"Land/Use" exhibit examines pastoral lives through a contemporary lens
Although the Bay Area is a hotbed of environmentalism and the slow food movement, awareness of pastoralism is low. "Dory's reminding us of the history of the Basque sheepherders and the culture that brought shepherding to the American West," says Brittany Cole Bush of Star Creek Ranch.
In the East Bay hills, Basque and Peruvian shepherds, along with young shepherds like Bush, use sheep and goats to reduce fire hazard, target invasive plants, and encourage native grasses to grow. "These animals are helping to revitalize the lands, and at the same time they're producing a local grass-fed product that can be taken to market," explains Bush.
Adds García-Dory, "Maybe sheep are the new celebrity, or should be."
The Blueprint isn't finished yet. "The people [at the gathering] said they would like to keep meeting and working, and that was really very encouraging for us," says García-Dory. "We hope that the heritage of small farmers and shepherds can be a point of anchor for a new movement."
Such a hope, though ambitious, seems realistic, given their past work. García-Dory's World Gathering of Nomadic Peoples created an international, politically active community of shepherds that continues to work together. His Shepherds School has graduated 100 people. And Franceschini's Victory Gardens live on — 10 of the gardens planted from the original 18 still exist. The city of San Francisco, which discovered through the project that people needed to learn how to grow food again, continues to fund educational programs like Hayes Valley Farm.
Although their pieces have created a lasting impact, Franceschini insists that much of that impact is due to the people around her. "An important part of what Fernando and I do is using the community around you to organize and activate ideas. That's a message I'm always trying to tell my students. Your friends and your closest colleagues are your allies. I think sometimes you don't see the potential in front of your nose."
Other pieces on display include Franceschini's This is Not a Trojan Horse, as well as short films and other artifacts documenting the Victory Garden, Shepherds School, and World Gathering.
Through May 9
Hazel Wolf Gallery
David Brower Center
2150 Allston, Berk.