Explore & Learn > The Digital Museum > From War to Industry > “I don’t want Cow’s milk I want Fiskars’ milk”

“I don’t want Cow’s milk I want Fiskars’ milk”

Johan Jacob von Julin, the owner of the ironworks, was a pioneer in Finnish farming at the beginning of the 19th century. He took over land that had been rented out, and rationalised farming by, for example, introducing crop rotation. He developed the Fiskars plough, which became so vital for Finnish farming, using foreign ploughs as models.

In 1830-1831, Julin had a modern cowhouse built in Fiskars. It was probably designed by C.L. Engel, and had room for 24 oxen, 63 cows and 17 heifers and bull calves. There was also a dairy above it. Regular milk testing and monitored feeding were started to make milk production more profitable. To make it even more profitable, Julin started annual cattle shows, where animals which had been well taken care of were rewarded. Fiskars’s new agricultural products were also shown there. The shows were the first of their kind in Finland.

A new law concerning tenant farming, came into effect after the World War I, and because of it, the Fiskars company had to hand over more than half of its fields to tenant farmers. The new situation called for rearrangements in farming, and, for example, investments were made in agricultural machinery and new buildings. A large, modern cowhouse was built in the Upper Ironworks in 1922, and it was equipped with milking machines. Milk production was plentiful and of good quality. The milk was pasteurised and bottled for sale in Helsinki.

The Fiskars Dairy

In the 1940’s and 1950’s, the people of Fiskars got their milk straight from the dairy in exchange for milk coupons. The coupons could be bought from the office of the farming department. For the agricultural workers, milk was included in their salary. People left a milk churn and coupons at the dairy in the evening, and in the morning, they could come and pick up the filled churn. Later on, Fiskars had a milk shop adjoined to the cowhouse.

In 1942-1945, Fiskars milk was also sold at the string factory, in Pohjankuru. The milk was transported in churns by train, and was mainly intended for the factory workers. Any extra milk was sold to acquaintances, and the money was saved for parties and such. In time of rationing, milk was rationed by taps (1-2dl). The taps are part of the museum’s collection.

The Fiskars cowhouse and dairy closed their doors in 1970.

Betty the Milkmaid

Betty Wiberg came to a Fiskars farm in Järnvik in 1925 to work as a milkmaid. She got the job through an advertisement in a magazine. She was an educated milkmaid who had done her practical training at a big farm. She remembers that agricultural work in Fiskars was held in low regard, and the salary was low as well. “And working at the dairy has been the lowest paid work ever known in Fiskars.” Since only few of the villagers in Fiskars wanted to work in agriculture, most of its workforce came from Savonia and Tavastia. Language caused problems from time to time, because like many other milkmaids, Betty’s native tongue was Finnish. Because of that, Betty couldn’t, for example, name cows whose names were Swedish, as was traditional in the area.

Work at the dairy was hard, and if the workers needed time off to, for example, see a dentist, they had to find a stand-in for themselves. Despite this, Betty enjoyed her work and took good care of the animals. Once she even got praise from a vet who said that when he stepped into a cowhouse, he could immediately tell whether the animals were well taken care of or not. Until the 1940’s, three litres of milk was included in the salary of an agricultural worker.

Breeding cows (Ayshire) in the Fiskars Cowhouse:
Migga 50-14939 AA
Meri 50-12026 AAA
Oda 50-18231 AAA
Osmina 50-38902 B²BB
Yva 63748 B³BB

Breeding bulls (Ayshire) in the Fiskars Cowhouse:
Reipas VI
Kurki A1599
Lucky Boy A 2705

Dairy manager:
Hulda Westerberg


Holmström, Laura: Minnen från Fiskars. (1994)
Klevdal, Nils: (Red.) Fiskars i dag och för 300 år sedan. (1949)
Matvejew, Irina: Fiskars – vår hembygd. (1976)
Takeva, E.A: Fiskars dess jordbruk och ladugårdsskötsel. (1945)

Unpublished sources:

Email correspondence with Margaretha Gripenberg (19.3.2013). Fiskars museum
Fiskars mantalslängder år 1958. Pohja localhistory archive
Interview about Fiskars, LBA 11, 12:1-2. Pohja localhistory archive