Recycling at an organic dairy farm in Southwest Finland

The first barn at the Uusitalo farm in Lieto was built in 1929 and the now organic operation has gained a well-earned reputation for recycling. The cows enjoy shelter outdoors under structures built from bus stops that once graced Finland’s former capital city of Turku.

Uusitalo farm is run by husband and wife team Jukka and Sinikka Tuominen.

I’d been working in cattle care and as a farmer’s locum since I was young, says Sinikka. While I’ve tried other jobs it was always likely that my love of animals would bring me back to the land. So when I met my husband Jukka, I was delighted to join him on the Tuominen family farm.

Living your life

The day generally starts at around half past six or seven o’clock and ends when the work’s done. We make two or three visits to the barns, each of about three hours,and the rest of the day is spent in the fields and on paperwork.The cows keep us busy for six to seven hours and longer still if something unusual crops up.

It’s a way of life, not an eight-to-four job. We do what needs to be done and when, living to the daily rhythm of the cows. A farm demands commitment and long hours but brings its own rewards. It’s great to be able to work where we call home and to be tending animals.

We do try to take a vacation twice a year, and enjoy travelling on business and attending professional events such as agriculture fairs.

Going organic

We’re firm believers in organic methods and the Uusitalo farm has been producing organic milk for about a year now.

Aside from building a free stall barn, the only change in practices was replacing protein feed with an organic variant. We were already producing all the other feed ourselves, and that’s been organic for four to five years now. We’ve always used only a small percentage of concentrated feed and that figure hasn’t changed.

The switch to organic farming was on the whole fairly painless apart from a little more paperwork. It went surprisingly smoothly and proved to be less complicated than might otherwise have been expected.

"Our cows are much more than a means to a livelihood."

Not everything needs to be new

The Tuominen family farm has developed a reputation for using recycled materials in novel contexts.

We’re enthusiastic recyclers and hunt for useful items at auctions to liven up the farm buildings. We’ve built outdoor shelters for the cows using old bus stops purchased from the City of Turku, widening and extending the rooves a little.The structures are strong with a concrete base and vertical metal bars. Graffiti they’ve collected during their time as bus stops adds colour to our life!

Open for guests

We arrange a variety of events such as the “family day at the farm” so visitors can experience what we’re doing here.

Our free stall barn with its milking robot was completed in October 2014 and houses the cows and big heifers. The young calves and heifers in cold-rearing have stayed in the old barn. The second-floor control room in the free stall overlooks the whole operation which also makes it a good vantage point for visitors to see what goes on.

We have 52 milking cows at the moment but there’s room for 64, so we’re not full yet. There are 96 animals in total, including calves.

Animals matter

Our cows are much more than a means to a livelihood. They’re wonderful animals, fun and far from stupid. Each has a character of its own, they’re a pleasure to be around and every day is different. My father’s farm has been producing milk for Valio for more than 80 years, and I’ve been wondering for 50 years what I would be if I weren’t a dairy farmer. Probably a veterinarian!