Wednesday, June 26, 2013
As mentioned in my previous post, I have already done a lot of traveling this summer. Like most nerds people, I always keep my eye out for interesting land use patterns whereever I go. When I travel to Norway, I eschew the typical tourist locales and staying with my friends and family from when I was a high school exchange student there over 20 years ago. This puts me in the county of Ostfold and usually in the town of Rygge. Norway's mainland is made up of 19 counties, and Ostfold is one of the smaller counties (ranked 17... about the size of Rhode Island) and one of the densest (ranked 4 ... roughly as dense as Minnesota). I think of Ostfold as an area of rolling hills and small farms. Norwegians see that but also characterize it as an area of dense population with big towns (big in Norwegian terms is over 20,000 people). I love the look of the place and enjoy the result of rules protecting both agriculture and environmental amenities (doesn't hurt that the state has a lot of money and has kept out of the EU).
As with much of the developed world, there has been a push in Norway to buy local goods -- especially food products. Some of the food companies have therefore started advertising campaigns highlighting the use of local products and even using images of local farms and farmers on the packaging. (I am particularly fond of the norwgian-style sauerkraut that bears the image of my host brother.) I was looking at a similar style advertizement on the back of the milk carton one morning and the difference in land use and agricultural practices hit home. Tine, the cooperative that produces most of the milk in the country, was boasting that the milk I was drinking came from cows right there in Ostfold (and profiled one of the farms). What was notable about the statement is that it said there were over 2,400 dairy farms in Ostfold. That's right, 2,400 dairy farms in one of the most densely populated smallest counties where dairy farms are not even a dominant land use. Having grown up in Wisconsin and lived in California (USA's top producing dairy states), this shocked me. I am used to dairy farms averaging 135 cows (with this number steadily growing as farms consolidate) and hundreds of acres. While I couldn't find any data on Norwegian dairy farms, my family there was unsurprised by the statistic explaining that dairy farms only have 5 or 6 cows. Admittedly, I know nothing about dairy farming or agriculture economics but from a land use stand point, it makes a landscape that is fun to look at.