Shepherding is among the oldest occupations, beginning some 5,000 years ago in Asia Minor. In former times most shepherds were wandering shepherds moving from meadow to meadow through large areas. Today most of the remaining shepherds in Germany move their herds between fenced areas like cattle is moved between pastures at a farm, because economic pressure demands them to have several and bigger herds.
Kurt Hartmann, who is grazing his sheep about 80 km away from Frankfurt, is one of the last shepherds that keep their sheep in a sheepfold only at night, where they only sleep but do not graze, but wander the countryside grazing them with the help of sheep dogs by day. Thus Hartmann is one of the last shepherd doing their trade as it has been done for centuries.
Hartmann’s herd is used to preserve and restore the cultural landscape in conservation areas in the East of the State of Hesse, that were formed by wandering shepherds over centuries. For example some rare plants can only survive if dominant species are eaten by the sheep. To achieve this goal Hartmann is legally obligated to have goats in his herd, because these are able to eat higher growing bushes that sheep would not eat.Hartmann only became a professional shepherd after he retired from his job as a construction worker some years ago and decided to follow his passion. This to the extend that he can’t go on holidays with his wife, as someone has to take care of the herd.
If Hartmann will retire in some years there will be no one to continue his work. So Hartmann is both the rebirth and the end of a tradition from some hundred years ago.