The Farmer’s life
“In the spring we will release the sheep and lambs to wander the mountainside, and then we’ll look back on the lambing season with pride; it is a good and singular feeling. One feels satisfaction“ – Jón Björgvin Vernharðsson, farmer in Jökuldalur.
On 1 February 2011 Jón Björgvin Vernharðsson and his wife, Linda Björk Kjartansdóttir, started farming at Teigaseli 2 in Jökuldalur. “I grew up in Möðrudalur but have lived in Egilsstaðir and Akureyri. When I was 25 years old I wanted to move to the countryside. I wanted to start my own business and get back to nature again. I really enjoy machines and technology and there is plenty of that in modern farming. It has also helped that my wife is a carpenter and an agronomist, and is interested in sheep farming. She really is more of a farmer than I am” he says.
Teigasel 2 has 1150 hectares of land. Jón and Linda have 500 sheep, and keep a few ducks. Being sheep farmers in the early 21st century can be a challenge. “Just from the financial viewpoint it can be difficult,” says Jon, and continues: “No one becomes rich from sheep farming. We had to really improve facilities here when we started, and it was hard work. However, with the support of our families and friends we managed to do it. I have to work outside of the farm too: sheep shearing, driving lorries to the slaughterhouse, any odd job available. There might be obstacles, but people do not go into sheep farming for an easy life. Men, or women for that matter, who want to become sheep farmers, will find a way.”
Nonetheless, Jón declares sheep farming to be rewarding work: “All farmers, or nearly all, like animals. They like to be around animals and are interested in them, whether they be sheep, cattle, dogs, or whatever.” He adds: “it´s hard to explain, but I’ll try. For example we have just received the news that 930 of our sheep are due to lamb in the spring. So a lot of work awaits us at that time. Later in the spring we will release the sheep and lambs to wander the mountainside, and then we’ll look back on the lambing season with pride; it is a good and singular feeling. One feels satisfaction.”
“Hard work is a virtue, and most farmers I know are hard-working,” says Jon. “We like to work, and work hard. For example, many farmers, especially ones of the younger generation, like to maintain a Search and Rescue Team. What does that entail? Well, for sure, it requires endless work for little or no money. But the members are happy with their work; receiving gratitude is compensation enough.”
Jón and Linda have three children: Heiðdís Jökla, Snærún Hrafna og Fanner Tindur, and their ages range from from one to five years. Although they live in Jökuldalur they do not feel isolated. “Things have changed so much in recent years,” Jón says. “Many farmers are technologically savvy and, for example, use all kinds of social media. They use this not only to communicate with each other, but also to enlighten others who are not intimate with this world, to life in the countryside. Snapchat-channels such as Young farmer and An experienced farmer are incredibly popular.”
“People know too little about life in the countryside, which is regrettable. Modern technology is maybe a way of combating the chasm between countrylife and urban life, and could prove very positive,” philosophises Jón Björgvin Vernharðsson, farmer in Jökuldalur, Austurland.
Text by Jón Knútur Ásmundsson.
Photos by Daniel Byström.