The History of Þorvaldseyri
Þorvaldur Bjarnason of Núpakot obtained the land of Svaðbæli, a small cottage on marshland and built himself a farm on the meadows above it and named it Þorvaldseyri. There he raised a turf house and later a great barn which he made an ell longer and wider than the College building in Reykjavík which was at that time the largest building in Iceland.
Þorvaldur Bjarnason sold Þorvaldseyri to Bjarni Jónsson, a Master Carpenter in Reykjavík, in exchange for the mansion Bjarnarborg in Hverfisgata. Einar Benediktsson, the Poet, who was Sheriff of Rangárvalla-County 1904-1907 and lived in grandeur at Stóra-Hof, purchased Þorvaldseyri from Bjarni Jónsson who had not owned the farm for long. Einar, the Sheriff, then had an enormous house made of timber (a guesthouse) which Þorvaldur Bjarnason had built shortly before, moved to Stóra-Hof. Other than that, Einar took no more notice of his farm Þorvaldseyri and it went to wrack and ruin in the years 1905-06.
Ólafur Pálsson lived with his parents at Svínhagi in Rangárvellir. He was man of great achievement, tall, strongly built and a zealous worker. At winter’s end 1906 when Grímur Thorarensen, the district administrator, Kirkjubæ, visited Svínhagi it came up in conversation how badly neglected the good farm of Þorvaldseyri had become. Grímur tells Ólafur that he should go for it, “It will be a worthy challenge for you.” Shortly after this Ólafur from Svínhagi meets up with Einar, the Sheriff and it appears that the farm Þorvaldseyri is up for sale. It ended up with Ólafur purchasing the farm from Einar for 9000 Kr., which was a higher price for farmland than had ever been heard of before.
Ólafur Pálsson, farming history 1906-1949
Ólafur Pálsson took up residence at Þorvaldseyri in the spring of 1906 and around that time he married Sigríður Ólafsdóttir from Lágafell in A-Landeyjar. The farm was not in a good state, the house in disrepair and the Svaðbæli River had flooded the fields and meadows and brought forth sand and rocks creating great damage. Ólafur took immediate action refurbishing the living quarters and building flood barriers. This was a huge task and progress was slow. As roads improved and milk production began, Ólafur increased the cowherd. He built a cow byre for 24 cows which was considered large at that time. It can be said that Ólafur and Sigríður´s husbandry meant that the farm prospered particularly well. Ólafur was awarded an honorary prize from King Christian IX for his achievement in Agriculture. He also leveled fields and meadows in order that machinery could be used with greater efficiency. In 1918 he built a new house which stands to this day. Ólafur and Sigríður had four children and Eggert, their son, took over the running of the farm in 1949.
Yet another of Ólafur´s achievements was to build a hydro-electric power station for the farm. He altered the course of some of the mountain streams and thus harnessed their power to create his own electricity, he set up the station two kilometers from the farmhouse which he built virtually unaided. It produced 11 KW of electricity and it operated for 50 years with only minor repairs.
Eggert Ólafsson, farming history of 1949-1986
Eggert Ólafsson was born in 1913. He married Ingibjörg Nyhagen from Volbu in Norway and they had four children. Livestock at Þorvaldseyri increased steadily, so it was decided to raise a sheep shed for 200 sheep, a new barn and the cow byre was enlarged and later a storage building for tools and machinery. With post war mechanization, Eggert began extensive draining of the moorlands, and then cultivation.
Inspired by Klemenz Kristjánsson of Sámstaðir, an enterprising visionary and pioneer, Eggert started grain cultivation on a small scale and after 1950 it was going reasonably well. Grain production spread throughout Rangárþing-County. He established an association of grain farmers in the area of Eyjafjöll which was active for some years and began communal cultivation of grain at Skógarsandur. Barley has been grown continually since 1960.
Eggert Ólafsson work in the Community
Eggert Ólafsson also worked in other areas of the community. He was the Chairman of the Cattle Association in Rangárvalla- and V-Skaftafellssýsla, was Chairman of the Grain Producers Association of Eyjafjöll and Mýrdalur. He was on the Board of the Agricultural Association of South Iceland for 30 years, member of the Steering Committee of Dairy of Flóamenn (predecessor to MS Selfoss) for 42 years (Chairman of the Steering Committee for 17 years) and on the Steering Committee of MS Selfossi for 12 years. He was Vice-Chairman of the Agricultural Assembly for 3 years.
