February 4, 2023

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Arnfinn and Mette Roland invest in regenerative agriculture on a difficult landscape in Soroya, Finland – NRK Westland

720 fragile eggs must cross a 13-kilometer long and brutal winter mountain at Soroya in Finnmark.

Soon, Mette and Arnfin Roland must balance the snowmobile across deep sinkholes.

Mette Roland, Sørøya, prepares eggs for transport

Before the trip, Mette should stack the trays on the egg trays.

Eggs ready for transport from Dønnesfjord on Sørøya

Eggs and weather are a bad combination, so they need to be well packed.

Ornfinn and Mette Roland deliver eggs by driving snowmobiles up the mountain.

Without snowmobiles, the village cannot get its eggs.

The weather didn’t cooperate.

Photographer: Darje Bijellas/NRK

Both the storm and the snow come sideways. Mette and Arnfinn pass a weather radar in the middle of the mountain, which measures the worst weather in Norway.

Every Saturday they make the same trip from Dønnesfjord to the villages of Hasvik and Breivikbotn. They have customers who have ordered eggs, and Mette and Arnfin do not want to disappoint their customers.

Outside the island there is nothing but the icy Norwegian Sea. Here, the two of them and their son Tor-Vegaard decided to build and run a farm.

The mountains make them completely dependent on snowmobiles in winter. In the summer, when the snow disappears, they can drive on a narrow, steep dirt road. At the last kilometer down to the farm, they had to switch to a four-wheeler.

Green shift

Mette and Arnfin live here with a dream and a plan: to make Dønnesfjord green and fertile again. All neem trees, bushes, mosses should become arable land today.

Before they arrived here in 2019, the land lay unused and sprawling for decades. They took samples of the soil and saw what it looked like.

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– This is a very bad thing. The soil was so acidic that not a single earthworm could be seen, says Arnfin Rowland.

Because this method is unconventional, the starting point was unnecessary and the additional requirement was almost untested in the North. The method is called regenerative agriculture.

– If it had been done south of Trondheim, it would have been more predictable how the earth responds when you do one or the other.

This is not the case in arctic climates north of 70 degrees.

Mette is happy that she and Arnfin went to Dansfjord. – If I want to achieve it before I get too old, I need to do it now.

Photo: Torje Bjellaas / NRK

The most important thing to know about regenerative farmers is this: they don’t use plows, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.

The plow opens up the soil quickly and efficiently, but it can be a strain on the soil. After generations of plowing, the soil becomes thinner and less fertile.

But the plow is very good for one thing: weeding. It has to go.

Without the plough, other good helpers are needed.

Hungarian woolly pigs clear heather and moss in Soroya, Finnmark

First up: three Hungarian woolly pigs. They are eager to work and have strong muzzles.

They break up heather and moss, almost like mini ploughs.

Goats graze at Soroya in Finnmark

Goats regularly graze on the same land.

As part of regenerative agriculture, chickens compost at Soroya in Finnmark

Then the chickens should return. They are grass first.

Their dung then becomes a valuable fertilizer.

Photographer: Darje Bijellas/NRK

The resulting more nutritious and life-giving soil is the first step toward good pasture grass.

Regenerative agriculture is considered soil-friendly. about this build ho up – ie, layer upon layer – instead of ploughing Ho up.

Internationally, this method is starting to gain traction, especially as such soils are hard-pressed to withstand climate change. In Norway, there are still not many people who regenerate.

Centennial Perspective

Mette and Arnfin Roland think in long lines, 100 years into the future. It has been a long time since they left the farm.

– There will be more after us than when I came, says Arnfin.

Mette and Arnfin Rowland in Soroya.

Mette and Arnfinn met each other as teenagers, one summer evening on a boat in the Dønnesfjord.

Photo: Torje Bjellaas / NRK

Before they moved to Dønnesfjord, they started and ran a company in data security in Oslo. It was about the employees and the customers and the company grew.

The career path in a professional field they both enjoyed was exciting. But:

– I’ve always been nostalgic, I’ve had it since day 1, says Arnfin.

Homesickness for the North, but they took it in stride. First, an hour north of Oslo, Romerikke, in the middle of what Arnfin calls a “canola and corn mecca.”

There, interest in agriculture is very important.

– Something happened when I started studying agriculture on my own.

Arnfin remembers well the scene that turned out to be a turning point of sorts. He knelt down walking the dog, strolling through a cornfield. He had to find out what was actually found in the field.

– I didn’t find what I expected.

He believed in “land and life”. What he found was “sand and desert”.

They have already started reading about regenerative agriculture. Returning to Soroya in 2019, it was the disappointment with maize that prompted them to invest in this method.

Is it green?

Tor-Vegaard Roland at his parents' farm in Tonsfjord.

Dore-Vegaard wanted Rolland to “become more useful”. Now he is an important part of the Dønnesfjord. – We couldn’t have done it without him, says Arnfin.

Photo: Torje Bjellaas / NRK

Mette, Arnfinn and Tor-Vegard have worked hard for three years, and so have their animals.

With the help of fencing, pigs and chickens move squarely across the Dønnesfjord fields. Moss, heather and undergrowth turn into dark molds, then pasture grass.

The goal is to produce food someone. They can start themselves, and then more.

– Sooner or later we will create a surplus, says Arnfinn.

But the dream is to get green in Dønnesfjord. How well is it really going?

So good, they think to themselves after three years in the Centennial Project.

They are already watching the cartoon. A few weeks ago the goats feasted on grass in the soil-covered pasture – after the pigs and chickens had “ploughed” and fertilized it – and then the peatland.

What used to be acidic soil and “terrible nasty things” have become fertile, and earthworms are back where they should be in the soil.

– They are everywhere, Arnfin Roland says.

Eggs for Islanders

Snowmobile ride over tough winter mountains.

Hurricanes and near-impossible visibility meant that Mette and Arnfin had to return infrequently to deliver the eggs. But the rain and wind will have to give way this Saturday.

– Sensing the forces of nature is part of the journey, says Mette. The long journey up the hill to the villages in Soroya goes well, and the eggs arrive without a dent to the waiting customers.

At the head of the line in Breivikbot is Marta Gamst. She picks up a tray of 30 “authentic South Island eggs”. She calls hauling cargo up the mountain “just crazy.”

– But they are a bit crazy.

Gamest and the two egg makers laugh as a group.

People depend on people here too. Arnfin knows how to appreciate it.

– I am sure that I am the customers because they think that what I do is good.

Mette Roland delivers eggs to a customer in Sørøya.

Mette Roland sells eggs to Marta Camst. After all, they have regular customers who visit them after a difficult egg transport.

Photo: Torje Bjellaas / NRK

Are you curious about family life in Dønnesfjord? “Where no one thought anyone could live” followed them for a long time. Watch the episode with them on NRK TV here.

Hello!

Thank you for reading all the way here, and when I get you here: Working with “Der ingen”, I always look for people who live without roads or far from people, to think that someone can live. If you know someone, I’d be happy for a message!