Paris is famous for its wide boulevards lined with terraced cafés, not for rolling hills and a rural idyll. However, that hasn’t stopped one urban farming project from bringing the countryside into the city centre. Taking place once a month, a herd of sheep is ushered across busy pedestrian crossings, to trot past bustling street-side bistros before reaching the park where they can graze. It’s a surprising sight to say the least, and can involve as many as 60 ewes. The project is run by Urban Shepherds cooperative – a non-profit organisation promoting the grazing of sheep as a sustainable solution for managing landscaping.
It’s widely known that spending time outdoors in nature can help reduce stress, but not everyone can leave the city easily. So Urban Shepherds are bringing the countryside to the city through their urban farming project. ‘You can really feel that this helps [the people living on] the housing estates to unwind, for the town to de-stress,’ says Julie-Lou Dubreuilh, co-founder of the Urban Shepherds cooperative, as reported in The Local. ‘Each time it’s done in good humour and they’re very well-behaved.’
The sight of sheep offers a welcome relief from the tower blocks and chaotic traffic that are typical of Paris, allowing passers-by to be in a calmer place, at least in their minds.
The sheep’s monthly walks are crucial to supporting the project’s chemical-free farming methods, which result in better health for the sheep. ‘We’re based at the La Courneuve park which is about 400 hectares,’ Dubreuilh told AFP. ‘There’s lots to eat there, but when you want to do livestock farming without using antibiotics or worming medication, you have to give the sheep the possibility to care for themselves,’ she explained. Certain plants can be eaten by sheep for their medical properties. ‘Often that means plants that grow by paths and wasteland, and you can often find those in town.’ One example is the mugwort plant which is found in the city of Paris and is ‘perfect for de-worming’.
Chemical products have been banned from Paris’s gardens for a decade, but the practice has not spread outside the capital, making Paris one of the cleanest places in the country to cultivate produce.
As well as sheep farming, the production of honey has become very popular in the city. With its high levels of traffic and pollution, most people think that honey produced in the city cannot be as pure as that in the countryside. But in France, a rising trend is proving this misconception wrong – Parisian honey is actually the purest in France.