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In Your Field: Marie Prebble - ‘Hospitality of Icelandic farmers is amazing’

In Iceland the sheep, like the people, are tough. They have to be to thrive in the extreme landscapes of mountains and volcanoes which present challenges for the wool producer and shearer when fleeces are full of sand.

Grading is done to different degrees by farmers, although not as much care is taken with the wool as I was expecting.

 

In fact, most farmers shear their own sheep having possibly been on one course or having taught themselves.

 

What is impressive is that most of the good wool stays in Iceland to be processed and used to make clothing, in particular the iconic Icelandic jumpers, which are having something of a fashion revival.

 

I had a really interesting tour of the Istex factory which processes all the washed Icelandic wool into spun yarn ready to sell. There were so many mesmerising machines.

 

Most farmers I spoke to do not understand what sounds like a complicated payment structure with 12 government payments for wool spread throughout the year and several made directly from wool buyers.

 

Payment is just over £2/kg for good wool. The shearing set-ups left room for improvement, but the hospitality of being cooked for and having accommodation provided at every farm was amazing.

 

Back home in the UK I noticed in the press that the University of East Anglia recently voted to ban selling beef at its campus.

 

Having graduated from there 10 years ago with a degree in environmental sciences, I am wondering who to ask for my course fees to be reimbursed and my hefty student debt to be written off.


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I do not feel very much loyalty to a big business totally reliant on thousands of overseas students with huge carbon footprints.

 

I will at least write and explain how the university has missed an opportunity to overhaul its procurement policy and switch to sourcing pasture-fed beef from local producers, and ask to see the scientific evidence supporting the decision.

 

Even here in Iceland, as I write this, it is a nation saved from starvation by its natural resources of sheep and fish, but farmers are being wrongly accused of environmental degradation of their incredible landscapes.

 

I know first hand how much respect and care for their environment these farmers have and hope their voices are heard.

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