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THE FASHION FARMER

I was on a mission for my daughter, Thea Klint Bak,
who ran the bakery Baghaven (Back Garden Bakery), as part of my visit to Österlensaffran (Österlen Saffron) near the coastal city of Simrishamn, south of the Kivik region – Sweden’s apple district.

November 2023

From HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 8.

Here, conditions have proven to be optimal for saffron, with sandy soil and suitable amounts of both sunlight and cold.

Österlen Saffran, aka Karl Berglund, Johannes Melin and a circle of investors and helpers, embarked on this endeavour in 2018 when they planted the first corms of Crocus sativus (an autumn-flowering crocus). Thea has asked me to bring home some saffron for her bakery.

Karl greets me in the driveway.

He is wearing a fisherman sweater from S. N. S. Herning – he did not buy it yesterday, that is obvious, but it is still in good shape, just a little worn at the elbows.

Funny coincidence, I say, I visited S. N. S. Herning just last week.

– Our conversation has begun, and we go inside.

 

It turns out the saffron farmer I have come to visit has deep roots in the fashion business. He bought the sweater in 2005.

I have not spent more than five minutes inside before I have sampled saffron that has soaked in rum for a week, learned that Karl was once an agent for the French rock-star jeans label April77 and used to sell shoes for the Brazilian brand Melissa, which is known for collaborations with leading designers, such as Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Zaha Hadid.

After another five minutes, I have heard about Karl’s own two design brands, established in 2012 in cooperation with Jukka Viitasara: Stiff pipes and Happy Ears earplugs.

Karl pulls a set of earplugs out of a kitchen drawer, turns up the volume of the music and lets me experience how Happy Ears lets all the nuances of the music through, only reduced to a more pleasant volume.

The pipe company is history by now, and Karl is no longer involved in the day-to-day operation of Happy Ears, although he still serves as chairman of the board.
Jukka, who has also stepped down from day-to-day management, is a board member. He moved to Stockholm and recently completed a three-year master’s degree in Industrial Design at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design there. In another coincidence, I photographed his graduation project at the Stockholm Design Week a few months ago.

Jukka is a designer, art director and philosopher. He is incredibly talented, and we are like brothers,’ says Karl. ‘We have done some wonderful projects together, but it began to wear on our friendship. Today, I enjoy our friendship and just going to watch a film with Jukka.

What is your background?

I have a master’s degree in International Finance from Lund University. Initially, I wanted to study political science with a view to applying to the diplomatic programme, which is a trainee programme under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. However, I realized that it’s a real needle’s eye to get in, and that if I failed, I would have a very dull working life ahead of me.

Instead, I studied Finance. You’d think that was hard, but it isn’t, it’s quite basic.

I chose this field because it is easy and, to be honest, because I don’t have the patience required for the humanities.

After graduation, I worked briefly in the Copenhagen office of the Dell computer company. I’ve never made as much money as I did during those months, and I’ve never been so bored.

 

After Dell, I thought maybe the fashion business would be something for me. I aimed for H&M – that’s a cool company, where there’s always something going on. As I had no experience with fashion, I decided to establish my own fashion firm in order to get some industry experience.

I went to a fair in China in search of a product. It was a giant fair, the size of 800 football fields. You could buy anything, but you had to place big orders: 40,000 pairs of trousers in each size in each colour!
Finally, I found someone who could make sweatbands – red with white flags, blue with yellow flags and so forth.

I created my design in an Excel spreadsheet that same night, and the following day, I ordered 50,000 sweatbands.

I sold them during the European football cup in Portugal, this was in 2004.

 

He tells me about the ups and downs – the desperation over lacking sales, then a breakthrough, partly thanks to help from Jukka, partly driven by his will to survive. ‘My wife was expecting our first child at the time,’ he explains. ‘My friends from the university were working in finance, while I was getting hands-on experience with business management.’ Karl rounds off our talk about his debut in the fashion industry by observing that an entrepreneur only has a very small window when launching a new product that is not trademark-registered: it does not take long before someone with more money swoops in to copy the design.

