Farming, Danish style

Denmark, with a population of 5,356,394 – half that of Greece – is only a third of its size (42,930 square kilometers) and has a far harsher climate, but is one of the European Union’s most successful farming economies. Why? There are two reasons. Danish farmers are well-trained professionals and, secondly, Denmark’s farmland may not be used for other purposes, particularly since the country entered the EU. The farmers’ union is extremely powerful and influential, among consumers as well, who often refer to the union for information about produce. The union has assumed part of the cost of the events held in Denmark within the framework of the country’s current tenure of the EU’s rotating presidency. Farming cooperatives have also undertaken to promote and protect their members’ products. For example, Tulip, Denmark’s largest meat by-products industry, is a cooperative. Then, the dairy union decided to have recourse once again to the European Court of Justice, after Greece was given exclusive rights to make cheese under the «feta» label, which the Danish press said was a great blow to the country’s dairy industry. In order to be a farmer in Denmark, candidates have to undertake three years of study and acquire practical experience on another farm before they can go into business for themselves. Studies include practical farm work, how to measure soil acidity, the use of a computer for farm records, and the temporary repair of farm equipment. Farmers are generally well informed about new developments and prepared to adjust to new conditions. They know that if they want their farms to provide them with a living, they have to produce at least half the animal fodder they require and they cannot be «absentee landlords» – they have to be resident on their farm, not in the nearest village or, even worse, a nearby town. If someone wants to stop cultivating the land, they have to either sell it or rent it, as it is forbidden to let agricultural land remain uncultivated in Denmark. Most farms in Denmark combine livestock and crops in order to make best use of natural resources. Any other use is forbidden and as agricultural land cannot be sold for other uses, such as housing, it is useless to anyone who does not want to farm. Land in Denmark is divided into clearly distinct zones (housing, forest, farmland) and there are specific enclaves for those who want a country house. Denmark’s farming population currently stands at about 51,000 and the average holding is over 50 hectares. It is an extremely intensive form of farming imposed to some degree by climatic conditions. Although Denmark enjoys few hours of sunlight, it produces and exports millions of pots of parsley, oregano and dill, which do not have a aroma but which are beautifully packaged. And while Danes rave about the aroma and taste of Greek tomatoes (Greece is the Danes’ favored holiday destination), Greece imports both tomato products and seeds from the Netherlands.