This year's harvest – a perfect storm

The harvest year 2023 has been very special and now that the harvest is coming to an end, it looks like it will be one of the worst in 30 years. The drought in early summer and the prolonged and extensive rainfall that followed had a negative impact on crops and have had a very negative impact on the quality of the crops. Arvid Lindgren runs a farm outside of Trosa together with his wife. We had a chat about how this year's harvest has affected their business and how Arvid sees the future.

Arvid Lindgren, 38, grew up on a farm. The family lived for many years on a farm where Arvid's father was an inspector and responsible for the business. As a child, Arvid and his brother were involved in the chores on the farm and often got to come along in the tractor and study the crops as they grew. There and then, Arvid's interest in agriculture also grew.

Arvid Lindgren, farmer“I have absolutely inherited my interest and studied the Soil and Plant Science at Ultuna to become an Agronomist. My wife also grew up on a farm but was adamant 'to never marry a farmer'. But that's what happened. Her education though is as a sociologist and on the farm the horses are closest to her heart.”

While Arvid was studying, his father quit farming for another job. But he missed having a foot firmly planted in the soil and then started making plans to lease something together with his sons. They started to lease Erikslund's farm and after school Arvid also took a job as a plant cultivation advisor. In 2014, Tullgarns Kungsgård was out for lease and Arvid and his father finally won the following year with their bid. His brother moved to Skåne, and Arvid left his job as an advisor to become a full-time farmer. Not long after the start and in the middle of the intense harvest period, Arvid's father tragically and suddenly passed away. Then came the drought year of 2018, so the start was certainly fraught with major challenges.

"It was definitely a struggle and a lot of big life events that coincided. At the same time, I also became a father for the first time. It has been a long process but also one that has given me many insights. I had to create a solid understanding of the business and the salvation for us now in this special harvest year is that we have had good years behind us, especially in 2022.

Arvid and his wife currently live with their three children at Tullgarns Kungsgård and lease land on three different farms. The majority of the business is crop production with grass, rapeseed, barley, oats and peas. In addition to crop production, they also have tenants, properties and lodging for horses. They also collaborate with another farmer who has meat production that the couple will eventually take over.

"In our area, it's often dry in early summer, so I didn't see any major problems in the spring. But when it continued to be dry for so long, the feed production for the animals was first affected. The spring barley also grew very badly and when all the rain came, I really felt that it started to go bad. The harvest is not only small, but also of disastrous quality. Only ten per cent have met the requirements for mill quality and large parts of the spring barley have hardly been worth threshing.”

Arvid goes on to say that they were lucky not to buy the most expensive fertilizer at the beginning of the season as they felt they could not afford it. But many farmers have had a really tough time and questioned their entire strategy.

"With super-high input prices this spring, price patterns that have been completely disrupted and interest rates that have now become a factor, this year's harvest has really created a perfect storm.”

When we speak, in the middle of October, Arvid is in his tractor finishing the forage harvest.

“Everything has been shifted. And now it looks like the weather is going to get worse so it has to be done. As the harvest has been delayed, there is also a postponement in the autumn sowing. The autumn crops are ok, but would have needed to come a little further. I have a feeling that there will be less sowing in our area and there will definitely not be a recordbig harvest next year either. For example, I hold off on fertiliser and lay low on other inputs. And if you don't go all in, it won't be a hundred in outcome. But you need to have as much courage as cash for that and that's not where we're right now.”

Arvid goes on to say that he has received the same indications from other farmers as well, that it is too uncertain for many to invest fully. Also, that there are many older farmers who question what they are doing and who would like to see a generational change, but that it is also difficult to find new mentees.

"I think it is important to understand that this is not a short-term crisis but a structural crisis where we farmers would need clearer support from the political side. Not least to give recognition to Swedish agriculture and the Swedish food supply, which benefits society as a whole. We are constantly working towards a world market price but have local rules to adhere to, which is challenging. By allowing us farmers to be large-scale and giving us the right conditions to run profitable farms, we could also together make more focused investments in climate adaptation.”

Finally, Arvid, what happens next?

"Now we bring the animals in from pasture. Washing and servicing the machines and preparing for the winter. It's a lot about compiling and putting together loose ends from the season. In March, it is then warm up, we start fertilizing and the brighter days appear. In April, we are really getting a move on and in May it's full speed again. But until March I'm a little calmer inside and maybe we can even take a little vacation over the winter. Simply put, winter rest!