 

In extension of the sweatband adventure, Karl established the agency One Last Piece. This was where the April77 jeans came into the story, along with guerrilla pop-up shops for the Japanese brand Comme des Garçons.

Surfing is a constant element that runs through all Karl’s stories. He met Jukka in 1997 in Bali, where they were both surfing. Karl lives where he does because the local beach is one of Sweden’s best for surfing, and he met his current project partner and neighbour, Johannes, because they are both surfers.

Surfing has also left him with an injury in the form of severe hearing loss, for which he underwent surgery in Brussels. On this occasion, he met a former director of the Danish sugar manufacturing company De Danske Sukkerfabrikker, who was on his way to Costa Rica to establish a waste management project. ‘The country had huge amounts of waste, including from the banana and pineapple plantations. The project aimed to turn this biological waste into ethanol – biofuel. I was interested in the possibility of turning it into bioplastic instead,’ says Karl. Jukka and I offered ourselves as partners in branding the bioplastic, but the old men wanted to call the shots themselves, and our company was too small to match them. Later, they chose other partners, but they would have done much better if they had worked with us.

His interest in plastic persisted. He tells me about numerous contacts and meetings both in Sweden and in South and Central America. Among the outcomes, One Last Piece became the Scandinavian distributor for the Brazilian shoe label Melissa.

I sold Melissa shoes myself, from my Slowfashionhouse web shop (2008–13). Maybe I was in contact with Karl back then, neither of us can recall.

I love the design, fit and comfort of Melissa shoes, but it is difficult – not to say impossible – to verify whether their claims about sustainable production are as watertight as the shoes themselves!

It is a fact that their plastic, MELFLEX™, can be recirculated, and apart from any buckles, the shoes are made of a single material, which facilitates recirculation.

Melissa shoes virtually never wear out, and using something for a long time is an undisputable sustainability factor.

 

Then we came up with the idea of designing plastic products; we had a lot of ideas.’ I look at a photo of the most stylish pipe I have ever seen in one of the many press cuttings spread out on the table. Why pipes? I ask.

A pipe is just a beautiful product, and it is impervious to stress,’ says Karl. ‘Initially, it was the government’s witch-hunt against smokers that inspired us. You can live on Sveavägen in the middle of Stockholm, surrounded by toxic car fumes – that’s fine. But if you live in Kiruna and want to light a pipe at the end of the day, you’re in bad standing.

Our Stiff pipe is made in Sweden from hand-polished thermoplastic and Corsican briarwood.

We joined forces with two of the world’s leading pipemakers and had the finest and most modern pipe produced in a limited, numbered series of 400. The colours were dark navy blue, black/pistachio and burnt red. The pipes came in a wooden box, and we promised our customers that they could return the used pipe for recycling.

Now follows a detailed description of how he and Jukka were able to travel to Tokyo in 2012 and do a launch in a good location on a budget of just 10,000 Danish kroner (about 1,300 euros). Karl also explains how they landed a meeting with the editor-in-chief of Popeye, using equal parts cunning and enthusiasm, and how they happened to drink their morning coffee in the same café as Tyler Brûlé from Wallpaper and were thus able to personally present him with a pipe. The pipe was later written up in both magazines, among many others.

In Scandinavia, the pipe was available from elegant old tobacco shops as well as trendy fashion shops, such as Nitty Gritty in Stockholm and Pede & Stoffer in Copenhagen.

We were generating attention. During that phase, you never make any money,’ Karl explains, drawing a parallel to his current company, Österlensaffran.

‘We build with love. Once a company goes commercial, I get tired of hearing myself talk and tired of management, and then others have to take over.’

 

As it happened with Happy Ears? I ask. ‘I think I stayed on too long in that case, but now there’s a

professional CEO, and everything is fine.

Did the One Last Piece agency still exist when you launched Stiff and Happy Ears? Again, I get an honest and detailed answer, including how the market for April77, which was the brand that the economics of the agency was based on, was developed through a highly selective curation of retailers and business partners, and how this strategy led to a good business and, sadly, also to a significant loss when April77 had to declare bankruptcy. One Last Piece existed from 2004 to 2012.

