The Shepherd - Made in Karst

Award-winning video on our family's history

The documentary dedicated to the Karst, made by Terroir Films as part of the Made in Karst web series, won the Special Mention prize from the jury at the Moviemmece Cinefestival of the biodiversity of food and cultures.

The documentary talks about us, tells our story from the beginning and makes it clear what this profession is. The images are really beautiful and probably help understand where the passion we put in every day of the year comes from.

A small satisfaction that we decided to share because after all... yes... we're proud of it.

The transcript of the interview with Andrea Štoka.

We decided to reproduce what Andrea said in The Shepherd documentary.

Shepherding requires you to stop, relax and have a different pace from that of modern times.

My grandfather, my great-grandfather, all my wife's family, were all shepherds who used our land for pasture. We believe they had between two and three thousand sheep, grazing from Grado to Mount Nanos, up to Istria: they were transhumant shepherds. They had fixed areas where they stopped, milked, made cheese and sold wool in the period: this took place for centuries.

At the end of the Second World War, Trieste and Yugoslavia defined a border that could not be crossed easily. Having neighbouring pastures between Italy and Slovenia it was almost impossible to graze, my wife's grandfather left the whole flock of sheep below Mount Nanos and went back without them.

My wife's dad, Giuseppe - known as Pepi - always had this obsession with having a flock of sheep again, and after his professional career he went to recover a couple of sheep from where his dad had sold them. He brought them back and created a flock of 250 sheep that began to graze on Trieste's Karst heath. After my father-in-law passed away, the sheep, accustomed for 20 years to being alone with Pepi and his wife Sonia, found themselves in trouble, what with my wife and I having different voices... they said "What do you two want?" and then our problems began with going to pasture.

The sheep with its shepherd feels safe, feels protected. This is the difference: the shepherd takes care of protecting his flock and the sheep all trust him blindly, but when you change the voice or the behaviour they have trouble, they don't feel so protected and it takes some time because the sheep have to recognise you. Little by little, with a great deal of effort, you have to bring them closer and closer, take them out more often, even 2-3 times a day. That's how we did it, the sheep accepted us as their shepherd.

My wife and I decided to have a traditional farm, to do in exactly the traditional way what we were taught by her dad and which he in turn was taught by his grandfather. The sheep must be brought outside and not always left inside... it changes so much because the animal has the freedom to go and graze the best grass, to move and see the sunlight. On some farms the animals don't see the sun, they always stay inside. We like to stay outside in the open air and shepherd on the Karst and give nature something, because then nature gives us something back. The sheep eat the grass, we fertilise it, we clean the Karst land and next year we will have more beautiful and cleaner pastures.

Karst sheep's cheese is unique because the sheep graze on the Karst land, where if you remember there is the sea nearby, we don't know how many types of aromatic herbs, we have the mountains, the sea breeze, a particular climate and the sheep graze freely outside.

The experience of being a shepherd, of bringing the flock to pasture, is unique: you're on Karst land from where you can see the sea, the castle, all the nature and you stop there. You watch the sheep grazing, you have to stay there for 2-3 hours, respecting their rhythm. Reflect and look at nature... today we never have time to do this type of thing, while as a shepherd you're obliged to.

The Shepherd - Made in Karst from Massimiliano Milic on Vimeo.