To discuss the future of a resilient, more sustainable Faroese food system, a cross-sectoral dialogue was organized at Nordic House in Tórshavn on April 8th 2022. The dialogue gathered around 30 key actors and change makers within the food system and beyond, from small scale farmers, fishermen, entrepreneurs, chefs, educators, researchers to decision makers and officials – especially representatives of the younger generation with a desire to collaborate and contribute in creation of a new sustainable food policy in the Faroe Islands.
The text includes anonymous insights from those who participated in the dialogue.
As the dialogue began, the participants were asked to tell about their best food memory. Many participants shared their experiences of growing vegetables – getting potatoes from their own field or planting beetroot for the first time. The windy and rocky conditions of the Faroe Islands combined with cool growing season make it difficult to farm even humble root vegetables. However, there is a strong belief in farming vegetables against the inhospitable conditions in order to provide locally grown fresh vegetables for Faroese people.
I have tried to prove that it is possible to grow all kind of vegetables in the Faroes – I believe in a future with Faroese vegetables.
It is not only about availability of vegetables, but a question of sustainability and health in times of uncertainty both globally and locally. It was noted in the discussion how the unstable state of the world makes it necessary for Faroese people to be more self-sufficient in food.
On a grassroots level, there are many active Faroe Islanders, who work to strengthen the local food production and promote the Faroese food culture, but there is a need for different actors and stakeholders to come together and meet cross-sectorally for new dialogues and common actions.
We can’t produce everything by ourselves because of our climate, lands and sea, in hence we must prioritize wisely – but we can do more than what we do now. We need to raise the question of added value for society and for everyone in respect of local food production as it is also a question of food sufficiency, food safety and good nutrition.
In aiming for a more sustainable change, how to ensure a just transition for every stakeholder in the value chain of food, especially in agriculture and in small scale fishery? Which are the possibilities and challenges when it comes to production and consumption in hence thriving traditions and welcoming innovations of food from the land and the sea? The dialogue was welcomed as a needed first step in taking common action:
We need to begin the discussion on our local food culture of today. The question is, how do we inspire new dialogues and closer collaboration for a common sustainable future? We’re all changemakers in our organizations, networks, communities – food is the key to sustainable lifestyle and society.
The participants had a shared understanding of the challenges the Faroese food production and culture face. They stressed the need for food policy and framework to address the issues concerning public meals, composting, food waste, and authorized slaughterhouses to ensure the demand for lamb can be met more consistently. There was a strong agreement that a common food policy is needed to support all perspectives of sustainability – economical, environmental, social and cultural aspects – in the Faroese society.
The participants raised the question on how to balance between tradition and innovation to make traditional Faroese food culture exciting. Revitalization is needed to create new traditions around local raw materials to inspire families, as well as professionals in public and private kitchens, food entrepreneurs and educators in using Faroese ingredients.
The dialogue made it apparent how there’s a strong will and need for revitalization of the Faroese food culture and in creating a common, sustainable food policy, also in hence of local implementation of Nordic Nutritions Recommendations, Bettina C. Lindfors, project manager of New Nordic Food programme
The importance of taking common steps in bringing local production and local consumption together was highlighted in the dialogue. It was identified by the participants that more communication is needed between producers and consumers about local food, how to prepare it, and how it adds to wellbeing and sustainability for children, adults, and society as a whole.
Also the need for economic support and just economic structures were underlined to ensure that local production is economically viable in the future. The participants shared the view that it is important to ensure that Faroese food is available and affordable for everyone in the Faroe Islands:
Our goal has to be that all people in the Faroe Islands have access to our local, good raw materials for cooking a proper meal.
The availability of local food was linked as one of the key elements in promoting sustainability from the grassroots level all the way up to the public sector: to eat Faroese food, support local food production, produce according to seasons, and educate the value chain, stakeholders, and consumers for a mindset of from soil to soil, from seas to sea.
It is most important to protect, recycle our resources, from the deepest ocean to the highest mountains, and use them sustainably.
Participants described a shared ethic of sustainability that is grounded in taking care of the land and the sea – the understanding of “when you take something you must also give back to nature” as a basis for sustainable food system.
The participants underlined the need for more education on food, such as further education for professionals in sustainable diets. Still, the main focus is on the next generation: to provide education in sustainable food choices, cooking with seasonal ingredients and preparing local raw materials.
The aim is to engage youth to meet with producers directly and to be familiar with food production in their daily lives – to share the knowledge of where the food comes from and understanding the route from farm to fork. Knowledge also helps connecting actors across the value chain, also consumers in minimizing food loss and food waste.
The knowledge behind food production creates respect for the food. When you know all the steps and actors in producing the food, the respect grows.
The participants emphasized the importance of food education in schools and other forums especially for children and youngsters, in gaining renewed respect for Faroese food production and food culture. This would also raise young people’s interest in work opportunities in agriculture, fishery, food industry and hospitality.
The participants noted that attitudes around Faroese food have already changed a lot. Nowadays, there is more interest and respect for Faroese food in restaurants and at homes. Shift in attitudes has increased the demand for local food. Local people want to eat more traditional Faroese food such as skerpikjøt, a fermented dry lamb.
The dialogue showed how the attitudes toward Faroese food are shaped by and grounded on values (purity, season, ethics, health, sustainability and quality), which are also identified in the Nordic Kitchen Manifesto from 2004, still highly relevant today.
The participants highlighted the importance of knowing your traditions and identity, respecting the fresh, seasonal raw materials produced locally and being proud of Faroese food culture. At the same time being positive in welcoming innovations in both production and consumption for enabling sustainable, nutririous diets affordable for all.
The dialogue sparked new trust and motivation in taking the first steps in cross sectoral collaboration for a sustainable food policy in the Faroe Islands.
The participants sensed a strong, positive engagement of different actors, all valuable in and to the development of the Faroese food system. Together they take pride in local resources, knowledge and have the possibility to work more together, educate, communicate and create new actions and innovations gaining the local food system, Bettina C. Lindfors
After the dialogue event the participants joined the Matvit conference deepening further the dialogue on sustainable food sovereignty in the Faroe Islands at Nordic House in Tórshavn.
Writer: Vilma Kallio, intern, Timeout Foundation
The dialogue event in Faroe Islands is one of eight events facilitated by New Nordic Food programme, Nordic Council of Minister, and national partners and networks in Faroe Islands, in collaboration with Timeout Foundation. Dialogue events are organized within the revitalization process of Nordic Kitchen Manifesto as a value base, in exploring future dialogues about sustainable and healthy food systems in the Nordic region in 2022.