When we launched Happy Ears in 2012, we had been working on the earplugs for a couple of years.

I suffered a complete loss of hearing myself. Surgery restored 95% of my hearing, so I know from first-hand experience how crucial a sense hearing is.

Despite my injury, I want to continue surfing, and I had someone develop a very expensive and uncomfortable solution that not only kept the water out but also eliminated all sound. I wanted something better than that.

I want to be able to see, taste, smell and hear the sea.

With Happy Ears we created a small, comfortable, elegant and reusable plug in three sizes that can be used for swimming, surfing, concerts, city noise and sleeping.

The earplug is made locally in Sweden from recycled plastic, so-called ocean plastic.

It reduces the sound by 25–27 dB.

Then as now, my analysis was that even though our plug is more expensive than disposable plugs, it is cheaper in the long run, and above all, it’s more sustainable.

It ought to be present at all the major music festivals, where earplugs are a condition for listening to music.

Happy Ears also received a great deal of media coverage, and the plugs were initially sold in high-end design shops, including the now defunct Colette in Paris. Today, Happy Ears plugs are available from pharmacies.

 

We get ready to go into the saffron fields, which are a 15-minute walk from the plot where both Johannes and Karl live in an informal shared settlement. The houses lie side by side in an old apple orchard. At either end of the settlement is a large, shared kitchen garden.

‘Here, no one competes on status symbols. Instead, we compete about who can grow the most impressive vegetables. I don’t take part in that competition, although I do grow asparagus. This is also where we had our first small trial crop of crocus in 2018, and we still do test crops here.’

 

Karl already showed me how the organic crocus corms multiply up to 10 times per year. That in itself can make for a profitable business.

We bump into Johannes. ‘He is in charge of production, he knows everything about cultivation, and he’s thorough and systematic. I am just a farmer, and I do the marketing,’ says Karl,

adding, ‘Johannes developed our drying method to make sure that all our batches are uniform. I tend to rely more on my gut instinct. Johannes is a trained teacher and used to teach maths and sciences; it’s the children’s loss that he took up saffron growing.

Johannes has been working in the field with Zaza, who was recently hired to assist in the upcoming harvest and in experiments to find uses for the lilac petals and the short yellow anthers. Like the deep-red stigma that is the source of saffron, the anthers can be used to dye textile, but they have no flavour.
Zaza and Karl arrange to go surfing that afternoon.
Before we continue, we take a look at the box with the morning’s harvest, which is now going to be dried. They left a few rows for us, Johannes tells us.

 

We continue, crossing fields with grazing cattle, navigating around brambles and passing by apple trees. We sample the apples. ‘In a few years’ time, our field will be developed for single-family houses. Until then, we have the use of it. The land is undeniably easier to sell when it’s covered in lilac flowers,’ Karl observes. Soon, we arrive at our destination.

At this point, the saffron project is all about generating experience, establishing the operation and spreading awareness of Swedish-grown saffron and its many uses.

When it comes to development and cultivation, we have been working with the agricultural test department in Skepparslöv on a report about the opportunities for commercial saffron growing in Sweden. The project is supported by the European Agricultural Fund.

It looks promising. Our goal is to combine a three-thousand-year-old tradition with modern technology. In the present season, we are only selling to a few select gourmet restaurants, first of all, Noma in Copenhagen, and a handful of bakeries, including Loshult Handelsbod (which you can read about in HÅNDVÆRK no. 6).
We put this year’s first harvest up for auction and achieved a price of 55 US dollars per gram. I am building the brand the way I did brand-building in the fashion and design industries.

Soon, we’ll need to bring in more investors, and by 2025 we will be growing enough saffron to sell to a wider range of restaurants and select shops. In tests, our saffron has been rated as premium quality.

