Monday, May 7, 2012

Young Italians Flock To Become Shepherds (from The Telegraph)


Pay is poor and the hours are long, but there is job security, fresh air and as much pecorino cheese as you can eat. 

By Nick Squires, in Rome
9:19PM BST 03 May 2012

As Italy’s unemployment rate topped 10pc this week, it emerged that young people are flocking to become shepherds. 

    Traditionally the preserve of older men, the profession has recently attracted 3,000 young Italians, according to agricultural body Coldiretti.

    They are choosing a simple life in the great outdoors because their aspirations to become doctors, lawyers or engineers have been thwarted by Italy’s negligible economic growth, which has been compounded by grinding austerity measures.

    Davide Bortoluzzi, 25, has a degree in surveying from a technical institute but, unable to find a job, now keeps a watchful eye on a flock of 400 sheep in the Dolomites of northern Italy.

    “I’m happy with the choice I’ve made,” he said. “I started out by following other shepherds and learning the ropes from them. It was not easy. But, day by day, I made progress without becoming too discouraged, sometimes working in pouring rain and at other times under a burning sun.”

    Coldiretti said the unexpected influx of shepherds under the age of 35 was helping to rejuvenate a sector of Italian agriculture that had become the preserve of older farmers. 

    In nearly 80pc of cases, young shepherds had introduced more advanced animal husbandry techniques and improved the quality of the meat, wool and cheese they produce, Coldiretti said in a report. 

Note:  A skeptical reader comment to the Telegraph story assumed that this was a social initiative underwritten by EU grants.  I don’t know anything about that.  However, shepherding sounds appealing to me today and seeing Franz Marc’s Lamb painting of 1913-14 above and the wheel of Pecorino Toscano Fresco below reinforces that impression.  Quiet fresh air, the bleating of ewes and mature sheep, good cheese, wine, Italian summer sunshine, job security, and favorable prices on sweaters all sound quite ok to me.


  1. What interests me here, in particular, is that young Italian men are introducing modern husbandry. Most of the third-generation Italian men I know (including my husband) had been strongly urged to follow in their EXACT father's footsteps.

  2. It's an odd snapshot of an article. What you say about the animal husbandry innovations is probably what made the Telegraph reader suspect that this is really an EU-sponsored initiative, but the article doesn't contain a lot of detail. Pecorino Fresco looks really great. I'd like to try it, here or preferably in Italy. Curtis

  3. One does have to take into account "the pouring rain and the burning sun". No exaggeration there, I bet. I wonder if they use vehicles.

    Making small but I hope consistent efforts to be outside more. It makes such a difference.

  4. Being outside makes all the difference, I think. I spend far to much time sort of "inside inside" and this leads to all kinds of problems. I worked for a couple of summers as a golf caddy, which my parents thought was good because it was convenient to our house, age-appropriate and paid well and in cash. I mostly enjoyed it, except for those eye-opening moments when I first saw adults cheat. I was incredibly shocked when this happened. Shepherding sounds great, but I can imagine that there are all kinds of problems that come with having responsibility for a large herd of valuable animals. Curtis