Sara Hansdotter

By Janne Karin Brodin

Sara Hansdotter
Sara HansdotterPhoto: Narta Elshani

Advisor at the Norwegian Center for Organic agriculture (NORSØK)

Education: Master in Agroecology

Can you tell us about your current job?

NORSØK is the Norwegian national center for development of organic agriculture. This is done through research and dissemination of knowledge by working with agricultural advisors, policymakers, farmers, students, and other stakeholders. Since we are a small institute, I work with both, research and dissemination. I am participating in all stages of bigger research projects, leading smaller projects, writing popular science articles (e.g. for, and doing other tasks aiming to link research with the rest of the world.

The basis for our work in NORSØK is the four principles of organic agriculture: Health, Ecology, Fairness and Care. Some examples of projects I am involved in right now are: Utilizing nutrients and residues from society and aquaculture for increased circularity, investigating the effect on manure management on climate gas emissions, putting agroecology into practice, soil health, finding alternatives to peat soil, etc.

What was the path like from high school to the job you have today?

Long and winding! I was always very interested in animals and agriculture and spent more time in the stable than at home during my youth. After high school I got caught up in the adventurous outdoor/mountain lifestyle. For several years I worked as a ski instructor during the winter and other tourism-related jobs during the summer, in many different countries. The many hours out in the mountains fed my interest in nature and the environment. With an increasing awareness of the climate and ecosystem crisis, I felt that it was impossible to continue working in the often destructive tourism industry. I felt a strong urge to work with something meaningful for society and nature. This led me to a BSc program in Environmental Science. Early in this program, I rediscovered my strong interest in agriculture. I got determined that I wanted to work with development of a more sustainable agriculture. I was relieved to find out that my bachelor would give me the option to continue to a master’s in Agroecology!
My journey towards becoming an agroecologist started at SLU in Sweden. At this time, I met my partner. Suddenly my idealistic dream of having an interesting and meaningful job at the same time as running a small farm, and living among mountains didn’t feel so distant and idealistic anymore.
However, we concluded that the odds of fulfilling this dream were bigger in Norway than in Sweden, and we decided to move. My ticket into NORSØK was a summer job. Since I enjoyed working there so much, I decided to pursue my master’s studies at NMBU. I did another summer season with NORSØK, as well as the thesis project. This was a natural path to a permanent position. I started working even before my thesis project was finished!

What is your opinion about the student community at NMBU?

During my time at NMBU, I took a lot of courses and worked as a research technician for NIBIO. So, I must admit that I did not involve myself too much in the student community. However, the climbing gym at the training center “Eika” became a very important place for me. It is a great place to work out, relax the mind and be social at the same time. In Ås it is also easy access to the forest with nice trails for running, hiking, or biking! These trails were an important element of my life while living there.

Do you have any advice to future students?
Make contacts with potential future employers. Search for summer jobs, extra jobs, student projects together with ongoing research projects, etc. By doing so you can find out what you would like to do. When knowing what you like to do, you can optimize your time as a student better by choosing courses that will be relevant to your future career. After my first summer in NORSØK I knew that I needed to take more courses in soil and plant science, so I did. This is necessary for my current job. From this perspective the soil/plant courses were a good complement to the agroecology/environmental courses. If you do a 30 credits thesis, you will have a lot of room for elective courses during your master’s.
Knowing where you are heading will also increase your motivation to study!

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