Sweden is among the top consumers of saffron in the world: 10 tons a year!
This despite the fact that saffron is (almost) exclusively used in Lucia buns, which are only baked in November and December.
At a price per kilo ranging from 10,000 to 100,000, depending on quality, saffron is almost worth its weight in gold.
Saffron is surrounded by myths and mystique, regarded as having medicinal as well as aphrodisiac properties. The flavour is heavenly and highly addictive.
Half the world’s saffron is produced in Iraq. It is also grown in Spain, Greece, Turkey and India, where it is used in both sweet and savoury recipes.

 

While we drink the coffee we brought outside the beautiful tipi that is the company HQ, Karl points out across the fields.

‘That is where we go surfing. If this project fails, we had fun, met interesting people and preserved our freedom. I couldn’t care less what car I drive, but I care a great deal about who my friends and business partners are and about my relationship with my wife and daughters.’

Karl tells me that his family lives in Malmö, where his wife works as a librarian and their daughters go to school. He divides his time between Malmö and the family’s house here.
In Malmö, he is a co-owner of the restaurant Kollektivkrogen (The Collective Inn). It is run by three full-time employees, but all 50 owners also take their turn, so from time to time, you can find Karl behind the bar.

Like everyone else who visits during the brief but intense harvest season, I get to try my hand at harvesting saffron.

The flowers are picked manually, and the same day, the petals are separated from the three deep reddish orange pistils. Just as visitors are invited out into the field, they might also be offered a seat around the long table where we began our talk, to take part in this process. ‘I am thinking of setting up a sort of saffron dating agency,’ says Karl with a laugh. ‘It’s more fun to meet in real life than on Tinder, and it’s easier to talk when you’re using your hands.’ On a more practical note he adds, ‘The pistils dry for 24 hours, then they’re ready to be packed in small glass phials and sent into the world.

We are done picking and begin to head back.

Once again, we touch on Karl’s time in the fashion trade, and he shares anecdotes about people he has met and projects he has been involved in.

Was it chance that took you from fashion to farm? I ask.

I want to be part of changing the way we grow food, but I also have many other projects in the pipeline after this one.

Fra HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 8.

Jeg var udsendt på vegne af min datter, Thea Klint Bak, som frem til efteråret 2022 stod  bag Bageriet Baghaven. Turen gik til Österlensaffran, tæt på kystbyen Simrishamn syd for Kivikområdet, som er Sveriges æbledistrikt.
Her har forholdene vist sig at være optimale for safranproduktion: sandet jord og tilpas mængder af både sol og kulde.

Österlensaffran, alias Karl Berglund, Johannes Melin og en kreds af investorer og hjælpere, har været i gang siden 2018, hvor de satte de første løg af planten Crocus sativus (en efterårsblomstrende krokus). Thea skal have bragt safran til sit bageri.

Karl tager imod i indkørslen til sit hus.

Han er iført sømandstrøje fra S. N. S. Herning – den er ikke fra i går, det ses tydeligt, men stadig i god stand, bare lidt slidt på albuerne.

Pudsigt sammentræf, siger jeg, jeg besøgte netop S. N. S. Herning i sidste uge.

Vi er i gang og går ind.

Det viser sig, at safranbonden, som jeg er kommet for at besøge, har rødderne dybt plantet i modebranchen. Trøjen købte han i 2005.

Jeg har ikke været inden for døren fem minutter, før jeg både har smagt på safran, som har ligget i rom i en uge, ved at Karl har været agent for det franske rockstar-jeansmærke April77 og har solgt sko for brasilianske Melissa, som samarbejder med designere som Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier og Zaha Hadid.

Efter yderligere fem minutter har jeg hørt om Karls egne designbrands, som begge blev etableret i 2012 i samarbejde med Jukka Viitasara; dels Stiff-piber, dels Happy Ears-ørepropper.

Karl fisker et sæt ørepropper frem fra køkkenskuffen, skruer højt op for musikken og lader mig prøve, hvordan Happy Ears slipper alle nuancer i musikken igennem, blot i en lydstyrke, som er behagelig.

