Meet One of Italy's Few Women Cow Herders

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Why you should care

Because depending on where your desk is, the ass end of a cow might look pretty good right about now.

Roberta Colombero’s life is one of hardship and dedication. Tending to a herd of cows using traditional methods means hard work, no fixed times and having to deal with whatever nature throws at you. Every summer the cows she and her mother and father own need to be moved to the mountains, the so-called transumanza. Then there’s the cheese they make and sell in a small shop year-round — cheese Roberta home-delivers.

What’s striking about Colombero, though, is not only the deep relationship she has with her animals — she milked her first cow when she was 3, and by the time she was 17, she was winning cow-milking contests — but also the fact that such a young girl might have chosen this way of life for herself. However, over the past few years in Italy, there’s been an increase in the number of young people from diverse paths of life who have made it back to the countryside.

“People from the city seem to have realized that they might own lots of things, but there is something else that is missing,” says Colombero, whose focus in her high school studies was everything and anything agricultural. ”Nowadays, it is important to understand that animals and nature are the ones that give us life.”

But while many of these young Italians flock to the countryside to tend to crops and orchards, they usually stay away from the mountains. Many alpine locations in Italy are by now abandoned, a phenomenon that began decades ago when people moved away to work in factories. Colombero’s wish, though, is to see more young people like her up in the Alps, taking care of the mountains — which, as far as her eye can see, is all she ever wants to do. A fact that should make the cows, and Colombero’s family, as happy as cows and family can be.

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