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Two days before my visit to Hårbølle Mejere I found the following e-mail from Per in my inbox:
If you’d like to come along for the morning milking at the Bomgården farm, and I really recommend it, you are welcome. P.S. It’s VERY early in the morning!

From HÅNDVÆRK bookazineno.1 (sold out)


March 2020


Facts Per Sørup:
Per Sørup is 73 years old.
He lives with his wife on a small farm in the town of Hårbølle on the island of Møn. The farm is also home to Hårbølle Mejeri (Hårbølle Dairy). During the summer Per works in Hårbølle. During the winter he makes cheese in Spain, while an employee keeps up production on Møn.
Per has a PhD in biochemistry and became a dairyman based on peer-to-peer training.

Facts Hårbølle:
Hårbølle Mejeri on Møn is an artisanal dairy that makes cheese and yoghurt based on knowledge, experience and traditional low-tech methods.
The dairy was founded in 2011 with support from the EU’s Regional Development Fund.
In addition to the owner, Per Sørup, the dairy employs a full-time dairy technician and two part-time workers.
The milk comes from local Jersey cows and local sheep.
The dairy uses conventional milk, because there are no organic dairy farms on Møn within a reasonable (sustainable) driving distance. On the other hand, it certainly comes from healthy cows, and short transportation distances help to maximize flavour and minimize the environmental footprint.
The cheese is sold to gourmet restaurants and specialty food shops, mainly in the Copenhagen area and locally. During the summer months, it also sold directly from the farm! Selected Meny supermarkets in the Copenhagen area with a large cheese section also carry products from Hårbølle Mejeri.

The day’s production:

Two days before my visit to Hårbølle Mejere I found the following e-mail from Per in my inbox:
If you’d like to come along for the morning milking at the Bomgården farm, and I really recommend it, you are welcome. P.S. It’s VERY early in the morning!

We – that is, Ahmad, who is the dairy technician, and our trainee – set out from the dairy at 7 and get to Bomgården at 7.30 with our little tank trailer. When the milk is in the tank, you can join them as they go from the farm to the dairy.

I’ll collect the sheep milk locally around midnight!
When I get back we pump out the milk.
The pasteurization begins. That lasts until approximately 11.30.
The day you’re here, we’ll be making Camembert.
We make sheep milk yoghurt and pack Camembert cheese, in a parallel process.
Around 12.30 we have a one-hour break, as the milk curdles. Then we get busy, and then we have a one-and-a-half-hour break. At 15.00 we cut the cheese, leave it to sit for for about 30 minutes, and then we shape it.
We tidy up and turn over the cheese until around 17.30, when the working day is over.

The following morning we turn the cheese out of the moulds and salt them. Then they sit for another 24 hours in the dairy hall before they are moved to the ripening room for two weeks, and then they are packaged. Camembert cheese is ready to eat about two weeks after being packaged.

What’s the motivation, and what’s the premise?

I ask that again and again.
I ask the baker, the ceramicist and the dairy technician. But I also ask the doctor, the teacher and the engineer.
As a consumer I want to know, because I prefer to buy products and services from people who are passionate about what they do. People who are dedicated and who make an effort.
Motivation and premise were also the focus of our conversation when I visited Per Sørup, who runs the award-winning cheese dairy Hårbølle Mejeri.

Somehow the two questions capture everything we need to consider when choosing a direction in life. In particular when someone chooses to establish a (crafts-based) business. Per has made such a choice more than once. Most recently, ten years ago, at the age of 63 years, he chose to retire from a top-level position in an agricultural policy research institute under the EU Commission. At the time he had been based in Seville for 15 years, initially with his daughters, later on his own.

It was time for a new direction, and together with his wife, who stayed in Denmark, he chose to settle on the island of Møn, where the family had had a cottage for many years. Shortly before Per’s retirement, they traded in the cottage for a small farm with 14 hectares of land.

And then you began to cast around for a new career, is my first, leading question.

I was looking for an intellectual and aesthetic challenge,’ says Per. ‘I have always loved cooking, so I really enjoyed the abundance of fresh produce and, not least, the many good local farm-based cheese dairies in Spain. During my later years in Spain, on a spare-time basis, I had followed and helped out in a couple of local family-run cheese dairies. They kindly invited me in and generously shared their knowledge and experience. On that background it seemed obvious to use our newly acquired property to set up a Spanish-style Danish dairy. Albeit with the key difference that in Spain there are three generations involved in running it, and here it’s just myself and whatever workers I can afford to hire.’ He adds that he has had a privileged start, because he has his pension.

The business plan

When I set out, I hadn’t given marketing and sales any thought, and I had no idea what a business plan should include. I had spent my entire working life in the public sector, and I was completely naive in that regard. I did learn to write a business plan when I applied for regional development support. A business plan was a prerequisite for the project,’ says Per frankly and adds that the success of the dairy has very little to do with the plan. ‘Our success is based on passion and quality and perhaps a certain element of chance.

