“You shouldn’t listen to everything that is said, you have to make it,” exemplifies Jeanne, a dairy sheep farmer in Jura.

While the number of agricultural establishments decreases each year, young people from very different backgrounds begin the adventure of a lifetime with the aim of undertaking a profession that respects people, animals and the Earth. Story telling.

The sun was setting in July 2022. I was on the road towards the capital Jura to meet Jeanne Grattard, a 35-year-old sheep farmer who had just settled north of the Dole. The meeting was held in his sheep shed, built among golden fields, while rain has been rare in recent weeks.

Jeanne settled alone on May 1, 2021. She currently has 31 organic dairy farms and 3 plots of land that she converts according to what they graze. She can count on the ten hectares she has acquired from the beginning. Jurassienne, who was completely aware of her surroundings because she had grown up there and walked or biked with her parents, was completely unfamiliar with the agricultural environment. She did what was called a “non-family” arrangement.

“My mother is a nurse and my father is a computer engineer. But we were very close to nature. I’m pretty attached to this place. Here, I know people and have a good mentality. My parents are supportive and I am also a bit surprised because I am more attached to the security profession” She explained to me, while throwing large forks of hay to the sheep lying directly below, thanks to a trap door. It was she who imagined her fleece scarf and designed it to facilitate her work, as well as to milk animals. “In order not to bend over, I made them go over there and onto this table. I am the one who heals everything.” she showed me, clearly pleased and proud of the progress made. Jeanne, cheerful and energetic, took the time to meet me and explain in detail her work and personal journey to get here. She herds sheep and makes fresh cheese using the resulting milk. Her cheese factory is not finished yet but she is installed in her house, the old building of her grandparents that she bought when they passed away.

We entered the barn after the breeder had begun to fill a large tank on the trailer. We will ship it later to the small children who have stayed on another location. A curious-looking sheep pulled the zipper of my shorts and was petted. Ottomane, Roméo, Ratafia, Rouflaquette, Rodéo, Lapine, Jolie, Hydrogène and even Nounours share space with a splendid white Patou named Névé. The guard bitch that watches over the Thônes and Marthod herds 24 hours a day, a breed from Haute-Savoie, is rustic and very loving. Jeanne chose it for its qualities, its easy character and its ability to taste it: “I milk in the winter, quiet between the quotes, and I graze them in the summer on one of my three plots. I love this breed”.

The first flock of sheep I met were calm and welcoming. The animals are currently dry, meaning they do not produce milk during this period. This is also why they are separated from their cubs, even if this moment is not something Jeanne likes, like the time of the slaughter of lambs. The males eventually become edible because they do not produce milk and become aggressive rams that are very good at taking in humans. “I find it annoying to sell or kill animals that I saw when I was born. They trust me, they follow me. This side is quite difficult. He may have made me unstable.” she admitted, while censoring: “Some people ask me this question with guilt and then they go to the supermarket to buy their well-packaged steak, which comes from my more intensive farming and is slaughtered in conditions of which we do not know. Not.”

The rhythm is actually softer in the summer. It is marked by clearing the park and inspecting the fence. But Jeanne still didn’t skip work hours. “It was quiet there. In May, I have a lot more work. I had to work 16 hours a day at that time. I counted what it did for the month and I told myself it was going to be hot.”, she threw at me, without her smile leaving her. The work of a rancher in organic and/or argumentative agriculture is a day job, devoted to a rigorous ideal.

When people ask me if I’m okay, I answer: I’m exhausted but I’m happy! Sometimes I cry because I’m tired, but I’m still happy! (laugh)

Jeanne, the sheep farmer

Jeanne, who considers herself a stay-at-home person, is always thinking to improve the work and living conditions of the sheep. When I asked her somewhat sarcastically while she was on vacation, she replied with a smile: “Uh… I’m on vacation right now. Then when it’s your animal, you always have a hard time leaving… But it’s fine too. “

Raising sheep was not Jeanne’s childhood dream. It came later, for many years. “The first time I fell in love with sheep was in Ireland on a school trip. There are sheep everywhere with small dry rock walls. The landscape is wonderful. It was in Connemara. Two women are doing wool and I love it” remember the rancher, who catapulted himself out with meticulous work, avoiding smog and bad weather, with artistic ingenuity. During a glassware training course, she filled out an orientation questionnaire. Then there is no appeal. “It gave me a description of the shepherding profession with the corresponding training. I told myself: “Ah, it’s not from father to son?” I didn’t think it was accessible”.

She then did some regional internships to dig into this slightly crazy idea and figure out which animal suits her best. She continued her training to acquire solid theoretical concepts in the Alpes de Haute-Provence, an area of ​​interest. There, she discovered dairy sheep with Brigitte Cordier, a local herder, who instilled in her a love of this difficult but fascinating profession.

I’m a bit demanding on my way to work, I want to understand why I’m doing this. It’s a profession where you’re constantly evolving. You will always have to learn about animals, soil, plants, ruminants…

Jeanne, the sheep farmer

Its installation was financially supported by many partners. “I have received start-up aid from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the State, the BFC Region and the Jura Ministry. I can also get zero interest loans from Initiative Dole Territoires and Cigales. And of course, I got help from many relatives in the field work, former owners and breeders for advice on livestock and others. With the breeders around, we support each other more than we compete.”she lists, while recalling that nothing would have happened without these various levers.

Indeed, being a sheep herder was not a smooth river for Jeanne, for a number of reasons. Firstly because she is not a farmer’s daughter, but also because she is a young woman working alone. The obstacles are many. “You get the land that other people want. Also you are a woman, you settle like a sheep, while here it is cows. You are not a farmer’s daughter… Yes, I felt it even when I didn’t pay too much attention to it.”Jeanne explained.

Theft is common in agriculture, equipment, and sometimes animals. More rarely, but it does exist, farmers are degraded and their livestock may even be victims of abuse. Stray dogs, wolves, and lynx can also deal damage. “I like to take precautions with cameras, dogs…” confirmed Jeanne, who is considering buying a second Patou to bolster her oversight of petty allegations.

What advice can she give to non-farmers who want to start, especially if they are women? “We don’t get to hear everything that is said. If they feel, you have to make it. It requires a lot of knowledge, it is not easy to have a breed that you have to train and do not hesitate to consult others. There will always be someone stepping on you, hindering you. You have to take the lead to make sure it doesn’t get to you.” Jeanne concluded, still smiling.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.