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A self-sufficient restaurant in the mountains by Skoogs Krog

“The climate impact – and rising costs – that come with long-distance transport of food produce makes the idea of running a self-sufficient restaurant in the mountains even more relevant and exciting. The plan to run the current restaurant circularly, and to create circular flows between the restaurant and food producers in the local community and in Härjedalen, is too urgent not to be realised.” Motivation of the jury.

The dream of a self-sufficient restaurant permeates everything we do, says Emil Bertilsson of Skoogs Krog in the village of Funäsdalen. Behind the idea is not only himself but his entire family and other staff at the bistro, delicatessen and accommodation in the mountains of northern Sweden. When Emil isn’t taking care of the family’s own crops, he is usually in the kitchen with his fellow cooks. His brother Rasmus is a sommelier and manages the dining room. Their mother Malin takes care of the paperwork, accommodation and laundry at the hotel.

– And she is the one who makes marmalade, juice and jam, adds Emil.

His father Thomas is a caretaker and is responsible for the hotel breakfast, while Emil’s sister, Victoria, who lives in Umeå, helps remotely with the website and social media.

– But there are still more of us. Our staff is everything, if it weren’t for the super talented chefs and waitstaff, I wouldn’t ever have the time to keep the business growing.

Emil and his family moved to Funäsdalen in 2007 and have run the bistro, delicatessen and accommodation there ever since. In recent years, the challenges have stacked up.

– With rampant costs for both transport and raw materials, says Emil, those of us who are far away from everything are hit hard. It’s lit a fire under us and now we want to gear up towards the goal of becoming self-sufficient.

The family already grows lettuce, potatoes and herbs on approximately 400 square meters of land across two different locations in the village of Funäsdalen, but also at home on their plot.

– We also have sea buckthorn, gooseberries, apple trees, currants, cherries, aronia, blueberries and elderberries. We have three bee societies and the goal is to expand to more.

Other raw materials come from entrepreneurs around Funäsdalen and in nearby areas. Meat and fish come from Ljusnedal, Tännäs and Långå, and the vegetables they don’t grow themselves come from farms in Jämtland, along with flour. Ceramics for the table are sourced from local artisan producers. They take manure from nearby farms and all organic waste from the two restaurants goes to the compost – and from there soil is returned to the farms.

– We handle almost all waste in one way or another, says Emil. Kale stems are grilled and become oil; berry leftovers from juice and sorbets become syrups for coffee; coffee grounds are used to flavour the ice cream; charcuterie stumps become flavouring in sausages and stock; candle stumps become new candles.

Emil’s vision for the future involves utilising resources on site to produce their own raw materials, thereby shortening transport times and reducing the need for packaging. Ultimately they want to become self-sufficient as much as possible, and to create profitability and competitiveness through circular, local flows of goods and services.

In addition to Skoogs Krog’s old potato fields, Emil plans to expand to more pastures around Funäsdalen. The best locations will be used for berries and fruit. In order to meet the need for herbs and lettuce all year round, he plans to repurpose unused buildings for vertical farming. There is also an ambition to build a large greenhouse with space for many “colony lots”, where more people and companies in the valley can have their own, small-scale plots.

– If more people grow a little, it will be a lot, says Emil.

In order to secure mushrooms, wild plants, berries and fish in the future, along with some cultivated crops, he wants to create a model that enables local people to make money from farming, foraging and fishing. This will mean creating common premises for handling, washing, storing and packing raw materials. The heat generated by coolers and freezers will be reused in greenhouses and other buildings.

An important partner in realising this vision is meat farmer Stefan Dahlsten, who raises calves and keeps cows on his farm Storhagen in Ljusnedal.

– I mostly buy the cows that are to be retired says Emil. They can be anything from 4 to 16 years old, and I pay Stefan to have them for a year on pasture first, so they fatten up very nicely.

In order to drive the development towards a greater supply of locally produced food in the Härjedalen region, Emil and Stefan have started the association Härjedalsmat with Niklas Persson, the entrepreneur behind Hede Kött & Chark. The hope is that they will bring more of the established growers in the area with them and inspire other food producers to get involved.

– A generational change is needed, and that is underway, but at the same time many have shut down their operations or are about to do so, says Emil. This project is about attracting new players.

Skoogs Krog received support from Circular Gastronomy and coaching by the Swedish research institute RISE to improve their financial and communication strategies, with the aim of becoming a “self-sufficient restaurant in the mountains” and a destination to experience Funäsdalen’s fantastic ingredients and artisan food. The work continues with the development of a strategic action plan anchored in analysis and relevant research. RISE will also coach Skoogs Krog in identifying and contacting a selection of potential investors and collaborators.