- Emma Young
Haafell Goat Farm - Iceland
Whilst we were in Iceland, a country whose food culture I knew nothing about, it only made sense for me to seek out a farm to go and visit. This was harder than it sounds and especially in the January freezing cold temperatures and snow blizzards it was a challenge to say the least.
Sam and I found Haafell Goat farm online and got in contact with Johanna, the owner, who said we were welcome to come and visit at her place around an hour and a half drive away from Reykjavik where we were staying.
We travelled through the snow, handbrake turning at one point to play with the ultra hardy Icelandic horses which lined the roads. They were wonderful. So friendly and calm with the thickest fur. I could have stayed there for hours. Until we looked at the time and realised we were going to be late. In a blizzard.
Now I have visited many remote Cheese producers but finding this was a true adventure.
We finally made it to Haafell Goat Farm, after several wrong turns and a Sat Nav leading us into a nearby village with all landmarks that we were given to follow covered heavily with snow.
Johanna Thorvaldsdottir, pictured below giving Goat cuddles, is a fabulous woman. She was brought up at Haafell and when she was young and her father was in charge of the farm, keeping goats was forbidden and they were considered animals for the poor. The farm focused on sheep, however Johanna always wanted a goat farm. After a long stint of living in Reykyavik and entering the nursing profession, she followed her heart, returning to Haafell where she started up by taking on a few goats from her friend.
The Icelandic Goat is descended from the Norwegian Goat which would have been brought over by Vikings when Iceland was settled in the 800s. There are both horned and hornless varieties and they are quite small and squat in comparison to others.
After a mini ice age ending around 1500, sheep were favoured for their fattier milk and meat so the Goat population declined to almost extinction several times but most recently again in the 1990s when there were but 100 Icelandic Goats left in existence. An almost fate like occurrence developed in 1999 when Johanna was given the opportunity to take on the final 4 remaining brown hornless Icelandic goats.
She made it her mission to reverse this seemingly irreversible decline and mastered breeding techniques to stop the extinction of the breed.
There are now around 1000 Icelandic Goats with around half belonging to Johanna.
Johanna sells many products ranging from Goat Cheese and Meats to Skincare Products, T-shirts and Calendars. I inevitably bought all of these things.
The Cheeses are a marinated feta-like style with marinades local to the area. I took home some in mint and arctic thyme but there were other flavours including herbs and rose petals - a nod to the Rose cultivation that Johanna undertakes.
To visit - look at the Haafell Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/haafellgoatfarm/ and you can visit from June to August between 1-6pm or outside of this timeline if you arrange in advance.