Case Study

Tradition and education


Tradition and education


1. Introduction

The summer farming practice is based on hand milking and traditional milk processing. Taking care of biodiversity and management of traditional cultural landscapes are an essential and integral part of the practice. The summer farm is open to visitors, and providing education, especially for school children, is a crucial motivation for the dairymaid.

2. Basic information

Main promoter

Katharina Sparstad

Start of the practice



Vang i Valdres, Norway

Organisations involved
  • Farmer(s)/ Dairymaid(s)
Total surface of land farmed in ha
  • 1400 (7×2 km)
Ownership of the land used for transhumance farming
  • Own land    
  • Cooperative(s) land
Basic produce
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Meat
  • Fur/skin
  • Landscape including its biodiversity
  • Education (Katharina Sparstad welcomes school classes)
NO020 Innlandet
  • Main farm


  • Summer pastures


3. Situation before startup/ change/ continuation

The main farm was abandoned in 1349 (Black Death) and reestablished during the 1600s. In 1966 the livestock was sold, and the farm was only used for sheep grazing until 1996. Then, Katharina moved from Oslo to Valdres, took up active farming, and ran the family farm for four years. She then handed it over to her brother. Her strong passion for domestic animals (cows and goats) was an essential driving force. The milking house at the seasonal farm had to be restored. The farmer’s cottage (built in 1867) was in good condition and included all equipment needed for cheese production. Katharina Sparstad is educated in nature conservation. Concern for biodiversity is an integrated part of the production and management system at the summer farm.

4. Transhumance farming business description

Landscape type

The summer farm is located in an open U-shaped mountain valley, 7 km long and 2 km wide, at 1000 m a.s.l. That means that the summer farm is located above the regional tree line. Encroachment of Juniper is a significant challenge in the valley, but burning and cutting each year slowly reduces the species.

Animal type/ breed

Four heads of traditional Vestland fjord cattle, one Telemark cattle and three calves are grazing at the summer farm. In addition, Norwegian goats and Icelandic horses are grazing at the summer farm.

Movement patterns

Katharina Sparstad and her family walk up to the summer farm with the livestock from the main farm (450 m a.s.l.). The distance is 10 km, and the transport takes typically 2.5 hours. The summer farming period lasts from late June to mid-September.

Markets addressed/ product selling

Three days a week the dairymaid has an ‘open café’. Katharina is part of a summer-farm network, exchanging products for market sales, for example, at the ‘Matstreif market in Oslo, and through the regional Valdres network “Heimat”. Moreover, processed meat products are sold directly to hotels and restaurants.

Threats & challenges

The Norwegian Food Health Authority has very strict regulations for milking and processing milk at the summer farm, which is a challenge especially for those using traditional production methods. Disagreements with landowners not involved in summer farming can be a challenge, too. Not at least, economic viability of the summer farming practice is a challenging issue.

5. Decisions taken


Katharina Sparstad took up summer farming and continued practising for different reasons. Ethical reasons and working in close contact with nature and living beings in the landscape are fundamental. Katharina Sparstad welcomes school classes from Waldorf schools in southeast Norway’s lowlands each year. This pedagogical aspect of her practice is a major motivation for her. Moreover, her practice restores the biodiversity that once characterised the summer farming landscape.

Decision for the kind of animal/ specific breed

A mix of different types of livestock was chosen since these types of livestock supplement each other in terms of grazing and other impacts on the pastures (trampling, etc.). The number of animals is regulated by the number of animals (milking cows and goats) one person can milk by hand.

Decision for the production system

When Katharina Sparstad took up summer farming, organic production was her only option since the initial motivation was to demonstrate this was possible. Thus, ecology, the animals’ well-being, and providing healthy and ecological products are essential. In addition, storytelling, representing traditional and sustainable practices, which adds value to the experiences of the visitors, is also an important motif.

Diversification of income

The current economic outcome is not sufficient for a fulltime job; thus, the motivation is partly intrinsic. Converting the barn for visitor accommodation is in progress to supplement the existing income from the summer farm.

6. Training/ skills to establish the business

Katharina Sparstad is engaged in several networks such as ‘Norsk gardsost’, a very active organisation for small scale, on-farm production of cheese and ‘Norsk seterkultur’, a national association for seasonal farming culture concerned with promoting seasonal farming and increasing knowledge about it. Moreover, Valdres has a good regional network of 14 summer farming practitioners.

7. Next steps to move on

Katharina Sparstad wants to reduce the time spent on generating external income, in favor of spending more time on the summer farm. She wants to focus more on diversification of products, landscape management, cultural traditions, etc. Besides having the café and renting accommodation to visitors, which has already started, she plans to produce more butter from the milk produced on the summer farm. Butter is a product which is easy to sell at a good price. Moreover, she plans to spend more time on creative handcrafts like producing ceramics.

8. Quote and recommendation of the promoter

The most important outcome of Katharina Sparstad’s summer farming practice is for her food quality and the quality of life – both for humans and animals. The biggest challenge is to make this kind of lifestyle compatible with life and all the requirements that follow a modern society. To anybody who wants to start with seasonal farming, she recommends:

Ensure that you can develop and perform good routines for handling and guiding the animals on the land from day one. Do not let the animals take the lead! It will save you a lot of time in the following years.