Rich with fertile land, pure water, and deeply rooted traditions, Iceland has seen great prosperity in the farming industry. Approximately 14,000 people make their living working in agriculture and related fields, which amounts to roughly 4% of Iceland’s population. With a growing interest in local production and organic produce, the industry continues to flourish. More than 6,000 farms are registered in Iceland, half of which are populated. The majority of Icelandic farms produce meat, milk, and horticultural produce, whereas the others focus solely on tourism and forestry.
With such rich and pure farmland, Icelandic pure-bred lamb thrive, even spending their summers freely grazing on berries and Arctic herbs in the unspoiled highlands. There are around 1,800 sheep farms in Iceland, and the total number of sheep exceeds the Icelandic population by roughly 130,000!
Icelanders take deep pride in the fact that farming has, since its settlement 1,100 years ago, been a field of gender equality. Throughout history, Iceland boasts numerous examples of women running their farmstead either alone or alongside their husbands. One famous, mythical female Icelandic farmer is Unn the Deep Minded, from the Icelandic Saga Laxdæla. Unn was a widowed noblewoman who sailed to Iceland with her family and followers, claimed land, and established her own farm.
A more recent (and real-life!) example of a strong, independent female farmer is Heiða Guðný Ásgeirsdóttir of Ljótarstaðir, South Iceland. She has 500 sheep and shears them singlehandedly every autumn. Heiða was in her mid-20s when she left a modeling career in New York City and took over her family farm. Almost 20 years later, she is just as confident that this is where she belongs. In addition to operating her farm, Heiða is a politician and an environmental activist. Through relentless campaigning, she succeeded in preventing the building of a large power plant and dam, saving her precious pastureland. You can learn more about Heiða by checking out the video below!
Do you think you would have what it takes to be an Icelandic farmer? Let us know in the comments.