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Viðreisn garðræktar á síðari hluta 18. aldar: viðbrögð og viðhorf almennings á Íslandi.

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Viðfangsefni þessarar greinar er viðreisn garðræktar á Íslandi á síðari hluta 18. aldar og átak stjórnvalda til að fá landsmenn til að hefja matjurtarækt en takmarkið var að matjurtaræktin næði að breiðast út til meginþorra landsmanna. Þróun garðræktar í landinu er rakin frá því um 1754 og til ársins 1792 og könnuð eru viðbrögð og viðhorf mismunandi hópa samfélagsins, s.s. embættismanna, sýslumanna, kaupmanna, presta og almennings. Hvaða árangri skilaði átak stjórnvalda um stóreflda garðrækt meðal almennings á þessu tæplega 40 ára tímabili? Hvaða hindranir voru í veginum? Slæmt árferði, fræöflun, kunnáttuleysi eða viljaleysi? Og hvernig líkaði fólki, einkum þá vinnufólki, hin nýja fæðutegund sem grænmetið var? Var grænmeti álitið skepnufóður, „gras“ eða leit vinnufólk á neyslu þess sem launalækkun? Hvað var það sem dró kjarkinn úr mörgum bændum að hefja ræktun?
THE RE-INTRODUCTION OF GARDENING IN LATE 18TH-CENTURY ICELAND: Public reactions and attitudes In the mid-18th century, extensive efforts were made to resurrect Iceland’s economic sector in agriculture, manufacturing and fisheries. One item of focus was growing vegetables, with a broad-based gardening campaign beginning in 1754. Gardening was one of the simplest and least expensive measures for economic progress, even if some initial tilling of the soil and fence building to keep out live- stock were required, and the authorities promised to provide free seeds to everyone. Given that gardening was therefore a rather easy economic programme for the general populace to take part in, this article explores how Icelanders responded. As historian Christina Folke Ax considers necessary for a fuller understanding of why 18th-century endeavours towards progress accomplished so little, this research was trained on the commoners’ perspective in this social development, investigating their actual basis for adopting gardening in the last half of the 18th century. The number of vegetable plots on the island was surveyed in reference to three periods: 1752–1757, 1777 and 1792, the first year for which agricultural reports were found that give a clear picture of the situation throughout Iceland. Gardening was revealed to have spread among public officials fairly early in the campaign, both among those in high positions and those of lower status, including county magistrates. Pastors were also rather diligent, with some 43% starting a plot. Commoners, however, proved reluctant, and by 1792 only 8% of Icelandic households were tending a vegetable plot. The government campaign greatly to increase vegetable cultivation can thus hardly be seen as having reached the general populace during the periods covered. Several hindrances seem to have caused this. To start with, the climate of these times was harsh, and it was harder than planned for commoners to obtain seeds. In fact, in some cases they found it better to rely on gathering edible wild plants such as lichens. Another reason was that the majority of Icelandic farmers were tenants who had little interest in improving the farm they were on, regardless of the method. Finally, some people, especially farm labourers and domestic staff, simply did not like the new-fangled food which vegetables represented. They did not want to “eat grass” like animals did, and since vegetables often replaced part of their meat ration, may have viewed such a diet as a pay decrease. These and still further factors may have discouraged many farmers from starting a garden. Thus it could be said that the common people managed to evade upperclass power: the farmers did not grow vegetables, despite official requests, and the workers refused to eat them.