From berries to juice

Around year 1550 northern parts of Heinola were mostly wilderness. Famine plagued Finland. They say that's the reason people decided to populate the wilds. King Gustav I of Sweden allowed all settlers to keep their new land.

There is no record where Matti Eskonpoika came from, but he decided to stay where modern Hämeenniemi now lays and even paid the tax (=425g of butter).

The wild was tamed, the family fished in lake Keskinen, and the house finally had smoking chimneys. Matti Matinpojat ja Markku Matinpojat each held the owndership of Hämeenniemi in turns, each with his own style and his own hardships.

Hämeenniemi's history is long and parts of it are kept in the family tree on the wall, the beginnings of which come from year 1553. It tells its own story of how many members of the same family kept and managed the farm, one after another.

When in 1996 I took my place in that long chain of owners, it became clear that with my degree I could take the farm into another direction: from traditional agriculture and cattle breeding to garden produce, particularly berries. Organic farming came right after, naturally. Using plant protection products and artificial fertilizers didn't even cross my mind. We knew from the start that the crops would not yield as much.

Our first contract for organic garming was signed in 1998. The variety of both plants and animals in the fields diversified during those years. Cornflower once again became weed, ladybugs were in abundance and worms thrived in the soil. Organic farming demands plenty of field work as most plant protection work is done with machines.

On the photos you can see "air picture" from 1928 and our family tree, which was updated when Hämeenniemi land turned 460 years old.

Luomutilan ilmakuva

Air picture from 1928

Hämeenniemen sukupuu

Family tree

In 2000 we planted a hectare worth of black currant and half a hectare worth of green currant. For black currany we chose Mortti, which is strong, vertically-grown and is suitable for mechanical harvest. For green currant the only option was Vertti. It's a bush-like plant, but the berries taste exceptionally good fresh and are a popular choice for wines.

The choice to import the saplings was in part affected by the availability of organic varieties. Acquiring those first organic saplings established our organic farm-status, and since then it remains unbroken. Organic farming is based on trust and transparency.

Farmers to plant the saplings were found in our own village. Between rows of sapling was clover, which we manage with machines. Clover fields also seal nitrogen from the atmosphere into the soil, fertilizing it. The soil becomes less dense and prone to weeds.

Our first crops were harvested mechanically in 2003.

Green currant production was increased in 2008 and 2008, with our own saplings. Now we have about a hectare worth of green currant.

Green gooseberry is the newcomer on our farm. There's very little of it farmed yed, just about 10 acres. So far we have been able to serve gooseberry juice only in small amounts. Little by little we're increasing our gooseberry crops with our own saplings.

In the beginning, our berries went to wine production needs here in Finland. But our contract ended, and so it was decided to process the berries into juice and serve it straight to customers. The decision came to be when green currant juice was proven to taste just as great as black currant juice does. And so the direction of our farm stayed the same and our fields were saved. This is how we got from berries to juice cartons.


Goose berry

Talp ja pelto

House and field

In the winter, the fields sleep and we, both consumers and I, can enjoy the juice that tastes like summer and hopefully keeps the flu away.

One exception to the peace and quiet comes mid-winter, if we have been working hard in the fall and got to cut plenty of bushes. That is when we burn all that we cut right there on the field, in order to destroy most of the hibernating pests. The process takes work, but it is al organic. The hope is to have healthy, strong plants that could withstand some natural pests. Climate change is, unfortunately, affecting all of that due to increased temperatures, humidity and mild winters. These are the problems we must solve in the future if we want to keep our produce.

During winter times we also plan for the future: new package sizing and new products altogether.

Our packaging was designed by us, in partnership with a company that specializes in package design. For the visual materials we used our own photos of berry fields and the texts were written according to regulations with Evira. We send photos and texts to the packaging factory, where they arrange them for the right size. It sounds simple and quick but it does require multiple checks and often detailed planning, so that the package looks exactly like what is inside it.

We want to listen to our buyers and adjust our product development accordingly, so that national, traditional currant juice keeps on pleasing people.

