Nestled in the picturesque village of Engan, overlooking the Kobbelvvågen fjord in northern Norway, lies a tale of tradition and perseverance in the realm of sheep-farming. Rakel Nystabakk, a 35-year-old shepherdess, tends to her flock amidst the verdant landscape, embracing the age-old practice of sheep rearing in the region.
A Vanishing Way of LifeEngan, once abuzz with the activity of numerous farming families, now witnesses a solitary presence in the form of Nystabakk and her wife, Eida, managing their modest 14-hectare farm. The prevailing agricultural landscape in Europe has gravitated towards larger, more intensive farms, leading to a drastic decline in the number of traditional establishments. In Norway, this shift has been particularly conspicuous, exacerbating the dwindling interest among the younger generation in inheriting their parents’ agricultural legacy.
Preserving the TraditionDespite this overarching trend, Norway’s unique topography, predominantly unsuitable for arable farming, has kept the allure of traditional grass-based livestock rearing intact. Nystabakk fervently advocates for leveraging local resources sustainably, especially in a global milieu marked by conflicts and environmental challenges. Emphasizing the intrinsic value of preserving their age-old farming practices, she underscores the significance of nurturing the land in harmony with nature, steering clear of the detrimental impact associated with intensive agricultural methodologies.
The Allure of a Rustic LifestyleContrary to the prevailing notion of rural migration, Nystabakk notes a burgeoning sentiment among her contemporaries for a simpler, unhurried way of life, often aspiring to own smallholdings. Her personal journey from a stint as a musician in the bustling city of Kristiansand back to her roots exemplifies this magnetic pull towards a more serene existence. Nonetheless, she acknowledges the dearth of opportunities for individuals, especially in urban settings, to gain a firsthand understanding of the profound responsibilities and gratifications inherent in the farming lifestyle.
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