One fortunate chance encounter was a visit from the legendary Danish radio host Kjeld Koplev. He was invited on a visit Hårbølle Mejeri by a neighbour of the dairy when he was in the area to give a lecture and had ten minutes to spare. Afterwards he spoke highly of Hårbølle Mejeri and its cheeses in two of his radio montages, and he has become a friend of the family (Hårbølle is a welcoming place, and I have a feeling that new friendships are easily forged). The coverage resonated both in the restaurant business and with the wholesaler who now handles the distribution of the cheeses. ‘The wholesaler,’ says Per with a laugh, ‘was initially more impressed with my enthusiasm for the cheese than about the product itself, but we have since moved on, and there is generally a growing demand for artisanal cheese.’


The political voice

There aren’t many of us in Denmark,’ says Per. ‘Depending on your definitions, the number currently stands at four or five. One of them is Copenhagen Goat Milk, which is run by a couple. He is an economist, and she is a lab technician. They came here a few years ago. They told me they had goats, were looking to use the milk and were thinking about making cheese. They were keen to learn, and I am always happy to share my knowledge and experience. Now they have reached a level where they recently won first prize in a competition where I came second. That’s the way to go!

I wonder, if a strong theoretical basis combined with experience with administration and economics is a useful basis, perhaps even a necessity for starting and operating a small food company?

It’s certainly true,’ says Per, ‘that if I hadn’t had my PhD in biochemistry and my long experience from the EU Commission, I wouldn’t have been able to live up to the food authorities’ requirements. For the sake of the industry I wish that start-ups could receive support and advice and work in cooperation with the food authorities, unlike the way it is now, where you have the full responsibility for risk assessment, while the authorities are there to catch your mistakes.
Although Per is calm and measured when he speaks, there is no mistaking his dissatisfaction with the situation, and as we have begun to touch on some of the sore spots, we turn to the topic of the ban on making colostrum milk cheese Denmark.
Colostrum milk cheese can be imported to Denmark and is produced in many EU countries. However, since 1984, the authorities have banned the use of colostrum milk in Danish dairies.
At first I thought it was for reasons of hygiene, but as I understand it, it’s exclusively about standardization and homogenization,’ says Per with indignation.
There are no hygiene or health benefits in pasteurizing milk, on the contrary, in fact. Colostrum milk is far more robust because the lactic acid culture is so diverse. Colostrum milk may even appear to have health benefits, compared to cheese made from pasteurized milk. It certainly has advantages in terms of flavour, although I do think we have managed to work around that and are making cheese that’s every bit as tasty as colostrum milk cheese.’ The best chefs in the country agree!

Per’s frustration is shared by other artisanal dairies, including Copenhagen Goat Milk and the dairy engineering student Marie Østergård, who has worked at Hårbølle Mejeri and is currently in the process of establishing her own cheese dairy. Together, they are going to try to engage the food authorities in dialogue.


Seven years after founding the dairy, Per spends very little time in production and is instead focused on dialogue. Dialogue with the authorities, dialogue with clients, customers and other stakeholders and dialogue with suppliers and cooperation partners. And he insists on wintering in Spain. He misses the nature, the food and the spirit if he is away for too long, and he enjoys working with his former mentors, now colleagues.
He is able to do this because the dairy technician he employs is diligent, skilled and stable and has a sense of ownership of the production.

Hand and mind, aesthetics and practice come together most beautifully in Hårbølle.
So, how long before a 73-year-old dairyman retires? The answer to that question is blowing in the wind!

Fakta Per Sørup:
Per Sørup er 73 år.
Han bor sammen med sin ægtefælle på en mindre landbrugsejendom i Hårbølle på Møn. Her har også Hårbølle Mejeri til huse. Per arbejder om sommeren i Hårbølle. Om vinteren laver han ost i Spanien, mens den ansatte mejerist passer produktionen på Møn.*Per er ph.d. i biokemi og er sidemandsoplært mejerist.

Fakta Hårbølle:
Hårbølle Mejeri på Møn er et håndværksosteri, som fremstiller oste og yoghurt baseret på viden, erfaring og traditionelle lavteknologiske håndværksmetoder.
Mejeriet blev etableret i 2011 med støtte fra EU’s regionaludviklingsfond.
Mejeriet beskæftiger foruden ejeren, Per Sørup, en fultidsmejerist og to deltidsmedarbejdere. Mælken er fra lokale jerseykøer og lokale får.
Mælken er ikke økologisk, fordi der ikke findes økologiske bestande på Møn inden for rimelig (økologisk) afstand. Til gengæld er der tale om mælk fra sunde dyr. Mælk, som ikke transporteres langt, hvilket både tæller i det miljømæssige og i det smagsmæssige regnskab.
Ostene afsættes dels til gourmetrestauranter, dels til nichefødevarebutikker primært i københavnsområdet og lokalt, ligesom mejeriet i sommermånederne har stalddørssalg. Enkelte Meny-butikker i Københavnsområdet med stor osteafdeling fører også Hårbølle Mejeri.

