Living the sustainable dream: Brúnastaðir Farm & Guesthouse
By Trine Ejlskov Jensen-Martin | Photos: Brúnastaðir
Iceland is a wonderful place to visit for children and adults alike. Beyond exploring stunning landscapes, a vibrant capital city, and a famous lagoon, travellers should venture north to Brúnastaðir, a farm surrounded by beautiful nature and free-roaming animals. This unique place is true tonic for the soul, and is guaranteed to leave you feeling restored in heart and mind.
Stefanía Hjördís Leifdóttir runs Brúnastaðir with her husband Jóhannes Helgi Ríkharðsson and their four children. It was a big decision for the family to take over the farm from Jóhannes’ father in 2000. “This is far away from everything, so we had to make a plan for how we were going to live,” says Stefanía.
Initially they kept up an hour-long commute to and from work every day. Eventually this became too much. Their children were growing and they felt the pull towards a different kind of life, so they made the farm both their permanent home and full-time work.
It’s a family-farm affair
Stefanía and Jóhannes’ children are all involved in the business during breaks from school and studies, from running a little shop and the petting zoo, to developing the guesthouse and food products at Brúnastaðir. This is a family affair, and they oversee every aspect of the business together. “We always have three foster children living with us and have been foster carers for 27 years,” Stefanía says. “And all these children have taught us so much over the years.” Stefanía and Jóhannes have both the physical space and the genuine drive to nurture to include and care for all who come here.
From sheep farm to guesthouse to cheese making
Brúnastaðir is a working farm with a day-to-day focus on livestock. Every year, they host an apprentice from the agricultural college in Greenland, supporting young sheep farmers and strengthening links between the two cultures. Greenland’s sheep originate from Iceland, and there are between 60 and 70 sheep farms there.
“It is wonderful to have the young farmers here and to support our neighbours in Greenland,” says Stefanía. Brúnastaðir was originally a sheep farm, but today they now count horses, goats, ewes, cats, dogs, and chickens, alongside 750 sheep. “Our livestock is unique,” she says, and decribes that it was the Vikings who originally brought the sheep to Iceland. These animals have adapted to the conditions of the island and become a part of the landscape, which they roam freely from mid-May to September.
“We keep adding to our farm little by little,” says Stefanía, explaining how the business has developed over time. Ten years ago, they branched into the tourist trade with cabins for travellers, hikers, and families, and in 2020 they started food production. “We are the first farm in Iceland to make our own goats’ cheese,“ she says. Working with a local cheesemaker they focus on artisan cheesemaking, and their product is exclusive to the island.
The family business has been hugely successful. In the past two years alone, it has received awards and recognition for both cheese production and tourism, such as the ‘Incentive Award’ from the Marketing Office of Northern Iceland, recognition as an ‘Excellent Project in the Field of Innovation’ from the Associations of Municipalities, and a nomination for the ‘Embla Nordic Food Awards’.
Living the sustainable dream
“We have a few families who return every year from the UK, Iceland and all over Europe,” says Stefanía. “Brúnastaðir is particularly popular with nature-loving families.” An ideal stay is 2-3 days, and it might take a moment or two to get used to the different pace here. “We have a beautiful lake where you can fish or go kayaking, and the snowy mountains attract skiers in winter,” she explains. Besides skiing and hiking, you can visit the farm’s small petting zoo or simply choose to switch off in the beautiful, unspoiled surroundings.
“What we do does not make us rich, but we are happy. The nature here is like nowhere else,” continues Stefanía. The appeal of Brúnastaðir is both this incredible nature and the success the family has made of their lives and their business. They live in harmony with nature and livestock, growing a family and a business side by side. For them, sustainability is not a conscious choice they have made, but a brilliant by-product of how they run their farm and business, how they produce food and how they live their lives. The family simply appreciates and enjoys the wonderful farm and landscape, and they want to share their joy with others. Sharing and caring are at the very heart of Brúnastaðir.
Web: www.brunastadir.is Instagram: @brunadyr Facebook: Brúnastaðir Guesthouse and Farm Brúnastaðir Ostavinnsla Húsdýragarðurinn Brúnastöðum Icelandic Farm Animals Brúnastaðir’s recent acknowledgements and awards: Incentive Award from the Marketing office of North Iceland Excellent Projects in the Field of Innovation Embla Nordic Food Award 2022 in the Nordic Food Artisan Category
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