Pibevirksomheden er historie, og Karl er ikke længere aktiv i den daglige drift af Happy Ears, men er bestyrelsesformand.
Jukka, som også har trukket sig fra driften, er bestyrelsesmedlem. Han er flyttet til Stockholm og har netop afsluttet en treårig kandidatuddannelse i industridesign på Konstfack. Sjovt nok har jeg for få måneder siden fotograferet hans afgangsprojekt i Stockholm under Design Week.

“Jukka er designer, art director og filosof, han er utrolig dygtig, og vi er som brødre”, siger Karl, “vi har lavet virkelig fine projekter sammen, men til sidst sled det på venskabet, nu glæder jeg mig over, at vi er venner og kan gå i biografen sammen.”

Hvilken baggrund har du?

“Jeg har en master’s degree fra Lunds Universitet i International Finance. Jeg ville egentlig læse politik med henblik på at søge diplomatprogrammet, som er et traineeprogram under Udenrigsministeriet. Det gik imidlertid op for mig, at det er et nåleøje at komme igennem, og at kom jeg ikke igennem det, så ville jeg få et meget kedeligt arbejdsliv.

Så læste jeg Finance. Man skulle tro, at det er et svært studium, men det er det ikke, det er ganske basic.

Jeg valgte det, både fordi det er let, og fordi jeg helt ærligt ikke har tålmodighed til at læse humaniora.

Da jeg var færdig, arbejdede jeg i en kort periode på computervirksomheden Dells kontor i København. Jeg har aldrig tjent så mange penge som i de måneder og aldrig kedet mig så meget.

Efter Dell tænkte jeg, at modebranchen kunne være noget for mig. Jeg sigtede efter H&M – det er en cool virksomhed, hvor der sker noget nyt hele tiden. Da jeg ingen erfaring havde med mode, besluttede jeg til at begynde med at lave en egen modevirksomhed for at få brancheerfaring.

Derfor rejse jeg til Kina på en messe for at finde et produkt. Messen var gigantisk, på størrelse med 800 fodboldbaner. Her kunne man købe alt, men man skulle købe mange af hver; 40.000 par bukser i hver størrelse i hver farve!
Til sidst fandt jeg en, som kunne fremstille sweatbands – røde med hvide flag, blå med gule osv. osv.

Jeg lavede mit design i et excelark samme aften og bestilte dagen efter 50.000 sweatbands.

Dem solgte jeg i forbindelse med Europamesterskaberne i fodbold i Portugal, vi er i 2004.”

Her får jeg en række mellemregninger indeholdende først desperationen over ikke at sælge, herefter et gennembrud båret, dels af hjælp fra Jukka, dels af viljen til at overleve. “Min hustru ventede vores første barn på det tidspunkt”, siger han forklarende.

“Mine venner fra studiet var i gang på finansmarkedet, jeg fik derimod en hands on-erfaring med, hvordan man driver en virksomhed”. Karl afrunder snakken om sin debut i modebranchen med en erkendelse af, at man har et ganske lille vindue, når man står med et nyt produkt, som ikke er varemærkebeskyttet, derefter kommer dem med mange penge og kopierer.

I forlængelse af sweatband-eventyret etablerede Karl agenturvirksomhed One Last Piece, Det var her, blandt andet jeans fra April77 kom ind i billedet, og guerilla-‘pop-up’ shops for japanske Comme des Garçons.

Ind og ud af Karls fortællinger væver sig et spor af surfing. Jukka mødte han i 1997 på Bali, hvor de begge surfede. Karl bor, hvor han bor, fordi stranden her er et af Sveriges bedste surfområder. Hans nuværende samarbejdspartner og nabo, Johannes, har han mødt, fordi de begge surfer.

 

Surflivet har også givet knubs i form af en alvorlig høreskade, som han er opereret for i Bruxelles. Her lærte han en tidligere direktør for De Danske Sukkerfabrikker at kende, han var på vej til Costa Rica for at etablere et ‘waste magement’-projekt. “Landet bugnede med affald fra blandt andet banan- og ananasplantagerne. Projektet gik ud på at omdanne bioaffaldet til ethanol, altså brændstof. Jeg blev optaget af muligheden for i stedet at omdanne affaldet til bioplast”, forklarer Karl. “Jukka og jeg bød os til som samarbejdspartnere i forhold til branding af bioplast, men de gamle mænd ville selv bestemme, og vores virksomhed var alt for lille til at hamle op med dem. Sidenhen valgte de andre samarbejdspartnere, men de havde fået meget mere ud af os.”