Juice, which is 100% juice, without additives, without being transported from the other side of the world, and tastes natural.

Marjapellot talvella

Winter fields


Juice package

Spring is when the hustle begins.

First there is a small moment of time to collect good cuttings. You have to be sharp for the cutting has to happen while the buds are still resting, with no swelling whatsoever. For cutting only strong, light-coloured shoots from previous summer are chosen. From each branch we can get multiple cuttings, because we cut about 10 - 15 cm long snippets that we immediately plant into moist soil.

All cuttings are first planted into special small pots and then later in the spring they can be moved to much larger ones. A year later, they are moved to the field. This happens only when we decide to expand our crops.

The field rows are threatened by dandelion, seeing as we are on an organic soil. Dandelion takes over in a snap, if the mower is not ready to strike right back.

During spring we are vigilant, watching the bloom and fearing possible frost at night. If the cold strikes during bloom season, it can be damaging, all the way to the harvest. Fortunately our farm is situated on a lake, which guards as against such risks.

We also need bees, whom cold spring can also threaten. Without the bees, the blooms are not pollinated. It has a direct effect on the harvest. Occassionally, the first blooms are not pollinated, but a little bit later the weather warms up and the bees fly again.

On organic farms, the natural ecosystem is protected so that plant protection products do not scare away the bees. Precious bees then pollinate the blooms, instead of the weeds growing in between the rows.




Currant field

Around mid summer row gaps are mowed with machinery, and our boys are forbidden from riding their bikes on the fields to prevent immature berries from falling ;-)

Currants love water and sun. Water swells the berries, increasing them in size, while the sun raises their sugar and vitamin levels. Sadly here in Finland it's rare that both happen at the same time.

Green currant ripens first: from mid July to the beginning of August.

Black currant ripens from the second week of August all the way to its end.

Berry pickers are invited before any machinery touches the fields. In other words: Welcome!

Harvest day must not be rainy, and as soon as the morning dew has dried the work can begin. Our farm has its own picking machine, which is attached to a tractor. The man of the house drives the tractor between the rows and adjusts the height at which the machine touches the plants. Meanwhile the wife climbs to the back of the machine and adjusts the settings as well as changes out full boxes.

The machine goes through one side of the bushes first, then the other. The berries are moved to a platform, where they are shaken off the branches. The branches are not damaged in the process.

From the platform the berries along with loose leafs move to another belt, which then takes them through powerful ventilators. Clean berries then fall into empty boxes. Of course, sometimes small dry branches make it to the machine but they are thrown away in the early stages.

From the machine, full boxes are taken to the cold room, where they are chilled at +2C.

They are then taken by our partners at Mäntsälän Mehustamo for juice processing. We have done work together for many, many years. Cold pressed, ready-to-drink juice is sorted into valve bags and returned back to the farm.

At the farm the bags are then packaged inside cartons, which have been designed specifically for this juice.

And the juice is ready to be enjoyed!

Kypsät marjat

Ripe berries





Then comes fall.

Currant fields calm down.

Row gaps, however, should still be kept low, so the mowing continues until the grass stops growing for the season.

Until late fall arrives, with its showers and sleet, but also its wonderfull fresh air. Then the wife puts on her mud overalls and rain boots on, takes the big and the small garden shears, and marches to the field.

The cutting begins and it can continue up until first snow, as long as you can see the base of the bush.

On our farm we do the cutting manually. We don't have enough time to cut the entirety of the crops, which is why the areas that we do get to are cut quite significantly. But currant likes that.

The purpose of the cutting is to give the base room to breathe, so that new growth can happen. The shortening of the shoots also aids in the process. Our goal is to keep the plants vital and healthy for decades.

The cutting also protects the plant. Various pests hibernate in the buds, so when the branches are cut, the pests are gone with them. The branches are burned in the winter.

During this process you truly see your own hard work. The fields in the fall are the most calming workplace, and the mind rests.

When the snow falls, so begins a new cycle.


Cold room

Leikattu pensas

Cut bush