’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’
’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’

Daniella and Weynand Deysel moved from South Africa to Burträsk. They love Swedish schools but, as they build their innovative farm business, they’re bothered by the bureaucracy and the cold. Portrait by Donna Richmond.

We moved to northern Sweden in September 2021, with our kids, Madi and Weyni and Weynand’s mum, Hanli. We had decided to leave our home in South Africa for a number of reasons, but the main two were safety and our children’s future.

It is no secret that South Africa is not safe – there is a lot of crime and you basically have to lock yourself in your home and sleep with a gun on your bed-side table. 

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’We were also worried about our children’s future in South Africa. The economy is crashing, many businesses are closing and the unemployment rate is very high. Not to mention the public services that are pretty much non-existent. We also wanted our children to be able to play outside without constantly looking over their shoulder.

So we decided we would move. I’m from an Italian family and so have a European Union passport. We started to look at European countries – we started with Ireland, Italy and Germany but eventually settled on Sweden.

Originally we were going to look for work in Sweden but after a lot of research we decided to start an indoor farm in northern Sweden. 

’Our farm is green’

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’

Why? Well, property up here is cheaper and there is a market up here for year-round, locally-grown fresh produce. Having an indoor vertical farm enables us to grow fresh produce all year round for locals and businesses here in the north. But vertical farming is also more sustainable than conventional agriculture.

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’

Vertical farms can grow one ton of lettuce with just 17% of the space needed for a traditional farm and they minimise the need for transportation of vegetables and nutrient leakage, such as phosphorus and nitrogen, from agricultural lands.

We also started the farm to pass the it down to our children if it was something they wanted to do when they grow up. It was a way of us teaching our children the value of living off the land while also handing them a future in farming should they want to carry on the legacy we created for them.

We’re pretty happy with the move so far. Sweden is one of the safest countries in the world, so let’s just say we sleep like babies now! The children can play outside and walk around freely. We don’t need gates and burglar bars anymore.

‘Great for kids here’

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’Sweden offers good schooling, healthy food and medical and dental care to children. Sweden also gives children the opportunity to become whatever they want to be when they grow up in any field that they choose, be it a doctor or a plumber. Or hopefully, if they like the idea, they could become farmers!

The Swedish school system has generally been amazing. I can’t believe how well they handled the children – they started school very quickly, and our eldest child went for this eight-week crash course on Swedish society and transport was quickly arranged as well. They also get fed healthy and amazing food for free.

Also, the public medical system in Sweden is really just amazing. We had to pay a lot of money in South Africa for private medical care which wasn’t nearly as good as the public medical system we have access to in Sweden.

‘The cold hurts’

We did a lot of research before coming to Sweden so we had a good understanding of what we were doing but the slowness of the bureaucracy can be infuriating. After eight months, Migrationsverket has not even assigned a caseworker to our application. And you really need a personal number and Bank ID – good luck without those!

There have been other frustrations and issues, too. The lack of good, reasonably-priced tradesmen is very tiresome. Plumbers, builders etc., are either fully-booked or incredibly expensive. And that’s if they ever return your calls!

The cost of getting connected to fibre broadband internet is ridiculously high – 25,000 kroner for something that you’d get for free in South Africa. Culturally, it’s different, too, but that’s to be expected. South Africa is very vibrant. Even though Swedish people are extremely friendly and everyone we know is extremely friendly it often feels a little awkward.

And then there’s the cold. We knew it would be cold. As I said, we did our research. While we knew it would be cold, it’s not so much the cold that gets to you, as it is the work involved having to deal with the cold and the snow. It hurts! We have had our moments of wanting to throw in the towel. It is only normal to gravitate back towards something that is more familiar to you. We regularly remind ourselves of the reasons we came here in the first place. And these reminders are usually needed when we are digging our car out of the snow in a blizzard! 

So far, we have a complicated relationship with Norrland – a love, hate relationship. We think we will love summer here but we also think that we need to spend a few years here before deciding how we really feel about it. 

But our farm is starting to take off and business is getting better, so things are definitely moving in the right direction.

’We have a love-hate relationship with Norrland’

Deysel Farm’s YouTube channel – 


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