It’s one of the oldest jobs in the world, and one of the most undervalued: little known, considered humble, anti-modern, and above all, badly paid.

Commercial pressure risks wiping out pastoralism altogether, especially where herders sell their milk and don’t use it to make cheese.

THE HERDER’S WORK

Herders
Roman Countryside Caciofiore, Slow Food Presidium, Lazio. Photo: Alberto Peroli

Slow Food believes that herders perform a precious task. They represent, better than anyone else, the rethinking of the relationship between humans and animals; the theme of Cheese 2021.

Through their work, they:

  • safeguard their lands, maintain mountain pastures and aid the growth of a wide variety of plants
  • know the plants that their animals eat, recognize dangerous herbs and the plants best-suited for their animals’ welfare and milk quality
  • know the strengths and weaknesses of the breeds they work with, with which other breeds they should be crossed, recognize which specimens are best-adapted for healthy and prolific reproduction
  • recognize healthy animals and often know how to cure sick ones
  • know how to train dogs and defend their animals from wolves and bad weather

Often, as well as grazing their animals, herders make cheese every day, or even twice a day, salting, turning, cleaning and selling it.

Far from having a simple job, a successful herder must be a veterinarian, a forest ranger, a cheesemaker, and a merchant.

HERDERS AT CHEESE 2021

At Cheese 2021 you can meet herders for yourself, taste their products and hear their stories:

  • among the Slow Food Presidia, many of whom make cheese during the summer pasturing period with the milk from grazing;
  • in activities from Taste Workshops to the Biodiversity House, where herders will offer tastings of their cheeses and tell their stories, an insight into what a fruitful relationship between humans and animals can look like.