Family Farm Hraun á Skaga: A Century of Eiderdown Harvest

Hraun á Skaga is a small family farm located on the northernmost tip of the Skagafjördur peninsula in north Iceland, just under the Arctic Circle. Icelanders know Hraun á Skaga for its weather station reports announced on public radio, and for a rare visit by a polar bear in 2008 who had drifted over from Greenland. For a century now, however, a mainstay for the farm on this geologically young lava land has been the gentle practice of eiderdown collection, along with sheep husbandry, trout fishing and the gathering of driftwood. As Rögnvaldur Steinnson (1918–2013) recalls in the video: “One day, on a walk along the coast, my dad passed three eider sitting on eggs. He decided to protect them and out of those three eider couples our farm has grown.” Those three pairs in 1914 have today turned into a count of 2000 to 3000 couples every spring. This symbiotic relationship—cultivated at Hraun á Skaga now for four generations and in Iceland for over nine centuries–signifies an extraordinary partnership between bird and human, a unique interspecies bond that leads both of us to thrive.

Dunninn frá Hrauni    °   Down from Hraun

The Gift of Down

The Common Eider spends most of its life out on the open sea, in the ice-cold North Atlantic Ocean. Only to nest does it come on land. Every year, the eiders return to the same nesting place, where the Hraun family farm provides a safe sanctuary for the wild birds. Here the largest duck of the northern hemisphere can breed in peace, protected by its human hosts from numerous predators, such as the arctic fox or the raven. When the female eider has laid three to four eggs, her chest starts shedding the precious down, which she uses to line her nest with to keep her eggs warm. The down is carefully removed and replaced with hay. The eider ducks are accustomed to these visits and don't feel disturbed. And when the young leave the nest the remaining down is left behind for us as a final gift.

A Family Process

The harvested down is dirty with sand, food and droppings. To eliminate germs it gets heated for 4 days at a temperature of 130 degrees Celsius. In the next step, a centrifugal machine filters out the dirt, while a second machine takes out the feathers. By hand, the final cleaning takes place. During the whole process no chemical additives are used by the Hraun farm. It takes the down from 60 to 70 nests to produce a kilo. The whole family works together to process the down. A duvet from Hraun á Skaga is work done by all of us.

Down Duvets from Hraun á Skaga

Eiderdown is known as the warmest insulation in the world and the best thermal protection nature has to offer to brave the cold. It is highly efficient, extremely lightweight and very soft to the touch. The eiderdown in the duvets of Hraun á Skaga is 100% natural. All duvets are signed and sealed by the Icelandic National Eider Down Quality Control Agency, which certifies that the down is of Premium Class Quality and confirms the exact weight of the pure eiderdown that the duvet contains. If you would like to purchase a Hraun á Skaga eiderdown duvet, please contact us: Merete & Stein at Hraun á Skaga, 551 Sauðárkrókur, Iceland. 66°7'0”N