Back to the future (again)

Our goal is to create a contemporary interpretation of the Norwegian village by creating a unique, sustainable and modern society situated on the seashore, in tune with the world of today and the world of tomorrow - a micro-city.

Roar Svenning

While thinking about my contribution to the future of the Nordic food and lifestyle, I went back in time.

I was born in a New Nordic Food cliché in 1961.

On this little island Stokkøya, our family farm, the sea outside and the nature around had for generations served those who were able/willing to work, with plenty of food. Sheep for wool and meat, pigs for meat, hens for egg (and fricassee when the hen hit the menopause) cows and calves for milk and meat and a horse to pull the wagon and some other farming tools. The hand driven separator made skimmed milk and cream and my grandma made nice yellow butter that was wrapped in butter paper and sold. Potato in the sandy soil grown with seaweed as fertilizer, beetroot, carrots, cabbage on the fields and berries in the garden. Fishing for wild salmon and some other fish that was around. Wild berries in the fall and egg from seabirds in the early summer. Hunting with a harpoon gun for big tuna and small whales was also something my father enjoyed and contributed with as a variation on top. And sometimes in secret the men were making moonshine.

Doesn’t this sound like a dream for a New Nordic Food chef of 2014?

This was my childhood, and I just recently realized how cool it was.

So, what happened in the seventies? Well the number of animals was not seemed upon as an economical sustainable way of running a farm. You must focus on larger numbers and fewer species. Rationality. My grandparent who was running most of the farm became old, the boats got bigger and fishing was a single profession. Well we all know the story, the modern way of living reached the most of us even on a little island on the coast of Norway. And the number of people living there decreased.

So this puts us back to now.

I have just been playing with the smart, good looking and clever urban people of Food and creative industries – New Nordic Food in Stockholm. Staging Nordic table 2024 in a time machine. A great experience for a sheep farmer from the little island, being in a setting with people from all the Nordic countries. And no, I am not ironic.

My perspective and wishes for the table of 2024 was that urban skills on many levels must help us create a situation on the countryside, making the rural living more attractive, sustainable both ecologically and economically. We are going to be a whole lot more people in the world in the years to come and we surely know that food and water is a limited resource.

In 2008, more people lived in cities than in the countryside, for the first time in history. According to FAO, 70% of the world’s populations of 9,1 bill people will live in the city. With this urbanization, the demands for food production, water supply and other natural resources from the cities will be enormeus. At the same time, much of the know-how disappears from where the production of these resources is made.

The countryside will obviously get its renaissance, but do we have to wait until the “shit hits the fan”? Maybe we can be a little ahead of the problem? Are brutal industrial farming and fishing, GMO and pesticides the only way of solving this future challenges? If so, I should probably re-establish the old tradition of making moonshine, sit back end enjoy the show.

But there might be another way to solve this: Some of you smart city people could jump on your bike, ride to the end of the road and play with us at the countryside, bring your brain, your network, your entrepreneur energy, beer brewing skills and hipster beard.

You can be the example!

The New Nordic Food program has been very helpful for people like us, who try to work with a potential new and better way of programming the rural life.

Not as submissive peasants, but proud Nordic food people.

The countryside should become a brain-magnet and with the urban know-how it could reactivate the countryside. We need creative and competent people that choose the rural platform, people who wants to develop our natural resources.

To make this happen, we need to make the countryside more attractive than today. Our project Bygda 2.0 has the ambition to be a model of what the countryside of the future should look like.

Bygda 2.0 can be simply described as the development of a new kind of village, or a micro-city.

Bygda 2.0 is a physical project, a “living lab”, but not at least an idea/a toolbox for how to make a smarter and more functional Countryside. We are working on an open source method that may be transferred to other places all over the world.

Our goal is to create a contemporary interpretation of the Norwegian village by creating a unique, sustainable and modern society situated on the seashore, in tune with the world of today and the world of tomorrow. Get in touch with us if you are interested.

In the autumn of 2014, the Nordic Council of Ministers invited a group of leading players from across the Nordic Region to discuss their visions for the future of Nordic food. This essay formed part of this initiative #Nordicfood2024