Members of the Flying Farmers Association from the UK flew to Finland recently in their own private planes to visit the Valtra factory in Suolahti. Altogether 14 planes carrying 33 people landed at Jyväskylä Airport in Tikkakoski. The tour of the Suolahti factory was one of the highlights of the Flying Farmers’ summer tour.
Never before have so many private airplanes from overseas landed at the small local airport in Tikkakoski. To make it even more exciting, the guests landed during a Finnish Air Force exercise that involved numerous Hornet fighter jets, Hawk trainer jets and Vinka trainer aircraft. Members of the Flying Farmers Association from the UK arrived on their latest leg from Helsinki-Malmi Airport.
“Each summer we go on a ten-day tour together. We’ve been almost everywhere else in Europe except for Finland, so it was high time we came here,” says Gordon Bellerby, a dairy farmer who helped plan the tour.
The Flying Farmers were supposed to come to Finland a few years ago, but the tour was put off after the member organising the trip – who had several Valtra tractors on his farm – passed away suddenly. His colleagues decided to go ahead with the tour this year in honour of their friend. Apparently not one of the guests has owned a Valtra tractor before, several of them driving John Deeres instead.
In addition to their summer tour, the Flying Farmers also undertake shorter one-day tours every three weeks or so throughout the summer. Many of the members have their own small planes, so they often fly to each other’s farms.
Forestry and culture too
The Flying Farmers like to meet fellow farmers and see local attractions on their tours. During their two-day stay in Central Finland, they visited not only the Valtra factory but also the Göstä Art Museum in Mänttä and a paper mill.
“We assembled in Billund, Denmark. The participating members all flew from their home airfields in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. From Billund we flew to Mariehamn and then onwards to Helsinki. After visiting Suolahti we will continue to Kokkola and from there to Linköping in Sweden. In Mariehamn we visited a dairy farm, and in Kokkola too we have planned to visit a varm,” Bellerby says.
The Flying Farmers Association was founded in 1974 and today has almost 400 members. The association is open to any farmer, forester or landowner who owns an aircraft or operates an airstrip, as well as to those whose work in businesses is related to agriculture. The members who visited the Valtra factory in Suolahti included crop farmers, livestock farmers and dairy farmers, as well as a farm real estate agent, a veterinarian and a farm electrician. People wishing to join the Flying Farmers must be nominated by two existing members of the association.