My urban gardening volunteering in Sweden – by Oscar Jessen

By Victoria - Grow Here

Meet our community friend Oscar Jessen from Hamburg, Germany, who wanted to explore the Swedish urban gardening scene and choose to volunteer at one of our urban farms for a month. Read about his experience and wht he takes with him back from working at Kajodlingen!

Oscar’s story – Urban farming inspiration

Soon I’ll start to study environmental science at a small university in northern Germany. I had some spare time before the semester started so I decided to higher my chances for a scholarship and learn a new language. I ended up signing in at Folksuniversitetet in Gothenburg. I heard that Sweden had an upcoming urban gardening scene what sounded super interesting and and maybe a cool thing to get into urban farming next to my language course.

Pretty soon I found the Growgbg website and one mail later I got in contact with Jonathan Naraine who sent me a collection of urban farms close to the city center. The Kajodlingen farm at the harbour suited the best for me and I started to volunteer two times a Week after my language course at their farm. Especially in the beginning was a lot of work coming up on the farm and they told me many things about their plants and their concept. We harvested beans, tomatoes, salads etc. and planted kale and salad at the same time. All of their beds were constantly used to increase the yield of the restricted growing area.

Their collaboration with the Clarion Post hotel to farm on their rooftop in exchange to grow microgreens for the kitchen was completely new to me and very fascinating to see how you can find and use space in a city to farm. They created a very useful symbiotic partnership where both parties made a profit economically and also boosted their marketing effects. Their main farm was based on an unused parking lot next to the river. To use as less soil as possible they built up raised beds on a space of approximately 400 square meters.

During our workdays a lot interested people visited the farm and next to me there were always some people who helped there for free. It was really interested to see that people enjoyed working there to clear their minds from the stressful work-routine in the city. Besides a big grow tunnel for the tomatoes everything was placed outside and they grow a huge variety of vegetables and greens which they sell on farmers markets, to restaurants and there is also a self-pick event once a week.

The most admirable part was, that they didn’t use any machines, they even brought their produce by bike to the market. It was amazing to see that the produce was quickly sold out and every customer was happy and interested to get more information about their local food project. This really showed me that it is also possible to do something similar in Germany even though the prices for the vegetables are quite high. I had a very interesting and fun time during my four weeks volunteering at Jonas and William’s farm and they were always very helpful and shared a lot of information with me about their project and their vegetables.

What are the top three insights you take with you from Kajodlingen to your own urban farming project?

My three top insights are:

  1. Be open and transparent with your farm towards interested people.
  2. Grow in different places in the city to have interesting projects running.
  3. Building raised beds to be flexible with growing your greens.

Oscar Jessen,