Meet Ulla-Maija from Finland

“I see myself more as a guardian and servant than a gardener. I'm also a mother, an observer, a wild herbalist and a lover of nature. I've been growing my own food for almost 20 years. I was very lucky to spend my childhood in nature, playing with friends, foraging, learning to read in a nearby forest. Surrounded by all those beautiful scents and sounds made my imagination bloom while laying down in the adventurous woods just by myself. When I was 18, I knew my hands belonged to the earth and that would be somehow my future profession.

For me growing food is more than a sum of its parts, it is a very holistic way of co-creating and supporting the local ecosystem above ground and below. Letting nature be my partner. Healing the land while creating a regenerative, edible perennial system that serves the needs of the local ecosystem and the needs of my family. Growing food must be an action to create biodiversity as well. I feel that the garden is a living organism that I must deeply connect with for it to thrive. This land wants to become a forest and that is why I'm creating a forest garden. It makes sense to me. It feels right.

My homestead, Kylänpää, is located in Finland, in a courageous village of Karjalohja, in the very southern Finland, being part of the Uusimaa region. The land that I'm serving is 1,35 hectares. Mostly it is an old field that wasn't used by humans for 18 years before me. I started creating this forest garden only last year in July 2019.

My mission and passion is to grow mostly perennial food crops : nuts, berries, fruits, perennial vegetables, herbs and some annual vegetables like leafy greens and pumpkins in raised beds. I've been asked so many times if everything in my garden is edible…yes, it is edible, not everything for humans, but for wildlife.

I save seeds as much as I can and the rest I try to get from known resources. We have some very wonderful seed exchanges going on within friends as well. I teach permaculture and holistic gardening here in my homestead and other places and welcome visitors to get inspired.

While creating this long lasting forest garden I sometimes feel sad that I may not here anymore when these special walnuts will be producing in abundance, but then at the same time I am grateful that this garden will keep living and growing after I'm gone. This forest garden is a kindness that I can do for the Earth.

Work with kindness, observe, sense, listen and really be with the land you are working with. Grow your own food. Be a guardian, inspire and be inspired, share your wisdom and passion.”