All summer long, cattle are grazing on the island Hjortø. They are brought to the island by boat in the spring and back home in the fall, but all through summer, they are grazing at the fallow fields south of Hjortø’s small village.
Today, the cattle are brought to Hjortø by boat, but once upon a time, Hjortø was an industrious farming island with its own cattle and dairy. The dairy Strandkilde Andelsmejeri was established in 1905, and you can still see the building, located right by the entrance to the village Hjortø By, around five minutes’ walk from the marina.
The co-operative dairy started with four members, but soon it had eight suppliers on the island with a total of 60 cows for the production of dairy products, butter and cheese. It was the smallest co-operative dairy in the country and kept the production up until 1944. The year prior to its closure, the production of butter was shut down because too little milk was supplied to keep the production running any longer.
After the closure of the dairy, the farmers once again had to ship the milk across the water to other dairies. This was done by pouring the milk into milk cans on the mail boat Postbåden Hjortø, which took it out to the ferry Ærøfærgen, which passed close by the island. The ferry had a port in its side, and out in open water, milk, passengers (if any) and other freight were loaded onto the ferry.
In addition to the dairy in Hjortø By, you can see the buildings that once housed the island’s grocery store, the school and not least the original four farms that supplied the milk for the dairy. Today, there are no businesses left on the island, and the school was shut down in the 1970s.
If you continue through the village and on to where the road surface ends, you can turn left towards the old mill. Naturally, they had one of those on a farming island as well. Continue south and you will reach the pasture where Hjortø’s bovine summer visitors graze.
Today, the mail boat Postbåden Hjortø belongs to Svendborg Museum, and you can see in Svendborg Harbour, right next to the ferry Ærøfærgen.