermore, 60% of fields in Finland utilize direct-drilling, or no-till, in an effort to protect water systems from nutrient leaching. All weed and disease controlling agents are 'injected' in June. 

Some major visible differences of the growing season in Finland are that towards the end of the season, the ground (due to excess moisture) often becomes frozen. There have also been tiimes when Ida and her family have harvested through the snow (below).

Ida enjoyed her time riding along during harvest in central Illinois, driving her first John Deere tractor, and learning about technologies such as Morning Farm Report and Find My Seed, which help growers with decision making tools for their day to day operations. Morning Farm Report's weather tools would have predicted snowfall amounts and converted them into the corresponding number of inches of rainfall, so a grower could plan their operations effectively. Tools like Tractor Time provide information on soil temperatures as well as alerts on wet spots. 

Have you farmed or experienced agriculture in another country? Share your story with us!