Ólafur Eggertsson farming history since 1973
Ólafur, son of Eggert, graduated from the Agricultural College at Hvanneyri in 1973 and went on to farm in partnership with his father. He married Guðný A. Valberg and they had four children. Over the years 1976-1980 a new family house was built, a new cow byre for 84 cows as well as hay silos and storage building for machinery. Ólafur took over the complete management of the farm in 1986. He has continued to improve and cultivate the grass fields and increased grain production. Apart from that he has employed technical innovations such as, excavators, combine harvester, corn dryers, fodder-mixers, automatic silo extractors, computerized milking machines and calf feeders.
The Women’s Institute of Southern Iceland gives Guðný an award for one of the most beautiful ornamental gardens in Rangárvellir County.
Drilling for geothermal water 1989
Among the innovations of Ólafur Eggertsson was the search for geothermal water on his land. In spite of scientists’ skepticism that hot water would be found on the land, search began with privately financed experimental drilling. Drilling took place in the so called Koltungu-ravine 2 km above the farm itself, by the old electricity station. Jarðboranir Ltd. oversaw the work and drilling took 6 weeks. They drilled down to 1000m depth to where the heat reached 116°C. From this hole came hot running water, 1 liter per second at 65 degrees °C. A year later a 2 km insulated pipe was laid from the hole to the farm. Now the two homes are heated up with this water as well as all the hot water in the outhouses and for the drying of hay and corn.
The Women’s Institute of Southern Iceland gives Guðný and award for her vegetable/herb garden.
The Minister for Agriculture presents Guðný and Ólafur with an award in recognition of their achievements in Icelandic agriculture.
A new computerized milking stall with 14 milking devices was fitted. Livestock included 65 milking cows, also 130 cattle and calves. The farm’s milk quota was 225.535 litres. The average yearly beef production was approx. 10 tons. The land at Þorvaldseyri is in total 230 hectares of flatland and heath. Cultivated land is approx. 100 hectares and 25 hectares is used for the production of grain.
Koltunguvirkjun electricity station was refurbished and a 2 km cable laid in the earth to the farm. The station produces 16 Kw which supplies the entire farm with electricity. Surplus energy is sold on the power company network RARIK.
Ólafur was elected Chairman of the District Council of Rangárþings Eystra.
Ólafur Pálsson purchased the land in 1906 and his descendants have lived there ever since. In honour of this occasion a 100 year celebration was held. Due to the abolition of estate laws the management of the farm was changed to a private limited company, Eyrarbúið ehf. The milk quota was 300.000 litres and an automatic feeder was fitted in the cow byre.
Eyrarbúið participated in an agricultural exhibition in Hrafnagilsskóli: “Harvest and Handicrafts” in the north of Iceland, where grain was the main theme.
Kornax ehf and Eyrarbúið ehf made an agreement about distribution, sale and marketing of whole wheat flour and barley from Þorvaldseyri. Eyrarbúið presented their flour and barley at the Agricultural Exhibition at Hella. An award of recognition was given from the National Association of Dairy Farmers. Experiments began with rapeseed with a view to oil production.
Distribution of whole wheat flour and barley flour began. Kornax and Eyrarbúið introduced and promoted this and bread was produced from both Icelandic whole wheat and barley. Eyrarbúið was nominated for the 'Fjöregg MNÍ'. A grant from the south of Iceland and Westman-Islands gave the project 'Production of culinary oil from rapeseed' support. Eyrarbúið receives a grant from the Energy-Funds for the production of rapeseed oil for fuel. Ólafur Eggertsson was awarded the Icelandic Order of the Falcon for his innovations in agriculture.
On the 21st March a volcanic eruption began in Fimmvörðuháls, on 14th April an eruption started beneath Eyjafjalljökull. Svaðbælisá flooded its banks just beyond the farm and the water barriers were severely damaged. The hot water pipes came apart in the flood and there was no hot water on the farm for 4 weeks. A great deal of ash fell on 16th and 17th April - the work of cleaning up is still in progress. On the 11th May Ólafur Received the 'The Energy Farmer' (Orkubóndinn) award 2010 for pioneering work. On the 23rd May eruption ceased, for the time being.