Vacation involved a week in beautiful, friendly, chilly Iceland. I did not see the Northern Lights which was a bit of a disappointment. I did learn about Icelandic farming (landbúnaður), which until fairly recently was a primitive affair. I visited the Agricultural Museum in Hvanneyri at the Ag University of Iceland.
I got a private tour and to talk with the musuem’s director, Bjarni Guðmundsson (wow, what an amazing and unexpected treat!). We talked about the history of Icelandic agriculture, the transformation in agriculture brought about by tractors, and the growing numbers of Icelandic and European women entering agriculture and enrolling in the Ag University. Interesting that this is also the trend in the United States.
Tractors came to Iceland in significant numbers, courtesy of the Marshall Plan, in the 1950’s. The work (harvesting hay, not many veggie farmers in Iceland) was done mostly by hand before that, the soil being too heavy to farm with Icelandic horses. When I write “by hand” I mean, for example, bending over with sickle in hand, cutting hay. I think a scythe was also used, but the unevenness of the ground (caused by ground water pushing clumps of soil up, creating 1-2 foot soil ‘hills’ throughout the fields) surely made the short-handled sickle the tool of choice.
I suppose that the back-breaking work was ameliorated by the breath-taking beauty of the landscape. Almost rivals our beautiful Moraine landscape!