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Ecotourism in Svartådalen – Edens Garden B&B
John de Jong is the name of this passionate Dutchman who is set on keeping the Swedish countryside alive. Along with his wife Mandy, he attracts tourists from all over Sweden – and across the globe – to Svarådalen and the couple’s ecotourism farm: Edens Garden B&B. 

Quite soon after the couple bought their farm, John became involved in Svartådalens Bygdeutveckling, an association dedicated to promoting development in the Svartådalen district. The association is composed of local actors who want schools and services to remain, for forestry and agriculture to work properly, and for the hospitality and tourism industry to be developed. As soon as John heard that there was a lack of beds in the Svartå valley, the couple started a bed & breakfast.

“We rented out rooms in our own house, in the English style, and the guests ate meals with us at our kitchen table,” says John. “We were soon fully booked and when the house next to us went up for sale, we bought it and started to rent out, mostly to families with children who were looking for a peaceful stay in the countryside.”

The booking inquiries piled up, and now John has three houses to rent out. With time, he began guiding guests out in the countryside, and now beaver safaris, pike fishing from kayaks and bird-watching along the Svartån River are popular tours. John also decided to certify the farm as a ecotourism company, which means that the environment is considered in everything they do.

“You can’t live off nature without also caring for it. We live in symbiosis with nature,” says John. “We sort and recycle our waste, strive to offer locally produced food and only Swedish ingredients in, for example, our breakfasts, use wooden utensils instead of plastic on picnic lunches or barbeques, and move with respect out in the countryside. Our business activities should strengthen awareness and consideration of nature and the countryside, not the other way around.”

John has slowly and methodically worked to build up an ecotourism business with accommodation and activities close to nature. He has always maintained a sustainability perspective in everything he does. 

“It has taken over ten years to develop our farm. We’ve tested our way forward, without taking more loans and without risking what we have built up in this beautiful place. At five o’clock this morning, I was out on Svartån in the canoe. The birds were singing in the reeds, the swans were soaring through the skies and I saw both deer and beavers right up close. Can it get any better than this?” 

“Cooperation and commitment in the district is important,” continues John. “It’s about the big picture, not just tourism. Everything that Svartådalen has to offer makes the place a rich symbiosis of agricultural, forest and natural experiences. This is why we often refer guests to other companies in the tourism and hospitality industry, and also give each other commissions. The time of individualism is over. Now, it’s about helping each other to create awareness and a sustainable world, not for ourselves, but for our children.”

Tips from John on how to create a sustainable business
Do what you can for nature. Start thinking and you will get lots of ideas.
Good hospitality is important. People need to be treated well.
Don’t be afraid to cooperate. When you give, others give back.
Be stubborn and have patience. The right opportunities appear sooner or later.
Dare to try new things. Make sure to supplement your business with new innovations.
On a beaver safari in Svartådalen
Down in the lean-to on the banks of Svartån, John de Jong talks about the beavers’ lives. All while the fire blazes, the coffeepot simmers and the cookie tin is passed around. Then we set off in the canoes. John paddles first, peering around all the time, and now and then he points out different animals. We see swans, geese and various species of ducks. And finally, also two beavers swimming in the water. On the way home, the trees are rustling. It’s a moose, John tells us, and we listen breathlessly as the large animal make its way through the brush.