By Zoë Robert
In the spring of 2014, musicians Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson and Berglind Häsler of band Prins Póló left behind their lives in Reykjavík and moved to a farm in Berufjörður in the East Fjords. Zoë Robert and photographer Áslaug Snorradóttir went to pay them a visit in early March.
“I remember our first day here, when we arrived and I was standing at the bottom of the driveway thinking ‘What are we doing? We don’t know how to do anything!’” Berglind Häsler recalls of the moment reality of life in the countryside sunk in. Berglind and her husband Svavar Pétur Eysteinsson weren’t completely new to living in the countryside, though—they lived on the outskirts of Seyðisfjörður, also in the East Fjords, during the winter of 2008-2009, and in Strandir, the West Fjords, during the winter of 2013-2014—and over the past year, they have gradually grown accustomed to farm life. Following the success of their vegan sausages, which entered the market in 2013, the couple are preparing to launch a new food project: oven-baked chips using homegrown rutabaga (yellow turnips).
In April last year, Berglind and Svavar, better known as the keyboard player and frontman in band Prins Póló decided to give up life in the capital and try their hand at being farmers. “We were looking for a new apartment in Reykjavík. Ours was exploding at the seams—it was way too small and I was pregnant with my third child,” Berglind explains. “We could either upgrade by adding a room, which would have cost about 10 million krónur [USD 71,000] or move to the countryside, get much more for much less. The decision was easy,” Svavar adds.
Facing east, with the pyramid-shaped mountain Búlandstindur rising 1,069 meters (3,507 feet) above the ocean and the sheer mountain peaks characteristic of the southern East Fjords to the west, the farm’s setting is a natural drawcard.
However, with the preparations for growing rutabaga, renovations on the farmhouse, as well as conversion of the second house into a guesthouse, and animal shed into a food production facility to make the chips, Berglind and Svavar have had little time to kick back and admire the view.
Looking for a project they could sink their teeth into on the farm, along with the help of MATÍS (a government-owned food and biotech research and development company), they created a recipe for rutabaga chips. “They will be similar to the root snacks already available on the market but instead be made from Icelandic vegetables—we’re going to organically farm two hectares (five acres) of yellow turnips, which grow easily in Iceland—and will be baked, using rapeseed oil, instead of deep fried, and seasoned with fresh chili, fresh garlic and sea salt,” Svavar details. Until they harvest their first crop this autumn, they plan to use rutabaga from a nearby farm.
They successfully crowdfunded the project, dubbed Sveitasnakk (‘Country Chips’), via Icelandic website Karolina Fund, raising EUR 11,800, above the EUR 10,000 target. With work on the chip factory still underway, production is set to begin soon. “We really don’t know what will happen but hopefully there will be a lot of demand and then we can expand, like we did with Bulsur,” Svavar says, referring to their popular vegan sausages made from Icelandic barley and red kidney beans, among other ingredients. Also funded via Karolina Fund, they started producing them for the market in 2013. After the project took off, the sausages proved so popular that production had to be moved to a commercial facility in Reykjavík, where they continue to be made today.
Berglind and Svavar have plenty of other projects in the pipeline too, like producing a variety of other snacks and creating a space to hold concerts and other events. They also hope to welcome tourists at the guesthouse during the summer and run an artist residency during the winter. “There are a lot of possibilities, a lot of things we want to do here in the future,” Berglind says.
Watch Prins Póló perform on KEXP during Airwaves 2014.