Christmas dinners are cancelled, so Swedish vegetable farmer's selling kale trees

Swedish grower, Ulf Engström, runs his family business, Trädgårn Södertälje. They've been cultivation fruit and vegetables for about 150 years now. In total, 40 different vegetables are organically farmed on four hectares of land. They sell these to the hospitality sector, wholesalers, and individuals.

Kale is one of the main products at this time of year. But the corona crisis is hampering sales. Usually, Engström sells around 1,5 tons of kale per week. About 90% of this goes to Christmas dinners in restaurants. Now restaurants are only taking 25% of their usual orders.

Kale tree in a pot
Engström initially focused on the retail sector as an alternative to the hospitality industry. But he soon concluded that packaging took far too much time. So, he tried an idea. "Three years ago, we had some mature kale plants. We left these in their pots instead of planting them out. We liked the way they looked, but it was more of a joke than anything else."

"Then, people wouldn't have wanted these pots on their balconies either. This year is different; sales are much better than expected. We sold 200 trees in the first week, both to companies and private individuals. It doesn't compensate for the Christmas dinners, but it helps a bit. We now have two tons of kale left. We're hoping to sell, at least, another ton."

More self-pickers every year
Kale sales might be disappointing, but Engström had a reasonably good year. That's thanks to other products and activities. "Self-picking is increasing every year and was particularly popular this year. Our shop sales are also up. For example, people bought more plants to grow at home. Generally, this year, we sold about ten percent less than last year. I think the hospitality industry will have a tough time for a while. But hopefully, everything will be back to normal next summer," Ulf concludes.


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