Interessen for plast var dog vakt. Jeg hører nu om en lang række forskellige kontakter og møder både i Sverige og i Syd- og Mellemamerika, som blandt andet resulterede i, at One Last Piece blev Skandinaviensdistributør for det brasilianske skofirma Melissa.

Jeg har selv solgt Melissa-sko fra SLOWFASHIONhouse (2008-13). Måske var jeg i kontakt med Karl dengang, ingen af os erindrer det.

Jeg er begejstret for Melissas design, pasform og komfort, det er derimod vanskeligt gennemskueligt, for ikke at sige umuligt at finde ud af, om deres påstand om bæredygtig produktion helt holder vand, men skoene er vandtætte!

Det er et faktum, at deres plastic, kaldet MELFLEX™, kan recirkuleres, og det er et faktum, at skoene, ud over eventuelle spænder, er produceret af et eneste materiale, hvilket i forhold til recirkulation er en fordel.

Melissa-sko er nærmest uopslidelige, bruger man dem længe, er det uden for enhver diskussion yderligere en bæredygtighedsfaktor.

“Så kom vi på, at vi selv ville designe plastprodukter, vi havde mange ideer”. Jeg ser på billedet af den mest stilrene pibe, jeg nogen sinde har set, på et af de mange presseklip, som ligger fremme på spisebordet. Hvorfor piber?, spørger jeg.

“En pibe er et på alle måder smukt produkt, og du kan ikke stresse en pibe”, svarer Karl og fortsætter: “Det var socialstyrelses-hetz mod rygerne, som kickstartede os. Du kan bo på Sveavägen midt i Stockholm, omgivet af usund bilos, det er helt ok, men bor du i Kiruna og vil tage en pibe tobak ved dagens slutning, så er du i bad standing.”

Vores pibe “Stiff” er produceret i Sverige af håndpoleret termoplast og korsikansk bruyere.

Vi allierede os med to af verdens bedste pibemagere og fik fremstillet den bedste og mest moderne pibe i en limiteret, nummereret serie på 400 stk. Farverne var mørk marineblå, sort/pistacie og brændt rød. Piberne blev leveret i en trææske, og løftet til kunderne var, at vi ville tage brugte piber retur til recycling.”

Her får jeg en detaljeret beskrivelse af, hvordan han og Jukka i 2012, for bare 10.000 kr., lykkedes med at rejse til Tokyo og gennemføre en lancering på en god adresse. Karl fortæller også om, hvordan de ved hjælp af lige dele list og entusiasme lykkedes med at få foretræde for chefredaktøren for magasinet Popeye og ved et held drak morgenkaffe på samme café som Tyler Brûlé fra Wallpaper og på den måde fik afleveret et eksemplar af piben personligt til ham. Piben blev siden omtalt i Popeye og Wallpaper, blandt mange andre steder.

I Skandinavien kom piben til salg i både fine, gamle tobaksbutikker og i hypede modebutikker som Nitty Gritty i Stockholm og den nu lukkede Pede & Stoffer i København.

“Vi skabte opmærksomhed. I den fase tjener man aldrig penge”, forklarer Karl og drager en parallel til sin nuværende virksomhed Österlensaffran.

Vi bygger med kærlighed. Når virksomheden bliver kommerciel, bliver jeg træt af, at høre mig selv tale og træt af at forvalte, så må andre tage over.”

Som det er sket med Happy Ears, spørger jeg? “Der blev jeg nok lidt for længe i virkeligheden,

men nu er der en professionel CEO, og alt er godt.”

