Seed to Fork Vol1 — Collaborative planning between producers and chefs

Text: Edona Arnesen, Agroecologist, Photos: Svein Kjøde & Margit Selsjord

The first co-planning event between sellers and buyers — producers and chefs — that are part of the Dagens platform took place in Oslo, at Bon Lio February 10th. The first face to face meet up, as Dagens primarily is a digital platform for direct trade. A data driven facilitator to enable producers to get direct market access and a fair price for their products, while buyers get access to unique products that they wouldn’t be able to find through traditional channels.

150 producers and chefs gathered at Bon Lio.

Dagens invited all their customers to come together to meet, talk, and co-plan for the upcoming season and year. A huge challenge in our current food system is that farmers’ work is not reflected in the food prices, highly valued and the big companies push food prices even lower to keep on top of competition. This makes it difficult for producers to secure their livelihood and a decent income. As food production is largely steered by what the big companies think consumers want, it is difficult for producers to be innovate and take the risky leap of trying new varieties or production methods — because there is so much insecurity concerning whether they will be able to sell their harvest or not. By bridging this gap of uncertainty through co-planning with customers, the risk can be divided among several actors. By having a continuous dialogue with chefs about what they want to buy, how much they want to buy, and preferably when (consulted by the producers who knows the seasons) there can be a mutual commitment to make sure that there is more security throughout the year for both parts.

Seaweed from The Northern Company, producer at Dagens.

After mingling and seaweed cocktails, the co-planning was introduced by Maximo Graesse, CEO of Dagens. Maximo told the story of how and why Dagens came to see the light of day;

“We think something is fundamentally wrong with how food is created; it’s all based on large volumes and very low diversity. We want to change this. How can we do this? Technology, logistics and getting you guys talking. We are not a wholesaler; we are a platform to make you trade together. We help you make your transactions and we help with fixing logistics. But this can and should never be a substitute for you people talking together! I think this is the biggest strength of direct trade, because we give the power back to those who make the food and those who use the food.”

The producers participating in Seed to Fork did not only bring their planning insights for 2020, but also the produce for all the dishes and drinks team Bon Lio, Eff Eff, Kolonihagen Frogner and Very Agency served in a true ‘dugnad’ manner.

As part of the co-planning event, Dagens provided physical season calendars for everyone to take back to the kitchen, with an overview of all the producers currently on their platform — the full selection of their products and the time and length of the season for all of them. Digital platform manager, Hafdis Sunna Hermannsdóttir, said that it was an easy thing to make because it is based on all the data they already have in their systems, showing the possibilities that arise when focusing on digital solutions in conjunction with agriculture.

Maximo continued by giving an example of the lost possibilities caused by the lack of communication between producers and buyers;

We got some beautiful celery roots from Fokhol today and Cato (the owner of Bon Lio) was like «holy shit, this is like portion celery roots. If I knew this, I would have them on the menu cooked whole and not make purée like everyone else». This is possible, but you need to talk together.”

To make things like this possible — that the farmer knows that those tiny celery roots have a place in the market, and that the buyer knows that they exist — longer-term planning is needed. Maximo’s final words encouraged everyone’s active participation;

People are like «I want these crazy carrots and this and that — and I want it tomorrow at four o’clock». That doesn’t work, then you have to buy it through the traditional channels. But you have the chance today to secure yourself very unique products at a great price, but you need to make decisions. At least start talking today, best case scenario is that you make commitments today, or you at least start discussions with producers.”

Maximo Graesse, CEO Dagens.

Following Maximo on stage was organic farmer Heinrich Jung, who recently won the main award at Matprisen this November for being a front-runner in organic agriculture, and for his strong focus on animal welfare. Heinrich talked about the importance of educating people on where and whom food comes from, as well as how it has been produced. He exemplified this with his own pork production up against the organic regulatory framework. He stated that not all things are the same even though they carry the same certification— raising awareness about the fact that our ability to make conscious choices depends on the availability of knowledge-based information. His free-range pigs get a minimum of 200 m2 each as they rummage in the forest, while pigs raised within the organic regulative framework must only be given a minimum of 0,9 m2 to be approved as organic.

Organic farmer Heinrich Jung, who recently won the main award at Matprisen this November for being a front-runner in organic agriculture, and for his strong focus on animal welfare.

Heinrich strengthened the call for communication voiced by Maximo from the farmer’s perspective, explaining the importance and urgency for him and other producers to have more stability and foundation for expectations for the coming season.

