Marielle de Roos and Hugo Vink have a good sense of humour.
Today, December 4, on their goat farm, Lofoten Gårdsysteri, the sun will rise at 11:14. It will set just after lunch, at 12:43. “Light is almost not present here in the winter time,” they say, which is why the couple named their blue-streaked goat cheese Vinterlys, Norwegian for “light in winter.”
The light in September was bright as the jackets of the kids from Eltoft Montessori school who were visiting the farm with us that day. Magellan and I were taken by the fields specked with goats and the excellent “toasts” we ate at the farm’s small café. But what attracted us the most were those kids—how often do you see seven-year-olds cooking outdoors?
A young man from Denmark apprenticing with Marielle and Hugo told us that these six-to-ten-year olds walk here (four kilometres from their school) four times in the spring and the same number again in the fall to tend their garden and learn about farming. About twenty of them plant the garden themselves, gather edible wild plants and learn to cook the food they collect and grow. The collaboration has been going on since 2010.
Eltoft Montessori is a small rural school for pupils from grades one to seven in Steinfjord on the Lofotoen island of Vestvågøy. Established in 2014 in the same place where the municipal school operated for many years, it has about fifty students. This being Norway, whose people have a straight-forward love of the outdoors, the school has a vigorous alfresco program—the kids even surf the ocean waves on the famous beaches on the outer side of Lofoten!
We wondered if we’d misheard the apprentice when he told us that Marielle and Hugo both have degrees in tropical agriculture. “Do you think he meant topical agriculture?” I asked Magellan. Is there such a thing?
We were too busy enjoying lunch to ask more questions. “Toasts” made from their own bread slathered with goat cheese, red-pepper pâté and Judith’s Seirslok Pesto, a condiment a local woman makes from wild leeks.
With degrees in yes, tropical agriculture, Marielle and Hugo, Dutch citizens at the time, decided to go to put their training to use in South America. But first they spent a summer in Norway. Struck by its beauty and small-scale agriculture, they stayed, working on farms for three years before buying their own place with its 200-year-old farmhouse at Saupstad in 2000. Today, along with their sons Gerbrand and Tomas, they raise 160 goats along with chickens and pigs on their 100 hectare organic and bio-dynamic farm.
On their first summer in Norway, Marielle and Hugo saw the potential of making goat cheese. Their initial foray started in their laundry cellar. Now, twenty-five years later, that dream has wildly exceeded their expectations. Their award-winning cheeses (we bought the goat seaweed cheese but were also attracted to the one with fenugreek) are sold in selected places around the country and featured in Norway’s most famous Michelin two-starred restaurant. “When we get a call from chef Espen Bang at Maaemo: “Hey, can you make biologically-dynamic goat butter?” Then we say “yes, we can,” they told a reporter.
Like the school kids, in spring the goat herd is taken for walks in the fresh air. In summer the goats are let out in the morning to graze on the steep slopes. I particularly love this translation from the farm’s website:
The jaws eventually also start to gnaw on hay, but they do not get power feed.
Social animals who like routine, the goats voluntarily return to the farmhouse around five o’clock, ’udderly’ full and ready to be milked.
You can also purchase sausages at Lofoten Gårdsysteri. From their website:
The meat comes from our goats, who have had a full-fledged goat life on the farm and who have spent many summers on the mountain. The sausages also contain some meat from the neck and list.
List? Your guess as to what body part that is.
While you’re thinking about it, to stave off the fading light of December, I’m off to buy a substitute blue cheese for Vinterlys.
Edvardsen, Liv-Karin. “Gode erfaringer med uteskole på Saupstad gård i Steinfjord.” Bondebladet. December 23, 2021.
Valberg, Ingvil. “Ekteparet Marielle og Hugo vant pris for arbeidet sitt.” Lofoposten, September 19, 2020.
Will. “Lofoten Gårdsysteri is the goat farm you never knew you needed to visit.” NordeNorge Reiseliv AS, March 26, 2020.