Eksisterede agenturvirksomheden One Last Piece stadig, da I lancerede Stiff og Happy Ears, forhører jeg mig. Også her får jeg et detaljeret og ærligt svar, bliver indført i, hvordan markedet for April77, som var det brand, agenturvirksomhedens økonomi var baseret på, var bygget op gennem en meget selektiv kuratering af forhandlere og samarbejdspartnere, hvordan strategien førte til en god forretning og desværre også til et stort tab, da April77 gik konkurs. One Last Piece eksisterede fra 2004 til 2012.

“Da vi lancerede Happy Ears i 2012, havde vi udviklet på ørepropperne over et par år.

Jeg har selv oplevet at miste hørelsen. Mine operationer har givet mig 95% af den tilbage, jeg ved hvad det betyder at kunne høre.

Til trods for mine øreproblemer vil jeg surfe, og jeg havde fået udviklet en dyr og ubekvem løsning, som lukkede af for vand og lukkede al lyd ude. Jeg drømte om noget bedre.

Jeg vil kunne se, smage, lugte og høre havet.

Med Happy Ears-øreproppen skabte vi en lille, behagelig og elegant genanvendelig prop i tre størrelser, som kan bruges til svømning, surfing, til koncerter, i storbyer og om natten.

Øreproppen produceres lokalt i Sverige af henholdsvis recycled plastic og ocean-plastic.

Proppen dæmper med 25-27 dB.

Min analyse var dengang som nu, at vores prop, selvom den er dyrere end engangsørepropper, er billigere i det lange løb og frem for alt mere bæredygtig.

Den bør blive fast inventar på alle de store festivaler, hvor ørepropper er en forudsætning for at kunne høre musikken.”

Også Happy Ears har fået meget medieomtale og blev først solgt i prestigefyldte designbutikker som den nu lukkede Colette i Paris. Nu kan man købe Happy Ears på apoteket.

Vi gør klar til at gå i marken, som ligger et kvarters gang borte fra den udstykning, hvor både Johannes og Karl bor i et fællesskab, omend det ikke er formaliseret. Husene ligger som perler på snor i en gammel æbleplantage. I hver ende af bebyggelsen er et større landområde lagt ud til fælles køkkenhave.

Her på vejen konkurrerer vi ikke om statussymboler, snarere om hvem der dyrker de flotteste grøntsager. Den konkurrence er jeg nu ikke med i, men jeg har et aspargesbed. Det er også her, vi havde vores første lille prøvedyrkning af krokus i 2018, og her, vi stadig testdyrker.”

Karl har allerede vist mig, hvordan den økologiske krokus-knold formerer sig op til 10 gange på et år. I sig selv kan det blive en god forretning.

Vi støder på Johannes. “Han er den, som er øverst ansvarlig for produktionen, han ved alt om at dyrke, han er grundig og systematisk; jeg er bare bonde og den, som markedsfører”, siger Karl

og fortsætter: “Det er Johannes, som har udviklet vores tørringsmetode, så alle batches bliver ens, jeg går mere på fornemmelsen. Johannes er uddannet lærer og har undervist i matematik og naturfag. Det er synd for børnene, at han er holdt op med det for at dyrke safran.”

Johannes har været i marken sammen med Zaza, som netop er blevet ansat til at hjælpe med den igangværende høst og til at være med til at eksperimentere med anvendelsesmuligheder for de lilla kronblade og de korte, gule stilke, som sidder på griflen. De har samme evne til at farve som de dybrøde pistiller, som bliver til safran, man kan for eksempel farve tekstil med dem, men de har ingen aroma.
Hun og Karl laver en surfaftale samme eftermiddag.
Inden vi fortsætter, ser vi på kassen med formiddagens høst, som nu skal til tørring. De har ladet nogle rækker stå til os, lader Johannes os vide.

Vi går videre og krydser marker med græssende køer, forcerer brombærkrat og passerer æbletræer, hvis frugt vi smager på. “Om nogle år skal vores mark udstykkes til parcelhusgrunde, indtil da benytter vi den. Udstykningen bliver uomtvisteligt lettere at sælge, når den blomstrer lilla”, mener Karl. Snart er vi fremme.