It’s already the 10th of February, so we have 19 days to have things in place as far as vegetables are concerned, so I must ask you to get around quickly. By the end of February, I need to order seeds and plants, and I need to get the season going and I need to know — and all the other producers need to know — what is to be grown this summer.”

To reflect on the current situation of our food system from the chef’s and buyer’s perspective was Cato Wara, owner and head chef at the event’s venue, Bon Lio. Like Maximo, Cato told a short story about things made difficult by the lack of planning and communication, directly linked to the evening’s food serving;

Today we’re having taco and I wanted to make it with amazing pork from Heinrich, and Maximo is like, «yes, great». Then I call Heinrich and he’s like, «no». I asked why, and he said it had already been shipped to Oslo and was getting made into sausages — «call them (Indre Oslo Matforedling)» he said. But did I dare to call Oslo Indre and ask, «can I have half of your pig»? No, I didn’t. That’s what we have to break, we have to call them and say «hey, I know you have half a pig, can I please have half of it?» Maybe he says «no, fuck off», but maybe he says yes!”

Cato Wara, head chef and owner of Bon Lio

Cato used this as a bridge into talking about who passionate professionals are actually competing against. Though it is easy to think of each other as the competition, it is actually the big companies. Cato’s message was clear; “Let’s compete against the big companies, let’s support the small ones through Dagens, and let’s make plans for what and how to grow, when to eat it, and how to eat it.”

Completing the introductory talks that sat the mood and intention of the evening, was Kathrine Kinn, farmer and deputy leader of the Norwegian farmer and smallholder organization. She runs a farm in a steep landscape in Telemark, focusing on the old and traditional Norwegian cow race “Telemarksku” and pasture feedlots. Kathrine talked about the state of the Norwegian farmer, their support systems, challenges concerning economy, markets and nature, and on how direct trade could benefit both producer and buyer — as well as our climate, pollinators, biodiversity and health.

We have an agricultural industry that to a less and less degree attain the goal of enough, safe, healthy food. The self-sufficiency in Norway is decreasing, cheap concentrates have ousted Norwegian agriculture areas, and there are very many farmers who have forgotten that the resources are actually right outside their door and drives the fodder inside instead. In addition, the economy in the industry is in extreme unbalance. The debt in Norwegian agriculture is larger than the income, grants and market income combined, and even though the demand for pasture driven production is good, it’s a very challenging situation for the farmers to handle.”

Kathrine Kinn, farmer and deputy leader of the Norwegian farmer and smallholder organization ‘Bonde & Småbrukerlaget’.

To make sure all the producers that had come to the capital had spent their time well, Kathrine Kinn headed a “speed date” with them on stage. 21 producers in 42 minutes; two minutes each to present themselves and what they are all about. This made everyone informed about the vast diversity of the selection already in place on the Dagens platform, ranging from foraged wild plants, edible flowers and insects, to organic and biodynamic vegetables in all forms, flour, cheese and other dairy products, as well as raw and processed meats from pigs, cows, reindeer, chickens and sheep, plus a range of seafood including seaweeds. Still, there is room for many more.

Producers and chefs discussing what to grow and produce throughout the year.

The planning session was kicked off, together with serving of of inner-city Oslo sausages with creamy potato mash and reindeer or celery root tacos being served from Bon Lio’s kitchen. People were sitting and standing everywhere, trying new connections with people they had or had not met before, engaging in a diverse range of conversation topics: wild plants — what, when, how? The importance of microbes and probiotics for our immune system. The need for a vastly more nuanced meat discussion, especially here in Norway where the natural foundation for food production in many areas can only support grazing. The great potential that lies in working with canteens to build a better food system, as they serve very many people every day. The definition of urban agriculture and how the proximity of food production may or may not include farms in the term.

The chefs at Arakataka planning with Siv at ‘Fiori Blomster’ organic flowers.

The event left everyone with motivation and hope, and an eagerness to continue the communication and cooperation. So, bringing further words from the stage — let us support the small ones in the fight against the big companies that exploit both producers and consumers to profit themselves. Let us come together to fight those who deplete our food system of diversity, resilience, nutrition, health and justice. Let us come together to create the food system we want to see.



Digital platform taking direct food trade between food producers and chefs mainstream — on nature’s premises.

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Digital platform taking direct food trade between food producers and chefs mainstream — on nature’s premises.