Dagens produktion:

2 dage inden mit besøg på Hårbølle Mejeri lå følgende mail fra Per i min inboks:
”Hvis du vil med til morgenmalkningen på Bomgården, og det anbefaler jeg meget, så er du velkommen. PS. Det er MEGET tidligt!
Vi – dvs. Ahmad, som er mejeristen, og vores praktikant – starter her fra mejeriet klokken 7 og er på Bomgården 7.30 med vores lille tank-trailer. Når de har tanket mælk, kan du følge med dem fra gården til mejeriet.
Fåremælken henter jeg i nabolaget omkring midnat!
Når I kommer tilbage, pumpes mælken ind.
Pasteuriseringen startes. Det varer til ca. 11.30.
Vi skal den dag, du er her, lave camembertoste.
Der fremstilles fåremælksyoghurt parallelt, og der pakkes camembert parallelt.
Ca. 12.30 er der 1 times ro, mens mælken syrner. Så løbes der, og herefter er op til 1,5 times ro. Klokken 15 skæres osten, og efter henstand i ca. 30 minutter formes den.
Der ryddes op, og der vendes ost til klokken ca. 17.30, hvor dagen slutter.
Næste dags morgen vendes ostene ud af formene, og de saltes. Derefter står de yderligere 24 timer i mejerisalen, inden de sættes i modningsrum i 2 uger, hvorefter de pakkes. Camembertostene er spiseklare 2 uger efter pakningen.”

Hvad er motivationen, og hvad er præmissen?

Det spørger jeg om igen og igen.
Det spørger jeg om hos bageren, hos keramikeren og hos mejeristen. Men også når jeg taler med lægen og skolelæreren eller ingeniøren.

Som forbruger vil jeg vide det, fordi jeg foretrækker at købe produkter og ydelser fra mennesker, som vil det, de gør. Mennesker som er dedikerede, og som gør sig umage.
Motivationen og præmissen var derfor også omdrejningspunktet for samtalen, da jeg besøgte Per Sørup, som driver det prisbelønnede osteri Hårbølle Mejeri.
På en eller anden måde indkapsler de to spørgsmål alt, hvad man skal gøre sig klart, når man vælger vej. I særdelshed når man vælger at etablere en (håndværks) virksomhed, og Per har valgt, ikke bare én gang, men flere gange. Senest valgte han for 10 siden som 63-årig at lade sig pensionere fra et topjob i et landbrugspolitisk forskningsinstitut under EU-kommissionen. På det tidspunkt havde han i 15 år haft base i Sevilla, først sammen med sine døtre, siden alene.

Tiden var inde til ny-orientering, og sammen med sin kone, som gennem alle år har haft fast base i Danmark, valgte han at slå sig ned på Møn, hvor familien i årevis havde haft fritidshus. Fritidshuset blev kort inden Pers pensionering vekslet til en lille landbrugsejendom med 14 hektar jord.
Og så så du dig om efter en ny karriere, spørger jeg ledende?

”Jeg ledte efter en intellektuel og æstetisk udfordring,” svarer Per. ”Jeg har altid elsket at lave mad og har derfor også nydt godt af de rigelige mængder af friske råvarer og ikke mindst af de mange gode lokale gårdosterier i Spanien. De senere år i Spanien havde jeg på fritidsbasis fulgt og hjulpet til på et par lokale familiedrevne osterier, som gæstfrit imødekom mit ønske om at få lov til at være med, og som generøst øste af deres viden og erfaring. Det lå derfor til højrebenet at udnytte vores nyerhvervede ejendom til at etablere en dansk virksomhed efter spansk forbillede. Dog med den afgørende forskel, at i Spanien er der tre generationer om at drive et osteri – her er der bare mig og den hjælp, jeg har råd til at ansætte.” Han tilføjer, at han jo har haft en privilegeret opstart, fordi han har sin pension.


”Da jeg startede, havde jeg ikke skænket afsætning en tanke, og jeg anede ikke, hvad en forretningsplan skulle indeholde. Jeg havde frem til da været offentligt ansat hele mit arbejdsliv og var helt naiv på det punkt. At skrive forretningsplan lærte jeg dog, da jeg ville søge egnsudviklingsstøtte. En forretningsplan var en forudsætning for det projekt,”fortæller Per åbenhjertigt og siger samtidig, at mejeriets succes har meget lidt med planen at gøre. ”Vores succes er baseret på passion og kvalitet, men kan også tilskrives en vis portion tilfældighed.”

