Facts | only 3 percent is agricultural land | Norway

The most significant sections of Norwegian productive soil can be found in the counties of Trøndelag, Hedmark, Oppland and Rogaland.
LA Dahlmann | talk NORWAY
Sogn og Fjordane. | Photo: Christer Olson - adobe stock - copyright.
Sogn og Fjordane. | Photo: Christer Olson - adobe stock - copyright.

It began with the ice ages

In Northern Europe and Scandinavia, the last ice age ended some 10,000 years ago. The landscape that appeared from the melting ice was barren and utterly transformed. For millions of years, kilometres thick ice sheets had moved in irregular cycles – expanding, retreating, and expanding again. With extraordinary force, the glaciers attacked like slow-moving oceans – grinding, crushing, and reshaping the underlying and ancient rock formations. It is with this beginning in mind that we take a closer look at the layout of today’s mainland Norway.

Surprising proportions

The illustration below shows an overview of the Norwegian landscape, as stipulated by the latest geological surveys. What these numbers do not reveal, however, is Norway’s access to vast areas of ocean.

Where do we find the most fertile land?

The most significant sections of productive soil can be found in the counties of Trøndelag, Hedmark, Oppland and Rogaland. If we add on Akershus, Østfold and Nordland, these districts account for 65% of the total agricultural area. Significant parts of the most fertile land were once below sea level. But as the enormous weight of the ice disappeared, the seabed rose in the millennia that followed, in places several hundred metres. Stretches of agricultural land are also found alongside the edges of the fjords and in the many river valleys.

Illustration: The layout of mainland Norway. | Illustration: LA Dahlmann - Statistics Norway - CC BY-SA.

Illustration: The layout of mainland Norway. | Illustration: LA Dahlmann – Statistics Norway – CC BY-SA.

Utilising the forests and the mountains

All through historical times, people took maximum advantage of the forests and the mountains. In addition to using this part of the landscape for hunting and gathering, they sent their livestock there for summer pasture – and gathered added animal feed there for the long and frosty winter months ahead.

Recommended read: The old Norwegian farm – the tradition of summer pasture

The ocean – a real treasure trove

All along the long-stretched coastline, people relied more on harvesting the ocean than farming the land. The typical coastal or island family had a small farm, large enough to feed a few animals and to produce some grain and other essentials. However, it was the food provided by the sea that played the most significant part. All until the early 1900s, fishermen along the entire coast set out in open rowing or sailing boats in search of the large shoals of migrating fish. In modern-day Norway, big fishing vessels contribute significantly to the Norwegian economy, and Norway is one of the top fish exporters in the world. It would definitely be fair to add the ocean as part of the food-producing portion of the country.

Some interesting observations

The first people arrived in Norway some 12,000 years ago. In the year 1000 AD, the number of individuals had only increased to about 150,000. In the year 1700, the population was still just 504,000. All through the historical period – up until the industrial revolution – the Norwegians were hunters and gatherers – and from around 4000 BC also farmers. The landscape – paired with the cold climate and the traditional hunting and farming methods – seems to have been unable to sustain the more significant populations seen in other countries of a similar area size. Since the year 1700, the Norwegian population has increased dramatically, to 5.2 million in 2017. Descendants of the nearly 1 million Norwegians who emigrated during the second half of the 1800s – and the beginning of the 1900s – would have added considerably to this number. In comparison, Italy with its warmer climate and a smaller landmass has a population of 61 million.

Recommended read: The old Norwegian farm | and the need for water

Main source: Statistics Norway – www.ssb.no/en


This lush field was once at the bottom of the ocean. Rygge, Østfold. | Photo: LA Dahlmann - copyright.

This lush field was once the bottom of the ocean. Rygge, Østfold. | Photo: LA Dahlmann – cc by-sa.

 

Our most recent posts

My Norwegian heritage

For many, it may come as a surprise that the history of rose painting and its place in Norwegian folk art is not as old as one might think.
Some claim that porridge is the oldest hot dish in the Norwegian diet. Was it to our ancestors what bread is to the modern family of today?
Skodje sogelag and Louis Giske wrote the history of the two Sortehaug farms and its inhabitants back in 1986.
As far as palaces go, the main royal residence in Oslo is a modestly sized building. Here we see it from an unusual angle, painted by the architect himself.
For the old Norwegians, making butter was simply a way of preserving the fresh summer milk - turning it into a type of food that could be stored.
Some vintage photos - and more to come.
This beautiful oil painting by Johan Christian Dahl says a lot about generations of Norwegians - and the landscape and the skills they knew.
When the industrial revolution brought machinery to the Norwegian farms, it didn't just change the old working methods, it also changed the layout and look of the farmland.
73-year-old Ole P. Stølen from Oppdal, Trøndelag, Norway was killed by a stray muskox bull on 22 July 1964. The animal was later shot to prevent further attacks.
Budrått is a Norwegian noun that means the output of milk products on a farm - such as cheese and butter. The word is often associated with what was produced during the summer on the seasonal mountain or forest pasture farm - the seter.
In this period, Norway was still primarily a nation of farmers, fishermen and hunters. In AD 1801, 90% of the population lived in rural areas.
The horse settled in the Scandinavian landscape after the last ice age. Let us meet this majestic animal - and follow in its footsteps.
The first Norwegian Buhund breed-standard came in 1926, based on a dog that had evolved, lived, and worked with the Norwegians since time immemorial.
In this video-collection of historical photos, we reminisce about the dairy cow on the old Norwegian farm. We recommend that you watch with the sound on. Enjoy!
With the birth of the new Norwegian national state in 1814, came big ideas. And one of them was to establish better transportation systems.
In 1997, His Majesty King Harald V of Norway came to the Norwegian Sami Assembly with an essential and overdue apology.
Neither the great Atlantic Ocean nor time or social conventions could separate a love that was meant to be.
Åre is a Norwegian noun that means an open fireplace, placed on the floor in the middle of a room. The smoke goes up and out through a vent in the roof - the ljore.
Carl Fredrik Sundt-Hansen created this fascinating oil painting in 1904. It is like a window leading into the house of history. If only we could climb through.
The Heddal stave church - stavkirke - is Norway's largest remaining building of its kind. It is a woodwork masterpiece, with a history that stretches back more than 800 years.
In a cold country like Norway, warm clothing is essential. This is a refined and old version of a woollen sweater from the district of Setesdal.

Follow us on social media

Norwegian history