Longyearbyen is not the world’s most northernmost place where humans dwell. However it’s the world’s northernmost town, by very far, or maybe it’s even a small city of 2500 residents. Shortly half are norwegian, the rest international. The local airport can land Dreamliner aircrafts. The offer of cafes, bars, restaurants and fine dining options can not, per capita, even be matched by Oslo, Bergen Trondheim, Stavanger and Tromsø. The capitol and regional centres of Norway.
On the backside, food, save some fish fished by locals on a hobby basis, and meat delivered by the few who take seasons as traditional trappers, all comes from overseas areas. By that meaning mainland Scandinavia, but also Peru, New Zealand and other far away places. In earlier, coalmining, days there was simple farming and experimenting with agriculture on Svalbard, both in Norwegian and Soviet settlements. Today Polar Permaculture is in the forefront of what locally produced food can be in a high artic environment. If not inventors, Polar Permaculturec is among the reinventors of sustainability in such regions. Join Florida born chef and foodie Benjamin with son Amir to a mindopening experience to what can be grown in even the harshest of environments. On the whole a visit is an inspiring trip with a mix of enthusiasm, knowledge and theories. See their maggots, and understand.
When my husband and I travel we like to include the experience of cooking with a local chef. We decided to cook with Ben since Svalbard is such a unique place and thought he could give us a good "taste" of the food on this remote island. He gave us a tour of his greenhouse where he's growing a variety of greens plus raising game hens and soon to have fish in a above ground pool he's just acquired. We cooked in a small kitchen used to prep tapas for the Tapas Bus that is a tour around town. We prepared cured whale with Lingon berry dressing, and micro greens (from his greenhouse) on flat bread. The main dish was reindeer stew on top of garlic mashed potatoes. Dessert was classic Norwegian brown cheese panacotta with marinated cloud berries. Everything was delicious!!! Ben was charming and very helpful. He has a passion for what he is doing and many ideas to make growing and cooking on Svalbard a positive experience.
I've been fortunate to travel to a lot of interesting places, and also see a lot of interesting things, but this is easily one of favorites! The work that Ben, the owner, is doing with his team is utterly fascinating and inspiring! The receptionist at my hotel actually told me about the place and guided me there. She introduced me to Ben, and I was able to learn more about his mission of growing food in the Arctic and creating a sustainable environment in Longyearbyn. I also received a wonderful tour by Jason of the lab and the dome. This is truly a must see if in the area to witness the polar permaculture magic!
I visited this place out of sheer curiosity and got a private tour around the lab and the dome: Benjamin, the owner, as well as all the volunteers taking part in this new project were so enthusiastic about their work, so that their enthusiasm set me (quite unexpectedly) on fire as well!
You don't only learn about the difficulties of growing vegetables, herbs etc. in the Arctic, but also about the scientific effects the 24 hours of sunlight have on the plants, some looked very different to what they look like at home: You really had the feeling to be part of this "futuristic"-exploration.
The value was great for what you got to see and especially learn and I'd recommend it to all ages as they also offered the possibility to get active yourself, which would be great for people visiting with children, too!