En af den slags lykkelige tilfældigheder var mødet med den navnkundige radiovært Kjeld Koplev, som en nabo inviterede indenfor på Hårbølle Mejeri. Kjeld Koplev var på egnen for at holde foredrag og havde 10 minutter i overskud. Han lovpriste efterfølgende Hårbølle Mejeri og ostene i to radiomontager og er i øvrigt blevet en god ven af huset (døren i Hårbølle står åben og ven, det bliver man let, fornemmer jeg). Omtalen gav genhør både i restaurationsbranchen og hos den grossist, som i dag varetager distributionen af ostene. ”Grossisten,” fortæller Per grinende, ”han var i starten mere begejstret for min lovprisning af ostene, end han var for selve produktet, men det har udviklet sig siden, og ost fra håndværksmejerier er kommet i høj kurs generelt.”


Den politiske stemme

”Vi er ikke mange af den slags i Danmark,” fortæller Per. ”Afhængig af hvordan man tæller, så lige nu en 4-5 stykker. Det ene af dem er Copenhagen Goat Milk. Den virksomhed er drevet af et par. Han er økonom, og hun er laborant. De dukkede op her for nogle år siden. De fortalte, at de havde geder, gerne ville udnytte mælken og havde tænkt på at lave ost. De ville gerne lære, og jeg vil gerne dele ud af min viden og min erfaring. Nu er de så gode, at de for nylig fik førsteprisen for deres ost i en konkurrence, hvor jeg blev nr. to. Det er helt, som det skal være!”

Jeg lufter en tanke: Er det faktisk sådan, at en solid teoretisk baggrund og en erfaring med administration og økonomi er en nyttig forudsætning, måske endda en nødvendighed for at starte og drive en lille fødevarevirksomhed?

”Det er i al fald sådan,” siger Per, ”at havde jeg ikke haft min ph.d.-grad i biokemi og min lange erfaring fra EU-kommissionen, så havde jeg ikke kunnet leve op til levnedsmiddelmyndighedernes krav. Jeg kunne på branchens vegne ønske, at man i en opstartsperiode kunne få hjælp og vejledning og indgå et samarbejde med levnedsmiddelmyndigheden og ikke, at man som nu står med hele ansvaret for at risikovurdere, mens myndighedens opgave er at fejlfinde.”

Selvom Per taler roligt og kultiveret, så er det let at fornemme, at han faktisk er noget oprørt over forholdene, og siden vi har bevæget os ind på brændpunkterne, så falder talen på de manglende muligheder for at producere råmælksost i Danmark.
Man må gerne importere råmælksoste til Danmark, og der produceres råmælksost i mange andre EU-lande. Men siden 1984 har man ikke måttet producere af rå mælk her.
”Jeg troede først, at det var et hygiejnehensyn, men har forstået, at det udelukkende handler om muligheden for at standardisere og homogenisere,” fortæller Per indigneret.

”Der er ingen hygiejne – eller sundhedsfordele ved at pasteurisere mælken, snarere tværtimod. Råmælken er langt mere robust, fordi mælkesyrekulturen er mangfoldig. Man kunne endda fristes til at mene, at råmælksosten har helbredsmæssige fordele frem for ost fremstillet af pasteuriseret mælk. Den har i al fald smagsmæssige fordele, selvom jeg faktisk mener, at vi er kommet omkring det benspænd og producerer oste, som er fuldt ud på højde med råmælksostene.” Det mener landets bedste kokke også!
Frustrationen deler Per med andre håndværksmejerier, blandt andre Copenhagen Goat Milk og den mejeriingeniørstuderende Marie Østergård, som har arbejdet på Hårbølle Mejeri, og som har eget osteri under etablering. Sammen vil de søge dialog med fødevaremyndighederne.



Per Sørup bruger efter syv år meget lidt tid i selve produktionen, men derimod meget tid på dialog. Dialog med myndighederne, dialog med kunder og andre interessenter og dialog med leverandører og samarbejdspartnere, og så insisterer han på at tilbringe vintermånederne i Spanien. Han savner naturen, maden og mentaliteten, hvis han er for længe borte, og han nyder at arbejde sammen med sine tidligere læremestre, som nu er blevet til kolleger.

Det kan han, fordi den ansatte mejerist er omhyggelig, dygtig og stabil og tager ejerskab produktionsgangen.

Hånd og ånd, æstetik og praktik er forenet på smukkeste vis i Hårbølle.
Hvor længe en 73-årig mejerist vil blive ved med at arbejde? Svaret på det spørgsmål blæser i vinden!

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