The power of the bean

The University of Helsinki professor of sustainable development wants to update our food culture, by emphasising Finnish pulses. The aim is to bring chefs, consumers and farmers to the same table.

“I guess food production and cultivation don’t carry much media appeal, since you rarely see them in the headlines,” Professor Kristina Lindström sighs.

Lindström is Professor of Sustainable Development in the discipline of environmental change and policy. She and her team want to focus more attention on food – and especially on its production.

The research team is currently working on a project focused on emissions, soil nutrient cycling and soil microorganisms. It is also studying the identity and work habits of farmers and the purchasing patterns of consumers.

The team wants to help farmers adopt more ecological cultivation methods without jeopardising a secure and reasonable income.

“Farmers have a tough time planning cultivation these days,” Lindström says. “Not only does information about available subsidies arrive too late, but subsidies are often paid late as well.”

Finnish beans in the shopping cart

“We hope to provide farmers with information about the secrets of soil microbes and related studies. But it’s just as important to listen to farmers so we can investigate topics important to them.”

The team members would like more and more Finns to choose domestic pulses for their meals. “They can be produced more sustainably and they employ Finnish farmers – unlike imported soy beans,” Lindström adds.

A sustainable future through collaboration

Lindström and her team are one of the semifinalists in the Helsinki Challenge competition, launched in honour of the University of Helsinki’s 375th anniversary. In connection with it, they plan to set up an interactive website and a network for interest groups to generate alternative visions of sustainable farming.

“As researchers, we cannot dictate what to farm and what food to buy. What we can do, however, is invite participants to discuss how to secure a sustainable food production in the future.”

The idea is to bring together farmers, researchers and consumers, as well as service providers, administrative representatives, companies and organisations.

“We could also participate in established events for farmers,” says Lindström, adding: “I hope our cooperation with small entrepreneurs and consumer organisations will lead to greater demand for edible pulses, which would also encourage bigger stores and chains to join the cause.”

The team has already received positive feedback from farmers, farmer organisations and, for example, the Martha home economics organisation.

“Our plan to bring researchers closer to farmers and consumers and to give farmers prominence alongside chefs has been met with enthusiasm,” Lindström notes.

Helsinki Challenge: Ground and Growth team