Agriculture Arena in Hämeenkyrö municipality in Finland empowered entrepreneurs and other local actors to foster sustainable agriculture and promote local food

Hämeenkyrö Agriculture Arena invited local agriculture actors to discuss and create a vision for Hämeenkyrö sustainable agriculture 2035 with local authorities and decision-makers. The arena was organised in cooperation with Hämeenkyrö municipality – a rural municipality of 10 000 inhabitants located 40 km north-west from the City of Tampere.

The Arena process consisted of three workshops:
1. Vision workshop – 6 March 2024
2. Pathway workshop – 14 March 2024
3. Solution workshop – 27 March 2024

Approximately 30-40 local actors, including agricultural entrepreneurs, representatives of municipality, local politicians, representatives of educational institutions, trade and civil society participated in all workshops. During the process, the participants identified systemic challenges, discussed them and developed solutions. In the end, the participants decided together how the solutions will be carried forward and by whom. The workshops included also inspiring expert lectures about the systemic challenges, organic food, regenerative farming and thoughts of a young farmer.

Challenges in agriculture

An important part of the process was that participants formed a joint understanding of the challenges affecting local agriculture. For example, the increase in the general cost level and production input prices causes profitability challenges for rural entrepreneurs. The requirements related to EU and national carbon neutrality aim are not always coherent. Organic and regenerative farming was discussed as solutions to get rid of growing fertilizer costs. A major challenge is that consumers do not buy or even recognise well enough domestic products. Organic is often perceived as expensive.

Agriculture has long and valuable traditions in Hämeenkyrö. Many farms are undergoing a generational change, but getting new/young people to continue farming can be difficult. Agriculture should be made a more attractive business option for young people. On the other hand, many are strongly driven forward by love for the countryside and faith in their own doing. There is a great desire for sustainable solutions.

Sustainable agriculture vision 2035

A local vision of sustainable agriculture for the year 2035 was created during the arena process. The shared vision states that:

“Hämeenkyrö is a genuine rural municipality with versatile and sustainable agriculture, which is locally strong and serves as an influential example for other rural municipalities.”

The vision includes five themes: 1) a well-being countryside focusing on the well-being of people and animals, 2) versatile, profitable and sustainable rural entrepreneurship, 3) a strong appreciation and belief in agriculture, 4) the agroecological symbiosis of Hämeenkyrö, and 5) flourishing domestic and local and organic food culture.

Solutions – transformative steps towards sustainable future

Eventually, the participants co-created transformative steps from the change proposals that were most voted for. These are:
– promoting local food through campaigning and events
– integrating agriculture in education, e.g. children visiting farms and practisig farming during their compulsory education.
– renewing the municipality procurement policy to prefer local and domestic products.
– making people living in the city aware of the Hämeenkyrö “green pearl” through branding and positive agriculture-focused communication in social media.
– establishing an active cooperation forum as well as establishing an innovation group of active people creating new solutions in farming and making use of already existing ones.

The vision and results of the process will be utilised in the local climate programme and strategy. There is a strong motivation to utilise the learnings and organise regular interactive processes with local actors also in the future.

Hämeenkyrö Agriculture Arena was organised in cooperation with the Council of Tampere Region, the Baltic Institute of Finland, Hämeenkyrö municipality and Sasky Osara Agricultural College. Service design agency 2Loops supported the design, facilitation and summarising the results of the workshops.

Photo credits: @Juho Vuolas