Norway’s Northwest Coast is a gem, and one that is perhaps subdued by the sounds of Barcelona, Paris, or Berlin – but Norway’s beauty is often in its subtlety: a quiet, mysterious beauty. But, in taking a two-hour drive between the deep black fjord water, a drive past aquamarine waterfalls cascading down mountains, and traversing winding roads besides cliffs dotted with sheep, is anything but subtle. Norwegian people may be reserved, but their landscape certainly is not.
After researching my new town of Ålesund I decided to research further into the surrounding areas. Sure enough, I found a fascinating little blog called “Farm, Fjord, Fjell, Life” which is run by a woman named Georgina, about she and her husband Sam, and recently, their infant living on a working farm. As an international person living here, and a farm lover, I had to reach out. That brings us to Rasmus and my Saturday invitation to a home cooked lunch on a working cow farm, Kjellstadila, nestled in the Norwegian mountains of Hellesylt.
As we followed our Mini Countryman’s gps through the winding mountainous roads lining Geiranger Fjord, we arrived in Hellesylt. Down a long narrow road, we saw in the distance a white farmhouse, a red stable, a little yellow house, and a running tractor. Driving into the driveway, a tall man with blue eyes climbed out of a tractor to greet us, I rolled down the window and introduced myself, he said “Hi, I’m Sam!” looked at his hand, laughed, and extended his roughened and a bit dirty hand. I was thrilled to meet him. At the same time Georgina and her sister Lizzie, who was just visiting, came to greet us.
They invited us into the house where they had a big lunch of salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and a fantastic naked cake waiting for us! Sam, Rasmus, Georgina, Lizzie, and I enjoy lunch and great storytelling for several hours. Promptly after tea and coffee, Sam returned to the tractor, as he needed to cut the remainder of their fields grass before it rained again in order to feed their 18 cows through the winter.
Both Sam and Georgina come from farming families in Devon, England. Sam, 40, began traveling to Norway for over 15 years as a professional sheep shearer, as one of the stops on his international circuit. Five years ago, Georgina, 28, joined him and also worked in sorting the wool. Both sheep shearing and wool sorting have strict regulations in Norway, which allow Norwegian meat and wool to maintain a high standard.
Three years ago they had the opportunity to purchase the farm they now own, and it was the purchase of a lifetime. Georgina gave birth to their daughter, Florence, 5 months ago and while she loves spending time with her, she’s eager to get back to helping on the farm. They have 18 Norwegian red milking cows who give, on average 6000 liters of milk each year. They also have bulls, heifers, and calves. The cows spend June, July and August grazing freely on the mountain. This particular weekend which we were visiting the cows were just coming in off the mountain. In September and October they will have their calves (this “batch” will all be named names which start with the letter “B”, Georgina said she’d name one Brooke for me!), and then they will then be kept indoors for 8 months from September to June.
Georgina attributes her life in farming to being raised with it, but she is certain that the farming lifestyle can also be learned and sustained by a passion for it. She recalls a life lesson from her childhood, “You know, on a Saturday morning, if I slept in until 9, it’s not just that less would be done on the farm, but I would also feel guilty! If my parents were out there milking the cows and feeding the animals, I wanted to as well.” She says that she learned a lot of her work ethic from her parents leading by example.
As a junior, Georgina was a nationally ranked Tetrathlon athlete in England (which I love having been a pentathlete myself!), and learned a lot about hard work and discipline through this. Her father would take she and her sister swimming 3 times a week, and run with them. Their mother would take them to their riding lessons and cross country training. Their parents supported them traveling the nation for competitions all spring and summers all the while running a working farm.
She took her ambitious attitude where she earned a degree in Geography and Environmental Management in 2013 (again, we were destined to be friends!). As a competitive rower at her university her work ethic never slowed down with the rigorous schedule of the crew team involving twice a day workouts of weight sessions, water sessions, and on the erg machine. By the time graduation came, she had been scouted by Great Britian’s National crew team, and at that point she realized that she had taken her training much more seriously than her studies! After graduating with her 2/2 degree, she realized that her passion was in farming. She said goodbye to rowing and to a prospective life working in an office, and committed her life to Sam, the farm, and now: Florence.
Georgina is not one to rest, and while her farm may have chickens who they get eggs from, cows which they milk and breed, sheep, and more, she also has plans to expand. Her near future hopes include a bed and breakfast, beef cows and more, Georgina is both ambitious and proactive! We had such an amazing time visiting!