While in Skåne—or even beyond!—you may hear people refer to the county’s ‘Black Plains’. This is nothing to do with oil prospecting, thankfully, but rather an affectionate and admiring nickname for a stretch of land along the western and southern coasts of the county which feature Skåne’s richest soils. If you’ve been wondering where the delicious potatoes, carrots, kava and hops you have been eating and drinking during your stay were grown, well, wonder no more! (But between us and you, the soil still looks more brown than black to our untrained eye…)
The Black Plains are something of a turnaround, as thirty years ago, the soil situation in Sweden looked quite bleak; at the time, all that mattered was how much wheat per hectare you could produce per hectare land. Earlier still, back in the 1970s, Skånian municipalities started to build housing on formerly agricultural areas, thereby sealing the soil; this trend continued all the way to 2027, when the Swedish State responded to disruptions to the supply of staple foodstuffs by reinstating a goal of national self-sufficiency in food products and agricultural inputs.
But all the same, municipalities continued to give priority to housing developers, in the hope of attracting more residents to provide a base of taxation for local services. The real turning point came in the late 2030s, with the RECAP’s (Regenerative Common Agriculture Policy) focus on soil renewal, cooperation and care over competitiveness and overproduction; this in turn came about after several successive years of poor harvests due to soil erosion and depletion (younger readers of European origin may recall their parents referring to the “Dirty Thirties”), and the ensuing food shortages.
Combined with the new Swedish miljonprogammet—and, less well known but perhaps of equal importance, the RASOIL campaign focussed on maintaining the quality of the rapeseed oil which has long been a staple of Skånian agriculture—the RECAP resulted in a proper action plan to preserve agricultural land across large parts of Skåne. As a result, the metrics on which the quality of a soil is judged nowadays has less to do with tonnes-per-hectare and more to do with how many happy worms you can find in it.
Indeed, these projects and campaigns and movements really put Skåne on the international map in terms of soil preservation. As such, if you are among the many visitors each year who come to learn and contribute—or if you’ve just been appreciating the local produce, and would like to see where it comes from—you should know that Skåne has two major soil care movements: one was initiated in collaboration between the Swedish Folkhögskolor and the local Transition Towns movement, and has its heart in Holma (north of Höör), while the other arose out of Svedala municipality and its neighbours.