During my visit to Die, France for the Fete de la Transhumance, I met Kevin Ilardi, a young french man who was seriously considering the life of being a shepherd. We walked with the shepherds to the Drome meadows, drank cider and went to the film festival, and during this time had many conversations about why becoming a shepherd was important for him, and how it offered a future he was looking for. I was thrilled to have met a young person, relatively fresh out of University but who had left a well paying job to align himself to things that matter. It was also gratifying to see that the profession of shepherdry has a potentially new member to keep it alive and strong in France.
I interviewed him by email, and have copied it below:
Cynthia: You have been through the start of a professional career with a University degree and a full time job, but you decided to stop and train to be a shepherd. Why have you decided to change paths? What are you looking for now that was not there before?
Kevin Ilardi: I think I already was in an alternative path. Associative and alternative one (entrepreneurship, education and collaborative economy). I was quite free with my job (decided my time, objectives and so on) but big problem came all along : values / les valeurs du projet. I tried to balance my energy but life is driving me within experimentation. I decided to stop not to become a shepherd, I didn’t know that. But life drove me to this festival and I realized that I was feeling good -theoretically – with this job. I’m looking for a part time job, for knowledge related to nature, pastoralism, … that I can choose to apply some year as a shepherd. I feel the same with education. Having a certificate and being free to be involved this summer or not, regarding my mood my energy my life and what balance I want.. Hopefully I don’t have much responsibilities than to listen to my energy.
C: Although you have not started yet, what teachings of being a shepherd are you looking forward to?
K: I’m looking for security and knowledge. This new field is full of knowledge (pastoralism, wealth of the sheep, time for the shepherd, wolf, dogs, botanics…) that’s exciting!! As a cerebral person I am looking for a balanced job where I can use knowledge practically.
C: What kind of shepherd do you want to be? You seem to be a very social person. Are you seeking some isolation? What does being alone with sheep, dog and in the landscape mean for you?
K: Good question again. I don’t like isolation, this woofing in the Pyrenees seems to be a good in between. A week with sheep, no wolf but cheese and some cows (20 and 10) and a week in the farm with a community and woofers. Being alone have to be for me an equilibrium not a “contrainte” so if i can manage to have a community around, and I will so it’s perfect. But I’d like to test being alone to to experiment. Yes that’s it : I think as a shepherd I want to experiment life, death, loneliness,… So on !
C: we often do not think of the world through the eyes of an animal. Man is at the top of the pyramid. But how do you think a sheep sees the landscape? And what would it say about us if it could talk?
K: I have this link coming in my mind: https://www.wedemain.fr/Drome-5-indiens-kogis-viennent-diagnostiquer-nos-modes-de-vie_a3382.html
C: I see transhumance and shepherdry as a large system of custodian relationships, and not just for the production of wool and meat. Do you also see the many relations of care in shepherdry and transhumance? What are they for you?
K: That’s true for me too. I don’t see the meat and wool production for the moment, but the cheese one first because of being alive and taking care of living. I think as a shepherd I’ll see what I do: care, medication, cheese… Meat and wool is not the same job, I think and I don’t see the whole process yet.
photo: a posting for a shepherd (male or female) for 2018 from June to October in the Alpage de Font Turbat, with about 1500 animals. ‘You must be in good physical condition, have a proper dog and have ‘bêtes’ (animal) expertise.’ Telephone instead of email since laptops do not work very well.