Valuable growth

Not only are the beautiful quail eggs served at Upper House organic. They also bring new chances in life to Dan, Anki and everyone else at Björlanda Prästgård – the farm whose primary mission is to give people a context in an energising environment.

This story could be about nothing more than all the lovely produce grown at Björlanda Prästgård – the over 200 tomato plants that yield sun-ripened tomatoes for the breakfast table at Upper House in Gothia Towers; the endless variety of edible flowers lovingly grown in the herb garden, which is protected from the western winds behind a handwoven willow fence. It could be about the farm’s apple orchards, whose fruit is harvested now, at its peak, to make cider for cocktails at Upper House Dining. It could be about the garlic, carrots and brussels sprouts, about how the kitchen team from the star restaurant is on site each spring to help plan which crops should be planted – organic of course – just a few kilometres away from the city.

Not to mention the quail and chickens whose tasty eggs have become favourites among breakfast and dinner guests alike.

But behind the quail eggs, tomatoes, apple cider and brussels sprouts is another fact. And a point of pride.

Björlanda Prästgård is in the countryside outside of Gothenburg, with fields and the ocean in view. Apart from clucking chickens and human voices, it’s quiet here. Soon it will be time for eleven o’clock coffee in the yellow house, and some of the farm’s apprentices are on their way there. One chicken has made herself comfortable in a tin pail; a few others wander through the flowerbeds.

“We’ve got chickens everywhere here,” says Not only are the beautiful quail eggs served at Upper House organic. They also bring new chances in life to Dan, Anki and everyone else at Björlanda Prästgård – the farm whose primary mission is to give people a context in an energising environment.

Christina Berntsson, farm manager and supervisor of the apprentices who work here. Björlanda Prästgård is run by the Rescue Mission of Gothenburg, a non-profit organisation that works based on the belief that all people have the right to a dignified life. One of the organisation’s core functions is work training. People who have been unemployed for long periods or who need help for some other reason with returning to a functioning daily life come to Björlanda Prästgård. Today, around thirty apprentices are at work on the farm.

“People feel good here. They’re immersed in nature; they have a context and specific work tasks. There’s something about farming, about sowing seeds, watching them grow and seeing them harvested,” says Christina Berntsson.

Björlanda Prästgård also has a kitchen that provides catering services and prepares soup for homeless people, as well as cottage rentals and conference facilities. The sustainability group at the Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre and Gothia Towers holds its conferences here.

Christina Berntsson manages Björlanda Prästgård

Christina Berntsson manages Björlanda Prästgård, which is run by the Rescue Mission of Gothenburg. People who have been unemployed for long periods or who need help for some other reason with returning to a functioning daily life come here.

Dan Larsson has been at Björlanda Prästgård for eight months. His professional life took an unexpected turn when he lost his job at age 59. After three years of unemployment interspersed with various efforts, he had the chance to come to Björlanda Prästgård.

“I’m useful here; I get to work with my hands. I feel needed and I have real routines. It’s also the realisation of a childhood dream, because I grew up on a farm,” says Dan Larsson.

He helps out where help is needed, whether it’s feeding the chickens, repairing a fence or weeding. He enjoys working outside. Anki Eriksson was given a position on the farm after a brief apprenticeship. Now she lives in an apartment on the farm and makes sure the chickens and quail are fed and looked after on the weekends.

“It’s absolutely amazing here. I love rural living and the sense of community,” says Anki Eriksson. She has a particularly keen eye for the quail, who live in the “red cottage”, a little house built into the farm’s large barn.

“Their eggs are like a miracle medicine. They’re much healthier than regular eggs,” she says. The quail lay their eggs on the straw-lined floor and then bury them, so it’s important to watch your step, since they are hard to see. Anki Eriksson collects upwards of 80 quail eggs each week for Upper House.

Every Wednesday, a car takes the quail eggs, freshly picked vegetables and 600 chicken eggs from Björlanda Prästgård to Gothia Towers, where they are carefully tended to by the kitchen staff at Upper House.

Qail and quail eggs

Anki Eriksson makes sure the chickens and quail are fed and looked after. Every week, she collects over 80 quail eggs that are sent to Upper House Dining at Gothia Towers. Last year, the restaurant received its first Michelin star

It’s morning, and breakfast has just been served. The breakfast staff clears the tables and then sets
them for the evening. New, starched grey linens are steam-ironed an extra time. The glasses are checked
and the silverware polished once more, just in case. Nothing is left to chance here; Upper House Dining received its first Michelin star this February. Once all the ingredients are on site for the evening, the menu is determined. Quail eggs from Björlanda Prästgård will be served as a starter; the brussels sprouts will be perfect with one of the fish dishes. The chicken eggs and tomatoes will be saved for breakfast.

“The produce is absolutely gorgeous, but it’s also so much more. Once you’ve seen the work out there, and how people are given a chance to return to a meaningful life, it’s good for the soul, too,” says Krister Dahl, executive chef of all restaurants at Gothia Towers.

He has occasionally volunteered and served breakfast at the Rescue Mission’s café, where the
Swedish Exhibition & Congress Centre and Gothia Towers send leftover food, like cold sandwiches.

“I carry the gratitude and appreciation I encounter there with me for days at a time – seeing how much the food, which would have been thrown away otherwise, means to the people who go to the café,” says Krister Dahl.

Krister Dahl says the collaboration with Björlanda Prästgård can take social responsibility even further. The partnership here is genuine; it involves meaningful work for people and organic ingredients grown conscientiously for the kitchen at Upper House.

Krister Dahl on the Gothia Towers rooftop

Each December, the chefs from Upper House Dining go to Björlanda Prästgård to discuss which crops will be planted. Everything is grown to order based on what the restaurant wants. Typically, there are plenty of tomatoes and root vegetables, brussels sprouts, garlic and rhubarb. Most of the produce is grown in the vegetable gardens outside, but there is also a greenhouse for those slightly more sensitive plants.

“It’s a special feeling to get to participate and watch something grow from seed to harvest, both for the people who work out there and for us in the kitchen,” says Krister Dahl.

Several Upper House chefs have green thumbs themselves, and for the second season, an organic garden has been planted on the roof above the restaurant, 83 metres high. They grow kale, fennel, edible flowers, chives and other herbs. Rainwater is collected to water the garden and food waste from the restaurant is placed on a little compost pile, providing enough nutrients for the garden to be self sustaining.

Krister Dahl’s pride and joy is also on the rooftop: two beehives with around 100,000 bees. The honey is used in drinks and dishes and served with breakfast tea. The two beehives produce 40 kilos of honey per year. The bees are KRAV-labelled and they fly to Liseberg and other parks around the city to collect nectar from toxin-free flowers. Contrary to what one might think, the bees are happy in the urban environment, which offers a wider variety of vegetation than the countryside.

Krister Dahl wants to grow even more on the roof in the future and looks forward to showing restaurant guests around the thriving garden with its humming bees, and to talking about the tomatoes and eggs from Björlanda Prästgård.

As a result, meals can be more than just delicious food served on a plate. They can also be a reminder of where the food comes from, who grew it, and the fact that working with those tomatoes and eggs actually made a crucial difference in someone’s life.

Text: Anna-Lena Bjarneberg Photo: Stefan Edetoft

This story was also published in our magazine Moments. Read more about our work on sustainability here.