place of mountain pasture. In other words, a traditional seter is a simple wooden cottage in the mountains with a barn where Norwegian bonder (farmers) bring their livestock herds (cattle, goats, and sheep) to be milked after a day of grazing in the mountain pastures. Historically, young women (ei seterjente = a dairymaid) brought the animals to the seter and remained there for the summer, caring for the animals and making cheese until September, at which point they return to the valleys.
Norwegians (including the Sami population), as well as Swedes, Turks, the Italians, French, and many more peoples still practice transhumance-the seasonal movement of people and their livestock to a place away from the home farm (to somewhere in the mountains) to graze.
There are several characteristics of modern life in Norway that have changed the tradition of å setre-the verb for “going to the summer pasture.” For one, the arrival of automobiles has changed the whole feel of going to the seter for the summer. More importantly though, it is becoming less common for people to have their own, individual setre (seters). It is now common for several bonder to have a fellesseter (shared seter). There is roughly one seter for every four farms today in Norawy. It is becoming less and less economical to own and maintain a seter. In fact, farming in general has been on the decline for a long time.
Many of the old setre have either decayed or turned into summer homes. Some owners have taken to renting them out as vacation and tourist destinations. There is an organization called Norsk Seterkultur that is dedicated to the preservation of the norsk seter. This has proved to be quite a successful endeavor. A woman named Jorunn Hagen has turned her family’s original seter into a historic tourist destination where she sells jams, coffee, and special pancakes called lapper. For a modest fee, the guests can hear the history of the property back to the early 19th century, pet the animals, and even milk them.
There are seter all over the country, but there is a concentration of them in Valdres, Gudbrandsdalen, og Nord-Østerdalen. If you get a chance, check one out next time you’re in Norway. Pay the NOK 100 (100 crowns) to support the preservation of norsk setre and enjoy the experience!