“Endnu handler safranprojektet om erfaringsopsamling og etablering og om at udbrede kendskabet til den svenskdyrkede safran og dens mange anvendelsesmuligheder.

På udviklings- og dyrkningsområdet har vi samarbejdet med Hushållningssällskapet Skånes forsøgsafdeling i Skepparslöv om en rapport, som undersøger muligheden for at dyrke safran kommercielt i Sverige. Projektet er støttet af Den Europæiske Jordbrugsfond.

Det ser lovende ud. Vi vil kombinere en 3000-årig tradition med moderne teknologi. I indeværende sæson sælger vi bare til udvalgte gourmetrestauranter, anført af Noma i København, og til enkelte bagerier, Loshult Handelsbod for eksempel (om dem i HÅNDVÆRK bookazine no. 6).
Årets første høst udbød vi på auktion, og prisen kom op på 55 dollar for et gram. Jeg bygger varemærket op på samme måde, som jeg har gjort det i mode- og designbranchen.

Inden længe skal vi have flere investorer ind, og i 2025 dyrker vi så meget safran, at både flere restauranter og nogle butikker kan få glæde af den. Vores safran viser sig i test at være i premium- kvalitet.”

 

Svenskerne er et af de folkeslag, som konsumerer mest safran i verden. 10 tons om året!
Det til trods for at man (næsten) udelukkende bruger safran i Luciaboller, og dem bager man bare i november og december.
Safran er, med sin kilopris på mellem 10.000 og 100.000 kr., afhængig af kvaliteten, næsten sin vægt værd i guld.
Safran er omgærdet med myter og mystik, anset både for at have medicinske og afrodisiske egenskaber, den smager himmelsk og er stærkt vanedannende.
Halvdelen af verdens safranproduktion kommer fra Irak. Der dyrkes også safran i Spanien, Grækenland, Tyrkiet og Indien, i de lande indgår krydderiet både i det salte og det søde køkken.

 

Mens vi drikker medbragt kaffe uden for det smukke tipitelt, som udgør virksomhedens domicil, peger Karl ud over marken.

Det er derude, vi surfer. Ender det her projekt med ikke at lykkes, så har vi haft det sjovt, mødt interessante mennesker og haft vores frihed. For mig spiller det ingen rolle, hvilken bil jeg kører i, men i høj grad hvilke venner og samarbejdspartnere jeg har, og hvordan jeg har det med min og mine døtre.”

Karl fortæller, at familien bor i Malmø, hvor hans hustru er bibliotekar og pigerne går i skole, han selv tilbringer halvdelen af tiden i Malmø og halvdelen af tiden i familiens hus her.
I Malmø er han medejer af Kollektivkrogen, en restaurant med 50 ejere. Kroen drives af tre fuldtidsansatte, men alle ejere giver en hånd med – således kan man af og til træffe Karl i baren.

Jeg får lov til at hjælpe med at plukke krokus ligesom alle andre, som kommer på besøg i den korte, men intense høstperiode.

Høsten foregår manuelt. Samme dag, der høstes, skal kronbladene skilles fra blomstens tre pistiller. Ligesom man som gæst kan blive inviteret med i marken, kan man også meget vel blive budt ind til at være med omkring det lange bord, hvor vi startede, for at give en hånd med i den proces, “Jeg overvejer at lave en slags safran-datingbureau”, griner Karl, “det er sjovere at mødes i virkeligheden end på Tinder, og snakken går godt, når man bruger hænderne”; og mere lavpraktisk: “Pistillerne tørres herefter et døgn, så er de klar til at blive pakket i små glasflasker og sendt ud i verden.”

Vi har plukket færdig og begiver os på tilbagevejen.

Vi runder endnu en gang Karls tid i modebranchen, og han fortæller anekdoter om folk, han har truffet, og projekter, han har været involveret i.

Er det tilfældigt, at du har taget rejsen fra fashion til farm, spørger jeg?

“Jeg vil være med til at forandre den måde, vi dyrker fødevarer på, men jeg har også mange andre projekter i pipeline efter dette.”

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