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Ag in my Land: Life on an Icelandic sheep farm

Ag in my Land is an online series that celebrates farming globally, providing an insight in to what life is like on-farm around the world.


Emily   Ashworth

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Emily   Ashworth
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What is life like on an Icelandic dairy farm? #Aginmyland

Pálína Axelsdóttir helps out on her family farm in Iceland and runs a successful Instagram account, @farmlifeiceland, that documents her passion for the lifestyle.

 

Where do you farm and on what scale?

 

Our farm is in the south of Iceland, close to a town called Flúðir. We have 475 hectares - around three-hundred sheep, around twenty-five milking cows, eight horses, four hens and one dog. There are many hills, heaths and fields dotted with little streams, and one river on our land. We have a great view of some of our most famous volcanoes and glaciers, Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull.

 

What is the climate like and how does it affect you?

 

The climate in Iceland is subartic. The weather, of course, affects us in every way possible. Winters are long and dark but probably not always as cold as you may expect. The temperature fluctuates around zero, but can go down to minus 18 degrees celsius. Summers are very bright and much warmer. We do however always have to be ready to change our plans according to the weather - and trust me, it changes very quickly.


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What does a typical day consist of?

 

It depends very much on the season - there really is no typical day.

 

The cows are milked twice a day, morning and evening. They stay inside for winter but during summer they spend their days outside (and night if the weather allows). They spend around five months a year outside in total. Other than that they’re outside grazing and exploring.

 

From December until April the days are mostly routined, feeding the animals and doing any work that needs to be done. In April we prepare for lambing which takes up all our time in May. Hay season begins in June if the weather allows and the grass is ready.

 

In early July we drive most of our sheep to the highlands where they roam free during summer. In July and August, the most important thing is hay making. In September the sheep come back from the highlands, and they stay outside as long as the weather allows, but we always take them inside in November. Our stock goes to slaughter in October.

 

What is your biggest obstacle?

The weather can be our toughest opponent. If we get a bad summer then hay-making is difficult and if we don’t get that, it will be a problem next winter.

What do you love most?

What do you love most about farming?

 

Farming isn’t really my job, but I help whenever I’m home. My favourite time of the year is lambing season. It’s a difficult time and you’re almost working 24 hours a day, but when you see the lambs it makes it all worth while.

 

What is the farming community like?

 

It is a close-knit community. We all help each other out, especially in September when gathering the sheep back from the highlands. Our area in the highlands is a common grazing area for all the farms in our municipality so we need to work together to bring the sheep back. It’s a very old tradition and ends with réttir, where everybody has to find their sheep.

 

Rettir

This is 'rettir', a traditional process where every farmer has to find their own sheep once they're down from the highlands.

What are your goals?

What are your goals for the future?

 

To travel more and then try to create a lifestyle where I can both farm and continue to explore the world.

 

How did you get in to farming? Are you from a farming family?

 

I’m still not a full-time farmer. I’m actually completing a master’s degree in psychology but on my mother’s side I come from a family of farmers. My family has lived on this farm for six generations.

 

How is farming seen in your country?

 

Mostly positive although there is always a little debate about whether the Government should support farming or not. Farming in Iceland is very much family based with small farms - not big factory farms. And I believe we need to keep it that way.

 

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