Sustainable farm to table food:
Meet the dream team at Hemsedal Cafe and Brandvoll Farm
Life at the farm
We're at Brandvoll farm to chat with Trine and Arne during their busiest time of the year, lambing season.
"It's more or less a maternity ward. All the animals are around us here, and I move down to the barn for a month with the animals to make sure everything goes well," Arne explains.
Arne, originally from nearby Gol, has been running the farm for 25 years. Trine, from Bærum, has been at the farm for around 10 years.
The farm focuses on sustainable, ethically reared produce, and the relationship they share with their animals is clear to see within moments of arriving at the lambing barn.
"We know them by name," Arne laughs. "We get pretty close with them as we work with them all the time. So it's a very close relationship," he says.
"We spend a lot of time with the animals," Trine adds.
The farm hosts all kinds of livestock from cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens.
The majority of the livestock will spend their time roaming the local mountains and meadows once the snow melts at the end of spring.
"They are born in the spring, and then they are with their mother in the mountains, and as soon as it turns green outside, we release them into the meadows down in the village, and then they stay there until it is green up in the mountains and then they move to the mountains," Arne says.
This practice helps the animals have a life like one they would have in the wild.
"Life is about imitating nature a little," Arne explains.
This approach isn't just something the animals relish, but Arne and Trine also.
"In the summer, we have the opportunity to be outside a lot, and we are so lucky that we can say that it is our job! So, in that way, work and what we are passionate about goes hand and hand," Arne says.
A business relationship built on mutual respect
Brandvoll farm sells most of the meat used at Hemsedal Café.
"It was one of the owners who contacted us as it were, and then it started with one animal and then it just snowballed, within two years we delivered most of the meat they used," Arne says.
The relationship began seven years ago and has blossomed since. There is mutual respect and admiration between the farm and the café, which has been an institute in Hemsedal for over 30 years.
"We want products from passionate people who have the same philosophy and outlook as us and who can open our eyes to how things should be done," Seppo Franke, the head chef at Hemsedal Café, says.
Arne and Brandvoll's passion for sustainable farming assured Seppo that the relationship with the farm would be a success.
"Arne was talking about the animals, and he was very focused on the welfare of the animals. That's when I realised that this was definitely the guy I wanted to work with because we share the same viewpoint on the same things, he has a lot of fun working long hours for something he is passionate about," the chef from Bavaria who also worked in Hungary and Sweden before moving to Hemsedal explains.
The respect between the iconic café and the super farm, which has some of the very best meat Hemsedal has to offer, is mutual.
"It is a very good relationship between us, the chef and the owners. Part of what makes our relationship so unique is that the owners and management are so present and interested, not just chefs. The relationship with the café has proven to be long lasting for a reason," Arne says.
"We work very well together, and they even bring their employees in the winter so we can meet with all the staff and explain what it is we do and strive for and how we can collaborate. Some even help us with bringing the cows in, Seppo too. They are very interested in getting hands-on with the farm," Trine adds.
Ensuring nothing goes to waste
The majority of the meat the Café uses comes from Brandvoll, and the restaurant’s focus on sustainability means very little goes to waste.
"There is no waste. When you order the whole animal, you have to use everything,” Seppo explains.
Bones, for example, are used to make delicious homemade stocks that pack stews and sauces full of flavour.
For some chefs, this no-waste approach may present itself as a challenge, but for Seppo it's a privilege to ensure that the animals that have been reared with such love, care and attention are used to their full potential.
"It's not a challenge. It's our responsibility. The best part is being able to use everything up, meeting the animals knowing they have had a nice life, and in my mind, that is exactly how it is supposed to be," the German chef explains.
"It's very exciting to work with Arne; it's exciting to know you've used everything and that you haven't thrown anything away. It's exactly what you want to do as a chef," he adds.
It only takes a few minutes in Seppo's company to realise just how passionate he is about working with some of the best local produce Hemsedal has to offer.
"You get hooked on it. I started working in places that only used local produce. When you see how much work and passion these producers put into their work, you can really appreciate it," Seppo says.
Taste the difference
At this point, you're probably wondering what lovingly reared meat that's had the freedom to roam the mountains and eat a natural diet must taste like when it's expertly prepared by a skilled, passionate and creative chef.
The good news is that, according to the experts, you can certainly taste the difference.
"The colour of the meat is nicer, the consistency is nicer, and the cows they rear are perfect for the climate," Seppo says.
The chef is so confident in the quality of the meat from Brandvoll that he believes people would be able to tell the difference between Brandvoll and a more typical supplier.
"I can taste the difference, and people who want to eat good meat with a nice background story are definitely able to taste the difference. Even for a blind test, you would know which meat was from Brandvoll," the chef adds
It's not just Seppo who believes the taste is superior, but also the farmers at Brandvoll who attribute the distinct flavour and texture of the meat to the varied and natural diet of the animals.
"They become what they eat. The animals here have a varied diet up in the mountains; they eat a lot of bushes and trees and lots of different plants and types of grass," Trine says.
"There are a lot of nuances to the flavour of the meat we sell," Arne adds.
For anybody hoping to try some of the best produce Hemsedal has to offer, they can either do so at Hemsedal café either by booking a kleberstein experience where guests get to cook select cuts of the best meat Hemsedal has to offer on a searing hot stone, the meat is served along with a variety of homemade sauces, sides and in-season vegetables. Just remember to book at least 24 hours in advance
If the Kleberstein doesn't take your fancy, then you can pop in and try the regular menu, which changes seasonally and also due to the café regularly rotating to ensure that the best cuts from Brandvoll get used year-round.
For aspiring home cooks who work regular jobs by day but become master chefs by night, then luckily for you, Brandvoll does have a small self-service farm shop where people can buy a variety of local produce such as eggs, meat, and potatoes.
According to Trine, the farm also tries to accommodate special orders where possible, and feedback has been great.
"There are many who send pictures of the food they have made. We have sold a lot of chops, and then we have received several photos and nice messages afterwards," Trine says.