A passion for odd vegetables

Fennel, parsnips, onions and carrots straight from the field in Frosta. Photo: private

She was tired of seeing perfectly edible vegetables end up in the compost bin because they were not the “right” shape. That led to the fairy tale about Green People, where the love for odd vegetables is constantly growing.

Ragnhild Eggen Viken has built up the vegetarian concept Green People at Viken Østre farm on the Frosta peninsula, together with her husband and farmer Jonas, chef Bjørnar and son Jørgen.

“We have worked well together right from the start. Jonas and I had the dream and developed the business concept, Bjørnar joined us and took responsibility for recipes and food production, and Jørgen played a key role in implementing the plans with us,” says Ragnhild.

In the autumn of 2015, they decided to make use of the irregular, crooked, deformed and wonderful vegetables that did not meet the perfection required for the supermarket shelves. Production started the following year.

Lush Frosta

Frosta, the lush peninsula in the Trondheimsfjord, had a lot going for it when it came to fulfilling the dream of saving peculiar vegetables.

The old dairy factory situated just 300 m east of their farm and market garden could be converted into the new production facility. Moreover, within a radius of 7 km, they had access all the wonderful, odd vegetables they could wish for.

That is how it all began. Ragnhild, who had the ideas, contacted chef Bjørnar Buserud. Along with three other chefs from Hegstad & Blakstad, he developed samples of stews and hummus. Today, Bjørnar is product developer and general manager of Green People, which has several different types of convenience meals based on locally sourced vegetables in its product range.

“It’s important for us to take care of the food that already exists,” says Ragnhild, adding: “Our vision is that it should be easy for people to eat more vegetables.”

Gjengen bak vegetarkonseptet Grønne Folk: Jonas Viken, Jørgen Viken, Bjørnar Buserud og Ragnhild Eggen Viken
The team behind the vegetarian concept Green People: Jonas Viken, Jørgen Viken, Bjørnar Buserud and Ragnhild Eggen Viken

New type of convenience food without additives

Initially, they tested their vegetarian dishes in 10 REMA supermarkets for an eight-week period. When that proved successful, they expanded to supermarkets throughout Trøndelag. Last year, they fulfilled their goal of selling their products nationwide.

“Vegetarian convenience food was a product segment that didn’t exist before. Fortunately, it proved popular, as we thought it would.”

As there is no shortage of peculiar vegetables, the ambition now is to build a larger factory so they can produce enough products to meet the demand they are experiencing.

“We notice that people are paying more attention to where food comes from and are more conscious of eating locally produced food. It’s also important to note that the ingredients we use have already used energy to create.”

Saving a scruffy carrot and a naked onion

By reusing the crooked parsnip, the twisted potato or the small carrot that has already used energy to become a vegetable, Ragnhild and those around her don’t have to watch the vegetable go straight from the field and into the compost bin simply because it’s a bit odd. It’s also nice for the farmers at Frosta to get a better return from their crop.

“Being close to the fields and the farmers is an advantage for us. If an onion loses it shell, it will rot at the supermarket. But we can receive it straight away, chop it up and use it in the stew of the day or freeze it to use another day.”

The family’s market garden, Viken Gartneri Frosta, supplies lettuces and herbs nationwide. Herbs are fresh produce and must be delivered on the day they are fully grown. If the market garden suddenly has herbs left over, they are sent straight to the kitchen at Green People.

“We often have a few spare herbs, which Bjørnar and his team can use to make herb oil or freeze them to use later,” says Ragnhild.

Jørgen Viken og Bjørnar Buserud i produksjonslokalene på Frosta.
Jørgen Viken and Bjørnar Buserud at the production facility in Frosta.

The future looks bright and green

A lot of work has gone into the products from Green People. The design and the products are both carefully tested before they are released onto the market. However, not everything in product development needs to be complicated.

“We do the taste testing ourselves. When Bjørnar has cooked the food in the production kitchen, I go over there, or he cycles here so we can taste the food together.”

So far, all the products they have developed at Green People have survived, which is something they can be proud of. What is key to the success of Green People? A good mix of wonderful produce, competent and innovative people and a lot of hard work.

This fairy tale has not reached its end because the passion for odd vegetables and sustainable food production in Frosta is by no means over.

“We will continue to be true to this concept. We are committed to using all the vegetables. We don’t like to think about all the good food that is disposed of,” Ragnhild concludes.


Written by Ida Valsø

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