This post is made in partnership with Kvarøy Arctic Salmon
We handed over our luggage and stepped onto the boat with great relief from the chilly summer breeze and splattering of rain that had filled the afternoon. We could just make out the outline of the island as we sped closer and closer, waves roaring against the sides of the boat, trickles of waters dancing off the windows. A week’s worth of traveling northward and here we were, gazing out into the dark blue and thick waters surrounding the island of Indre Kvarøy.
Our journey to Indre Kvarøy started just before Midsummer’s arrival marked the transition of spring into summer. The valley was green and lush with wildflowers starting to bloom as we departed from our home in Numedal, in the heart of the mountains. It was a family affair with my young son, husband, and our boxer dog taking to the road with a small camper in tow.
The plan was to reach the home of Kvarøy Arctic salmon in one week, stopping along the way to share our experiences of the unique landscape and flavors making up this part of Norway. Once we reached the island, we would meet the team and the community, and spend a few days learning about what makes their salmon and approach to farming so unique, and what life on this quaint island at the base of the Arctic Sea is really all about. And while I can certainly attest to their delicious salmon, I was curious to learn more about the family and culture behind it all.
Our travels took us about 1380 km (858 miles) across valleys, mountains, coastline and sea. Along the way, we were met with adventure, diverse and awe-inspiring landscapes, musings, and new friendships. The first part our journey saw us through the Norwegian seter “mountain summer farm” life, where animals thrive in clean, natural and free surroundings. Here, you can taste the wild berries in sweet jams and delectable homemade cured meats. Each bite of cheese seems to draw you into the very grasses the animals graze on. This idyllic way of caring for animals as part of our food system is a common thread found throughout the country, where there is a deep respect for our natural environment and the sustenance it provides.
The second part of our journey took us further north to the Trondheim area, where we experienced a thriving city excelling in its culinary offerings. Here, history and culture jive colorfully alongside restaurants and daily life while a few minutes’ drive takes you out of the city and next to the water’s edge. With Midsummer upon us and the sun never quite setting this far north, we jumped on the opportunity to grill every evening, using the ingredients we had gathered along the way and some Kvarøy Arctic salmon hot dogs and filets. This simple act of cooking and eating outdoors truly solidifies that wonderful connection of farm/sea to plate as you gaze out into the landscape where the ingredients have come from.
The final lap of our journey took us to the coastline, where dramatic geographical formations meet swoon worthy beaches and turquoise waters. It seems that everywhere our feet landed, an enormous connection of familiarity between ourselves and nature was apparent. It was also visibly clear that the tranquility of the surroundings provides an ideal climate and home for species to thrive in. This only added to our expectations of what we would find when we arrived at Indre Kvarøy, each stop confirming just how important the work Kvarøy Arctic is doing in the larger picture for providing a sustainable food source that values the environment, the local culture, the community, and innovation for the future.
After a week of incredible travels, we finally made it to our destination of Indre Kvarøy, the small island just off the mainland with around 80 inhabitants. It was a grey morning, and the wind-strewn raindrops were beating against the glass as the waves splashed upwards against the powerful boat that took us from the mainland to the island. It was a typical coastal summer day, where the weather keeps you guessing as you add and remove layers of clothing as the hours pass by.
From the moment we were picked up by the family, we felt welcome and cared for. Our conversations varied from hilarious anecdotes to the seriousness of the responsibility they carry to produce the best quality salmon in the most ethical and sustainable way. If anything, they certainly never hold back. Honesty is a virtue they wear on their sleeves and one they carry with an air of humility as they talk about their extensive goals while not being afraid to shy away from honest truths about the areas they are working hard to improve on. Although the work they are doing is momentous, I was happy to see the fun they kept in the office, with a desirable work-life balance.
It’s this balance that runs through the veins of the entire community, from the children to the adults, where working hard and playing hard seem to intertwine. Even the seclusion of the island enables the kids more responsibility and freedom to play and explore, giving the parents comfort in knowing that someone on the island is always looking out for them. And while this seclusion could be quite isolating, they make the most out their time and relationships with hobbies, gatherings, and new developments. It’s a community that has always been innovating and growing, and where local entrepreneurs have incredible visions to contribute significantly towards a sustainable future that continues to create jobs for the island.
This sense of community and togetherness was always at the center of our time there, and food was the element that enhanced it in the most beautiful way. The first night, we had dinner at the only restaurant on the island with all the siblings, their spouses, and their children. Needless to say, we overtook the second level of the restaurant with two large tables beaming of noise, excitement, laughter, and the most delicious food highlighting the island. After dinner, I was invited to come along to the knitting club, where alongside knitting there was a heavy discussion and interest into cooking with wild edibles as the group nibbled on homemade cake.
The next day, we put all this food discussion into action as we headed out to sea for a fun fishing trip with some of the team and the kids (who, by the way, despite their youth were already quite avid fisherman at heart). The wonderful thing about fishing, or any type of gathering of food, is that it teaches the value of obtaining a meal by one’s own hands and becomes an opportunity for even the smallest ones to gain important life skills. Skills, which these kids certainly had since it wasn’t even five minutes in before one of them caught the first catch, followed by even more from the other children. Eventually, the adults caught up and we returned to the island with a selection of pollock, haddock and cod. A trip to the local shop meant hard-earned ice creams and smiles all around.
As the day drew on, we all met up again for one last dinner together at one of the homes of the family. As the clouds parted and made way for a few rays of sunshine, we feasted on salmon, halibut, tasty sides and Ida’s famous rhubarb cake before sitting by the warmth of the fire with coffee as the evening hours rolled on. We proceeded to talk about life on island and it became evident that these types of gatherings are a common occurrence, with neighbors and cousins stopping by here and there to have a drink or give a quick greeting.
The closeness of the family and community truly stood out, and it really brought it all back to an earlier conversation we had where we discussed why they wanted to feed back into the community and the wider world. It came down to the quote: “leave this world better than when you found it.” And that is one of the driving principles that is clearly reflected here, where just like the waves surrounding the island, its effects ripple out into the surrounding areas and out into the wider world.
Before our departure, we took one last tour outdoors and learned of some of the remarkable tales and history that bear their markings on this island and the surrounding areas. On our way to the mainland, we circled the nearby Vikingen island, where the Arctic Circle passes through. As I looked out at the landmark representing the Arctic Circle, I reflected back on the entire journey that had brought us to this point. The passion and love for nature stands out wherever one’s feet might land in Norway, and it is presented in the lifestyle and food culture of the local communities, as evident at Indre Kvarøy. Throughout our time, we were able to see firsthand how the Norwegian concepts of friluftsliv “outdoor living”, dugnad “community”, and velvære “well-being” play out into everyday life, both urban and rural.
Although our journey had reached its end at Kvarøy, the family, the connection to the natural landscape, the honesty and integrity, as well as the close-knit community, and entrepreneurial spirit gave us an authentic and holistic overview of what Kvarøy Arctic stands for and how these ideals revert back into their delicious salmon. Seeing firsthand the pristine and clean natural environment provided a great sense of confidence in knowing that the salmon is flourishing.
So, while you might not be able to be here in person, you can still bring a taste of Norway to your table with Kvarøy Arctic salmon – representing the beautiful, tranquil and clean nature of Norway.
Also, I’m happy to say that their salmon is now available via Amazon! Check it out here.