Rasmus Jorgensen | April 29, 2017
The fact that it’s in a forest is only the beginning of how Emil Olesen’s farm is out of the ordinary. The Danish farmer avoids driving tractors if he can, even though he owns a few. He finds work in them boring, and it’s easier to just use his Toyota Hilux, which, like himself, is in its 20s, for all pig-related work except moving water. He’s volunteered to move me as well, so I can see the forest-pigs. That’s lucky, since I brought a Peugeot 107, a true city car that would not have done well on the off-road rolling hills of Mols, the southern part of Jutland’s nose.
Olesen, half the age of an average farmer and flashing a man-bun, doesn’t look like Old McDonald. He is part of a movement of farmers who decline to sell to the massive companies that trade in bulk. This movement is very much alive in the United States as well, where these farmers sell high-quality and more sustainable products to their neighbors, at farmers markets, or through Community-Supported Agriculture, as does the teacher of the horticulture class I’m auditing this spring at Notre Dame.
He calls himself, or his business rather, Skovsvinet, translating directly to The Forest Pig, which in Danish has the same meaning as litterbug, though being called a pig might be more insulting than “litterbug.”
“A lot of people find it funny. If they’re sending me an invoice they often ask an extra time so they’re certain they won’t be insulting anybody,” said Olesen, wearing a T-shirt advertising the local butcher.
Though it’s not all fun and games, it’s important for Olesen that he is enjoying himself, which is part of the reason he started his own farm. He doesn’t want a boss. “I always do what I want,” he said. “Wherever I am, including in jobs, I’ve always said ‘I don’t give a damn, I do it this way.’”
That is also part of why he isn’t a member of a farmer’s association, unlike the vast majority of farmers in Denmark, and it’s why he dropped out of Kalø Organic Agricultural College. At Kalø he took issue with the organic approach, which he describes as “fanatic.” To him, respecting the animals and land that you work with is more important than the label you put on your end product.
“Nothing is ever going to be sustainable. I’m growing tired of that word, because everybody uses it. But if you want something that has been sustainably produced, don’t buy organic, where you need to buy palm oil and others things from Africa to make the feed because you can’t make it yourself when it has to be organic,” he said.