|Finland Table of Contents
During most of the twentieth century, Finnish farmers have favored raising animals over growing plants for human consumption. These preferences resulted in part from the country's climate and soils, which were more suitable for the production of feed for animals than for the production of crops for human consumption. The small size of many farms also encouraged the emphasis on milk, eggs, and meat; only on a large farm could a family earn sufficient income from less laborintensive field crops. Thus, in the late 1980s, about 40 percent of farm income came from milk; 30 percent, from meat; 9 percent, from grain; 5 percent, from eggs; and 16 percent, from other products.
Regional ecological variations influenced the distribution of agricultural production. In the southern and western parts of the country, where the climate is more favorable and soils are richer, farmers generally produced grain, poultry, and pigs, while in the north and the east they specialized in hardier root crops and in dairying. It was in the north, too, that the country's 200,000 reindeer, one-third of which were owned by Lapps were raised.
In the late 1980s, cattle operations remained the mainstay of farming, but Finland's farmers also raised pigs, poultry, and other animals. Most pigs were raised on relatively large, specialized farms. Poultry production increased after the mid1960s to accommodate an increased demand for meat. A more recent development, a response to the oversupply of traditional animal products, was a shift to fur farming. By the mid-1980s, about 6,000 farms, especially those in Vaasa Province along the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia, were producing a substantial share of the world's mink and fox furs. The Finns exported most furs, but some were used domestically in luxury clothing.
About 85 percent of Finland's arable land supplied feed for farm animals. Farmers dedicated more than 30 percent of their land to hay, silage crops, and pasture. Grains, the most important field crop, took up slightly more than half the country's arable land. The most widely planted grain crops--barley and oats--were used primarily to feed livestock. Rutabagas and mangels, particularly hardy root crops, also served as animal feed.
Despite the emphasis on producing feed for livestock, the Finns made substantial efforts to ensure supplies of basic human foodstuffs. By the 1980s, the annual wheat and rye crops, used for making bread, met domestic demand in years with normal harvests. Potatoes produced high yields even in the north, and the potato crop was usually large enough for domestic needs. Domestic sugar beets provided about half of the sugar consumed in the country. Some farmers, especially those with small holdings near large cities, specialized in growing vegetables; they managed to raise as much as 80 percent of the vegetables consumed in Finland.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress