Hi! My name is Lucia. Originally from the south of Spain, but I have been living in the north of Europe for the last five years.
My mom has an organic shop and from her I learnt about the importance of making ethical and sustainable choices when it comes to food consumption. Always being concerned about the environment situation I decided to study a bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences. All this time I was very curious about growing my own food and the food sector I decided to join an organic farming school in Denmark.
Joining farming school is one of the best decisions I have taken in my life. Farming allows me to work on two of my main interests: the environment and food production. And furthermore, it makes me very happy. Soon I would like to open my own sheep farm but my knowledge about business is not so wide and that was the main reason that led me to join Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. Matias (HE) has great entrepreneurial experience in rural areas, and from him I believe I can learn a lot. Nevertheless, he does not have deep knowledge about sheep management so we can help each other very much.
Another of the difficulties we share, and which results in a very beneficial mutual collaboration, is that we are both young people that didn’t grow up in the village where we are implementing our projects. Entrepreneurship linked to livestock farming in rural areas is difficult, but the addition of being young and not being born in the village makes it even more complicated. That is why, in our wish to generate this project, we decided to analyze the local and economic context of the livestock sector linked to young newcomers to the villages and, more specifically, extensive sheep farming.
So, Me and Matias (HE), we started our analysis of the local and economic context of livestock farming spending the first couple of weeks helping Álvaro from “Apisquillos” doing a transhumance. Álvaro belongs to a collective founded in 2000 that has a flock of 431 sheep in “Puebla de la Sierra” near Madrid. Twice a year, in spring and autumn he walks with the sheep more than 100km from the mountain to the warmer grassland in “La casa de campo” in Madrid. For doing this he uses old paths created for this purpose, but due to the fact that not so many people have sheep anymore, the wild forest gain terrain and Alvaro complaints that none takes care of the pathways.
Every morning we wake up at 8:00 and with our backpacks full we walk with the sheep and the dogs a bit closer to Madrid. It is incredibly peaceful to walk with them. They are very silent and if it would not be for the bells, you would doubt to be followed by 400 sheep. Some days we find people on the way that offer food to us or a warm place or a coffee. As the days pass, they get colder and colder and sunny days feel like glory.
The herd is a high contribution to the economy of the collective where he lives, and he depends highly on the European subsidies. Alvaro talks about how time demanding is to manage a herd alone, he wants to find someone else that takes over the flock during the next months, but his budget is so tight that he is having a hard time figuring out if it is possible.
Every night, we install movable electric fences where we leave the sheep. Three Mastin dogs guard and protect the sheep from the wolves, but Alvaro is not relaxed. Every day he hears from the neighbors’ stories about attacks or sightings, and I can feel how Alvaro is relieved when in the morning he sees the sheep continue there.
At the same time, we had the pleasure of sharing Alvaro’s house with a group of artists that came to rehearse. They are working on a play about the lost value of wool. Alvaro tells us that none wants to buy wool now a days, he said that people in the past used it for making mattresses, fillings for clothes and other products, but now the wool is just seen as a residue, and it has no value anymore.
Together with the group of artists we have been washing, carding, spinning, coulouring the wool… using old methods, it was extremely fun and interesting to learn. And extremely sad to face this reality. Good quality raw materials should never be a waste.
On this project Matias (HE) and the association “La Bardal” want to be part of the change. They work on a rural context, in a small village in Cantabria. One of the main interests of the association is to give the countryside the importance it deserves. For this they work on repopulating villages, preserving traditions, taking care of the environment and overall bringing closer a conversation with the authorities and the old people in the town. The new project they want to impulse, where I am collaborating, is the acquisition of a “Carranzana” sheep flock, which is also an endangered species.