July/August 2022 - 6

PROFILES
TOMATOES
Icelandic tomato paradise
GREENHOUSE OPERATION GROWS, PROCESSES
AND SERVES TOMATO DISHES TO TOURISTS
By Melanie Epp
Contributing Writer
IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE that a remote
Icelandic agritourism business could draw
180,000 visitors in a year, but in 2019 it
did. With a national population of around
360,000, Iceland is more famous for its
remoteness and its cold, dark winters than
it is for greenhouse production.
That's starting to change, though,
thanks to the hard work and dedication
of Friðheimar, a greenhouse tomato
operation and horse farm run by Knútur
Rafn Ármann and his wife Helena
Hermundardóttir.
Friðheimar didn't start out as a tourist
destination. It started as a small dream
of a young couple who met in college
when they were just 17. Helena was
studying horticulture, specializing in
indoor production, and Knútur studied
agriculture.
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JULY/AUGUST 2 0 2 2
" We had the dream to move to the
countryside and try to create our life by
growing vegetables in the greenhouses
and breeding horses, " Knútur said.
Following graduation in 1995, the
young couple bought a rundown old
greenhouse farm approximately 60 miles
from Reykjavík in a high-tourism area
known as the Golden Circle. The farm
was in disrepair, so the couple spent
the first years building it up. Their aim
at that time was to grow greenhouse
tomatoes for the market.
Today, Friðheimar produces tomatoes
year-round under 11,000 square meters
(118,403 square feet) of glass, delivering
an average of 3,300-4,400 pounds of
tomatoes each day. The greenhouse
operation is complemented by a horse
breeding operation, which currently has
48 horses.
In 2008, Knútur and Helena decided to
open their farm up to tourism with the
 Friðheimar, an indoor tomato growing
and processing greenhouse and
restaurant, draws 180,000 visitors
a year. Photos: Friðheimar
aim to teach visitors about horse breeding
and tomato production. That first year
they welcomed 900 visitors. By 2019, the
number of visitors rose to 180,000 - half
the population of Iceland itself. While a
handful are local tourists, 85% of visitors
come from outside of Iceland.
" That was supposed to be our side
business, but it has turned out to be one
of our main businesses, " said Knútur,
adding that the company now employs
64 people, only 22 of which work in the
greenhouse. Many of the staff work to
serve visiting tourists.
In 2012, Friðheimar added a restaurant
to its business. Situated in the middle
of the greenhouse, its menu features a
variety of unique tomato dishes. The
idea was to create a food experience for
visitors, said Knútur, adding that they
hired an in-house chef. The menu boasts
an array of dishes including pasta with
homemade tomato sauce, fresh mussels

July/August 2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of July/August 2022

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