Whenever I think of Iceland, I think of the line from Mighty Ducks about Greenland being covered in ice and Iceland being very nice. For a long time it was all I knew about Iceland.
It really is a lovely country and, thanks to the North Atlantic Current, more temperate than you’d expect given how far north it lies. Still, it isn’t exactly a tropical country and has a fairly short growing season. Most of their vegetable crops would be considered winter crops here in the States: potatoes, broccoli, carrots, kale, turnips, etc.
They do a lot with greenhouses powered by the readily-available geothermal energy. (Everything in Iceland is powered geothermally. It is fascinating! Except the showers smell like sulfur.) However, it is actually cheaper to import most produce because the amount of energy required to grown food in greenhouses makes them prohibitively expensive. Maintaining a warm temperature is easy with geothermal power. The problem is the lack of day light in the winter months. Artificial lighting – more than just your standard table lamp – isn’t easy or cheap.
Instead of crops agriculture in Iceland focuses on animal husbandry and fishing. There are probably more sheep, cattle and goats in Iceland than there are people. I don’t actually know that. I’m just guessing. Sheep are especially popular because they do well outside in the winter and give wool. Rich volcanic soil creates nutrient dense pastures of cold weather grasses which provide ample nutrition for herbivores. Dairy farms are abundant and Icelandic skyr (like Greek yogurt) is some of the best yogurt I’ve ever tasted.
Being an island, fishing is another big industry. Fresh fish is a dietary staple and absolutely delicious. When Laura and I visited we actually devoted an entire day to eating our way through Reykjavík and one of the best things we ate was lobster soup. Laura doesn’t even like soup and she liked this. That and some truly amazing fish and chips. The fish had been caught that afternoon. The only way it could have been fresher is if we’d caught and cooked it ourselves.
Sadly, pigs aren’t very popular in Iceland. I think it is too cold. But for that, I could actually see myself immigrating to Iceland to farm. But I couldn’t give up pigs.