Axel Månsson came to the world in 1956 and was both born and raised inside the Brande itself. Axel’s father was a painter with his own company, but as far as Axel can remember, he always knew he would be a farmer. All the children thought it was fun when Henrik Milkkusk came running with the milk carriage and the horses Musse and Klaus. The others jumped off shortly, but Axel sat and drove the whole route to all the farmers.
Already at the age of 10, Little Axel was out and helped the school teacher’s husband, who was a farmer. Here he fed the calves and loaded the cleaned beaks on the trailer behind the old gray Ferguson. He spent his free time and most weekends in the country. It was not the money that was the driving force, although there was a small shilling of between, but a completely limitless interest in animals and agriculture. At the age of 12, he began to work with potatoes and earn a little work.
Feed master as 17 years old
– I went out of 9th grade and was not good at reading, but I was good enough for the bill. At that time you could almost always control what hours you would like to come to. At least in this area, Axel explains.
“So it did not take so many Danish and religious hours, and it became clear that I was at agricultural school. After the agricultural school, two years had to go out and earn. It was in Sønderjylland and thinking, even though I was only 17 years old, I became a feedmaster and it was on two different farms in those years. I simply got a huge responsibility already as very young. The trust that was shown to me at that time, I have felt throughout my life, Axel says with some humility in his voice.
Just the confidence of other people gained self-esteem and self-esteem at the young Axel, and he is not doubted today that it has had a crucial role in reaching as far as he is today.
– As a 20 year old I bought crew and machinery and rented land of widow to the local savings bank director. And yes, there were other times then. She had 16 dairy cows, 40 fatted pigs and 300 hens and had employed 2 men and a girl in the house. But when I took over she fired the people and I did it all while I was working next to, so she probably did not drive it very efficiently, he laughs.
Chinese cabbage from failure to success
And then it was another kind of stroke. Axel bought and rented more and more land and several farms. Chinese cabbage was one of the crops he was successful with, but not without problems:
“Oh, that story I have told many times,” he says as he laughs. One day – it was well in the early 80’s – my daughters wife came home with a kinakal and a bag of seeds. I tasted the cabbage and thought it tasted very good. The cabbage had cost 20 kroner and the seeds almost nothing. And then I figured a little on it and found out that I could plant 60,000 cabbages per day. Hectare and so close to becoming a millionaire at that business. So I bought and saw a kilo of seed and figured that my happiness was done. But it ended with the fact that I only sold 230 kinakål to 1.80 kr. Pcs, Axel laughs loudly as he shakes his head off his own naivety.
Wise of injury, he contacted the plant breeder and got started right from the bottom. Kinakåls production was a great success and after a short while Axel Månsson became a supplier to COOP.
Model Axel has also met and so big that most people would have given up along the way:
– In 1987-88 we went to the suspension of payments and became debt-debited. But I always had a strong belief that we would probably get through. Even though lawyers and auditors had given up, I still made some agreements with Hedegaard, so I could get through and on the other side, explains Axel.
Parallel breeding may work well
Today, it’s not a china cabbage doing the business. Chinese cabbage is not as popular as it once was, but Axel is, besides another producer, the only one still producing the almost legendary vegetable. Instead, it is the iceberg salad, which is the bearing crop in the company Axel Månsson today. There are 20 million. Conventional and 4 million Organic in a season. In addition, a few other salad types are grown, as well as 90 hectares of 5-7 different kinds of onion. Most crops are traditionally grown in Axel Månsson Friland Aps, but onion and iceberg lettuce are also grown ecologically in Axel Månsson Øko Aps. What is popularly called parallel breeding.
The risk of confusion of conventional and organic production is minimal:
“We have some very thorough procedures for how we handle the things we produce in parallel,” says Axel. The organic iceberg is packed in labeled bags, which are placed in boxes directly in the field. The bulbs each have their physically distinct layers. We always pack onion on certain days and it’s always the organic we start with in the morning. All boxes are labeled and we have a huge self-control, where we regularly follow up on procedures, etc. We can not hold on if you can in any way question our products or the way we drive things, Axel definitely finds.
Ecology has come to stay
Ecology came seriously into the company together with the chickens.
– I started with ecology in my egg production back in 1999. We had had hatching eggs since 1981 and then switched to scraper eggs and ended up producing scrambled eggs from free-range chickens during the 90’s. So it was not that big a step to move on to ecology, says Axel.
Today, Axel Månsson has 50,000 organic chickens and is thus one of the largest organic egg producers in Denmark. He was also one of the first in Denmark, who was granted permission to keep the hens on several floors. The eggs are always delivered to Hedegaard. The hens are white Italians, as you can see strolling around the chicken farms when you arrive at Axel Månsson A / S.
“I have always liked to see my animals go out, so ecological operation also appeals to me in this area,” says Axel.
“But it is also the professional challenge in the ecological that drives me. In my time when I started to land, there was also mechanical weed control with weed harvester and so on. But then came the syringe and it was amazing for us at that time and was perceived as a big step forward, Axel explains.
But today, the beep has a different sound. Axel was one of the first to fight the power of the 80s and shifted to the somewhat controversial IP production, which has since been replaced by Euro GAP and recently Global GAP. To be certified to Global GAP, one must meet a variety of environmental and quality requirements as well as document how the company’s products have been manufactured. So, even though Axel still operates more than half of its land by conventional means, it takes place according to some rules that ensure a certain consideration for the environment. But Axel acknowledges that the professional and technological development in organic production has gone strong and the many new techniques and new knowledge in cultivation methods have made it realistic to invest even more in ecology in the future.
Vision of 100% ecology
“Growing agriculture is also a mental development. This also applies to ecology. We have become wiser and see that we could not back for a few years, we can do today. That’s what makes it so exciting to be a farmer: to use his experiences to change and shape the future. My vision is also in the long run to become 100% organic. Yes, I would like all Denmark to be organic. It would be great if we were in the big world known as an ecological country. But only the day it can be done. You must crawl before you can go and in order for our business to survive, we must do what we can and then develop one step at a time. If I had not had the conventional production, I would not have been here today, because then the box had been drained and we could not have developed – nor within the ecology. But I think that in the foreseeable future we will see it changing, so it’s the organic production that forms the basis for our existence, says Axel.
In addition to the production in Brande, Axel has a partnership with Baltic Berries in Latvia through its company Axel Månsson Holding Aps, which cultivates 150 hectares of organic currants, ribs and hyben. Axel is also part of a B2B Danida project in Egypt, where they, among other things, cultivate 50 hectares of organic onions. The project includes health-care programs for employees and knowledge sharing with the local producer.