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The Östarp Project

Research project in Human Ecology

Project's title: Local Knowledge for Self-Maintaining Agricultural Systems/The Östarp Project (The Swedish Council for Forestry and Agricultural Research 1998-2000, The Crafoord Foundation 1998-1999, The National Heritage Board, 1998-2000)

Project's duration: 1998-2000

Contact person: Pernille Gooch


Östarp is a small hamlet situated on the slopes of the Romele Ridge outside of Blentarp in the municipality of Sjöbo. At Östarp, Kulturen, the museum of cultural history in Lund, has had an outdoor museum since 1924. Beginning in January 1998 the Human Ecology Division, in collaboration with Kulturen, runs a project at Östarp that combines experimental agrarian history with the study of sustainable agricultural systems. For this we reconstruct a farming system from the 1830s on a smaller scale at the so called Gammelgård (the "Old Farm") and one from the 1930s in full scale at Alrik Jönsson's farm.

The main aim of the project is to reconstruct older agro-ecological systems as authentically as possible on the sites where they previously existed in order to study them as regards their sustainability and efficiency over time. A central question is if traditional farming knowledge - dating to the era before the tractor and industrialised farming - on how to produce food mainly from local resources and solar energy, may initiate new ways of thinking about sustainable agricultural systems for the future?

Another aim is to develop new methods for agro-ecological interdisciplinary research, thus transcending the traditional boundaries between the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and technology. Within the project we co-operate with a wide network of researchers from different disciplines, such as plant-ecology, plant-genetics, agrarian history, human geography, and ecological agriculture as well as with a number of institutions and organisations. The project further aims at providing a living, human ecological laboratory for our students in order to supplement the theoretical studies in Lund. 

After the first three seasons we have been able to fully reconstruct a farming system from the 1930s at Alrik Jönsson's farm. The farm's 20 hectares are now run completely with draught-horses, both nordsvensk and ardennes, and according to the technology of the 1930s. The crop succession and the varieties of crops grown have also been reconstructed from the farm diaries in accordance with the farming system of the 1930s. Older crops, such as the rye-sorts Stålråg and Petkus, as well as the important fodder beets, such as the different types of Eckendorf and Barres, now again provide genetic variety at Östarp.

For the 1830s there is a herd of livestock of the old types, such as Väne-cow, Klövsjö-rya sheep, Linderöd swine and Göinge goat as well as an assortment of poultry. We are also working on reconstructing the extensive "wandering" field system with many years of fallow between the crops that was previously found on some of the 70 hectares of meagre and sandy soil belonging to Gammelgård.

At Östarp there are thus unique possibilities of studying older agricultural systems in practice, that is, as living interactions between humans, animals, plants and landscape. Apart from working with a traditional Swedish farming technology the project also experiments with new technologies for an agriculture for the future depending on renewable resources and obtaining most of its energy input from local photosynthesis.

Crucial in the reconstruction work is the farming couple at Östarp, Jenny and Lars-Göran Göransson. They run the farm and provide practical knowledge on working-horses and older farming methods. They are also engaged in developing new methods of draught-horse technology suited for small scale, ecological farming systems.

More information about Östarp can be found at Kulturen on Lund Municipality's homepage.

Kulturen in Lund