Helsinki's Urban Foragers | Viljellä
Finland, where people live off the land and forage food,
but cycle right back to their comfortable city homes.
The city of Helsinki, Finland, is blooming. Literally – citizens are building rooftop gardens for their veg and apple trees. Some of them are even roaming through the city to pick leaves and berries from edible plants, much in the same way their ancestors must’ve once done in the wilderness. Except now the gatherers ride city bikes and bring Tupperware and backpacks, to take the fruits of their labour home with them.
Christin Boggs, an artist, photographer and sustainable food activist, took her camera and followed Helsinki’s foodies closely for a period in 2013 – 2014. She received a US Fulbright Fellowship for students for the project, called Viljellä (viljellä maata is Finish for ‘farm’). Her work highlights an alternative to the supermarket-bought food the inhabitants of major cities usually rely on. Produce cultivated – or indeed found – close to home is good for the environment, because it removes the need for a globalized supply chain and its the emissions from transport and cooling.
The practice of farming and gathering your own food is of course not only a trendy pass-time, but also a very ancient one. Even in Helsinki, some of the communal gardens are over 80 years old. Others, like the orchards that have replaced a slaughterhouse and an energy plant, are much more recent. A blend of the old and the new also accurately describes the group of people dedicated to working the urban farms: everyone, from kids to their grandmas, gets their hands dirty and hangs out together. In this way the gardens help the planet, the city and the community, one apple at a time.