All I want for Christmas is cheese…

Cheese maker Ivar Øverli and his colleague Sabine Brabuki from Germany are busy wrapping Christmas presents. The tiny cheese factory in Pasvik has become a famous attraction to both locals and visitors from far away.

Cheese maker Øverli has a busy December, wrapping gifts packages for picky Barents citizens.


If you venture far up in the valley of Pasvik, 2 km from the Norwegian-Russian border, you will find a farm covered in snow.  A smell of silo will embrace you, as you open the door and walk into the eastern-most cheese factory in Norway.

In a narrow corridor, a group of people stand, listening attentively to a man in a black t-shirt saying cheese maker Øverli.

 “These guys are my recruits,” says Ivar Øverli, pointing at three cute calves resting on the barn floor on the other side of a window, dividing the farm from the dairy. “In two years they will be active contributors in the cheese industry,” he says, laughing.

Free range cattle
Øverli grew up in the valley. His father and grandfather were originally from Finland, but migrated to Norway, where they started farming the land. At the age of 23, Øverli assumed all responsibility. 

Today, there are 27 cows in the stall. All of them are free to walk around as they wish, instead of being separated in animal fences.  “There has to be some space in the dormitory,” exclaims Øverli, with a glint in his eyes.

Obviously, in the freezing winter months, the cows have to be given shelter and some food. But in the summer, the cattle are out on the fields, grazing freely.

 “You should try this cheese,” he says, pointing at plate in front of him. “It was made this summer. The cattle ate various types of herbs, which gives the cheese a very tasty edge.”

The cows produce 175,000 liters of milk a year. 25,000 go directly to the cheese factor and the rest goes to the milk industry.  The result is 2, 3 ton cheese a year. “That is 40 kilos a week,” says Øverli.

Dream becomes reality
The idea of a cheese factory was born after he attended a dairy course in the nearby village. 

“To be honest I think almost all farmers attending the course were interested in starting business afterwards,” says Øverli. But only he had the motivation to make the dream come true.    

In 2009 he started the factory. Today, he offers six to eight exclusive types of cheese provided with local names such as “Barents best” or “Gaivo”, a Gauda cheese named after a place close to his own farm. Of course, he also produces the famous Norwegian sweet brown cheese, closely linked to the Norwegian national identity.

The big cheese secret
The secret of excellent cheese is, according to Øverli, not to pasteurize the milk. That means not heating the milk to a specific temperature, killing the microorganisms.

“We start the dairy process less than an hour after the cows are milked. The microorganisms make the cheese so diverse and tasty” says Øverli. “We guarantee a short travelled procedure.”  

Together with Sabine Brabuki from Germany, Øverli manages the business. 

“Sabine is a trained flower decorator, so the Christmas wrapping looks really good this year,” says Øverli.