Peasant Pleasantry: The Urban Shepherds on the Fringe

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Peasant Pleasantry: The Urban Shepherds on the Fringe
Guillaume Leterrier and Julie-Lou Dubreuilh are peasants. They wouldn’t mind that title. It’s the definition that they draw on themselves – that a peasant is a person extracting resources from nature, close to his or her habitat, and a peasant, in turn, shapes their environment. That’s what they do. Guillaume and Julie-Lou are urban shepherds–bringing their flock of sheep into Paris and its suburbs. House pets and city pests make Paris home. Then there’s the waterfowl found in the Bois de Boulogne, the rabbits running freely at Les Invalides, urban foxes in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, exotic beasts at the Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes. Why not sheep at the Trocadéro? This is Julie-Lou Dubreiulh and Guillaume Leterrier. Photo copyright © Jean-Fabien Leclanche. The members of Les Bergers Urbains (The Urban Shepherds) are linked by their philosophy that the ecosystem of earth and animal is an important one. Guillaume Leterrier and Julie-Lou Dubreuilh are professional shepherds and lecturers. For more than three years, Guillaume has overseen The Urban Shepherds, developing the project and networking with partners in urban agriculture. His expertise stems from a decade-long career as a consultant for local associations and communities in the “solidarity economy.” Julie-Lou is a trained architect once specializing in urban agriculture infrastructures. These two shepherds literally take the show on the road, hitting the suburban sidewalks with the flock and connecting the different grazing areas on foot in order to let the sheep practice free grazing. The sheep are well managed in their home meadows of the 450ha Georges Valbon Park, but also manage themselves well while calmly strolling past blocks of apartment, cafes and shopfronts.  The flock makes a great photo op. Curious onlookers stop, laugh, even baa along with the flock. The Urban Shepherds is on the move now with the flock in the autumn of 2020. Photo credit © Julie Lou Dubreuilh Bergers Urbains / Fontenay-sous-Bois Having sheep at the heart of the Paris hasn’t been a regular event since the years before the bustling, open-air market of Les Halles was dismantled in 1971. On occasion, the herd has trotted into the city, but the shepherds usually guide the flock along routes in and around the apartment towers in Aubervilliers, Saint-Denis, La Courneuve, Garges-lès-Gonesse and the territory of Fontenay-sous-Bois, while allowing the sheep to graze on parkland grass and nibble on the scrubland surrounding these densely-packed apartment blocks. This is all part of the grazing services of Les Bergers Urbains. Based in Aubervilliers, these ‘shepherds on the border’ are a cooperative of professional urban planners, linked by the same values – to introduce rural farm ethics to urban territories. They believe we can make room for animals in our urban spaces and they do just that. Photo copyright © Guillaume Leterrier for Les Bergers Urbains

Lead photo credit : Photo copyright © Guillaume Leterrier for Les Bergers Urbains

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.


  • Suzanne Grant
    2020-10-03 04:51:36
    Suzanne Grant
    Thank you for your beautifully written article. So much attention is given these days to what could go wrong, it is important to acknowledge what goes well.


  • Lilianne Milgrom
    2020-10-01 08:27:55
    Lilianne Milgrom
    Delightful article! What a wonderful way to bring farm animals into an urban environment!