Destined for the country life
Eymundur and Eygló live in Vallarnes in the East and run their company Mother Earth (Móðir Jörð). They continue to develop new organic products. lífrænar vörur. mbl.is/Ásdís
The couple Eymundur and Eygló welcomed the guest and invited her to stay in a small wooden cabin called “Lísuhús”, a very comforting a nice place. It was like being in the middle of a movie happening somewhere in Scandinavia, staying there in this adorable cabin in the woods.
Before the journalist went to bed, however, the organic farmers invited her to sit in the small restaurant, Asparhúsið, to talk about life in Vallanes. The icing on the cake was having a wonderful dinner, featuring vegetarian options. The food, of course, is organic and straight from the farm, prepared and cooked from scratch. No roadside fast food here!
Always going to be a cow farmer
Eygló rushed into the kitchen to see what good things were being offered there. So Eymundur started to tell the story. It began in 1979 when 23-year-old Eymundur became a cow farmer in Vallanes. Since then a lot of thing have happened.
“I always intended to be a cow farmer, but when I started out I had not been a farmer here for twenty years, and there were no fields or trees here, and no water or electricity in the old cowshed,” Eymundur says, explaining that there was only an old cowshed, which he added to an extension for the dairy production.
“The milk production was then taken into a quota system by the government, and I was finally cut off with sixty thousand gallons. But by growing up the ground, which had not yet been cultivated, a new passion was born.”
Eymundur is a real country boy and his family comes from the eastern part of the country.
Loved the country life from a young age
“I often say that I was in Reykjavík by accident. My father is from Eskifjörður and my mother is from Skriðdalur, but they moved south like young people often did in those days. But I went to my grandmother’s farm in Skriðdalur every summer from the time I could walk and I was only six or seven when I decided to become a farmer,” he says, claiming that he had been abroad for two years working on cow farms, in England, Norway and Sweden.
“I was studying in the school of life preparing to become a farmer. I moved here with my ex-wife Kristbjörg to Egilsstaðir, and we spent a year and a half searching for a farm. Someone suggested Vallanes, and I just said, ‘Vallanes? There’s nothing in Vallanes!” I was looking for a farm with turf and a cow, of course, but fortunately I ended up here and I don’t regret it,” Eymundur says, claiming to have run a cow farm for a decade and produced beef five years longer.
Vallarnes farm has a lot of greenhouses and next on the agenda is growing organic tomatoes which they say have a superior taste to non-organic tomatoes.
“We started growing organic vegetables in our home, and the word got around. People called to ask if they could buy some. When our family’s cow farming was in crisis, we found a market for vegetables and took a chance. We grew summer flowers and then traditional vegetables, like potatoes, kale and cabbage. “It’s become much more diverse today,” he says, “and they emphasized having everything organically grown right from the beginning.
“I’d never eaten organic food before, but when I tasted it and understood how much more organic culture is healthier for the earth and consumers, I fell for it, just as much as Kristbjörg, who introduced it here. There was no looking back.”
Bringing barley to the people
Eymundur soon began growing corn; and created the product Bankabygg (barley), which he would love to introduce to Icelanders and to come to the shelves of grocery stores.
“I wanted to introduce the nation to barley,” he says, claiming to have gone to Reykjavík at the turn of the 2000s to introduce barley, but at the same time he and his former wife, Kristbjörg, got a divorce.
“I started to spend more time in Reykjavík during winters to showcase my product, giving people a taste of dishes from barley and trying to market my product. Today, our crops are the backbone of our production, but we have barley on about 35 hectares every year,” says Eymundur.
“Mother Earth started as a brand in the early part of this century, and it’s not been that long since it was registered as the company Mother Earth. In those days, farmers were not selling their products under the brand; and it was seen as really weird,” he says, explaining that today a number of products are sold under their brand, and the number is only increasing.
“After Eygló enters my life in 2008, and moves here in 2010, we start focusing on product development,” says Eymundur, who saw Eygló first seen at Food production show in Smáralind mall in 2004.
“Then the little skinny farmer had a small booth and she was working for Karl K. Karlsson, a wholesale importer of Italian food. She was in a huge booth on two floors with a parquet on the floor,” he says, smiling.
“A friend of hers had asked her if she had ever tasted the potatoes from Mother Earth, and that’s the first thing she knew about this company. We talked at the show and she introduced me to “Slow Food” and showed me the booth. I had written in the diary that day that the booth was nice but I thought she looked better,” he says with a mischievous smile.
Eygló had a background in the food industry when she first met Eymundur. She moved in with him in 2010 and they've been a team ever since.
“There, the first seed of their adventure was sown. However, she began working in Italy for three years, visiting Vallanes in 2008 but I always say that I hunt best in my environment like other animals. I would never have caught her in Reykjavík,” says Eymundur and in those words Eygló enters and hears the last comment and laughs.
“She was, of course, looking for an organic farmer to be able to get the opportunity to produce organic products,” he chuckles.
Working with Icelandic ingredients
Eygló sits with us and confirms Eymundur’s sentiment.
“It’s a fact that I had started to want to work with Icelandic ingredients,” says Eygló, who had left a business school in college to work in the food business.
“I spent a decade with Karl K. Karlsson, who was responsible for importing food and wine, including from Italy and Spain. I had a great connection with Italy, which led to three years of living there and working there, but I had also known Italy through the Slow Food movement, which originated in Italy. I was fascinated by this association and on my return in 2000 I co-founded the first Slow Food department in Iceland,” says Eygló, explaining that Slow Food was originally founded as a reaction to the “fast food” revolution.
“Everything was produced in the fast lane and this social movement is trying to turn it around. In time, the movement has increasingly become as much about the environment and the politics of food. It was basically from this stance that I watched Eymundur, standing in his booth in 2004,” says Eygló, mentioning that Slow Food is pushing for sustainable and cleaner food production.
“I was really into it, and then I went to Italy, especially because I was interested in food and this ideology. I feel it is an asset to have lived there and to have seen closely how Italians think and produce food, which is their biggest industry.”
And you had heard about the potatoes from Mother Earth?
Eygló laughs. “Oh, so you heard about that? Yes, I heard about them probably twenty years before we met!”
“And her friend said they were the best potatoes in the world,” says Eymundur.
A longer interview in Icelandic is in the Sunday edition of Morgunblaðið this weekend.