Location: Haut de Seine (92)
Sector : Agriculture
Date of creation: association created in March 2018
Date of analysis: June 2020
Project maturity: viable
Eco-grazing: an ecological management of green spaces in urban areas
In 1998, Claudine Bréon created the Ferme du Piqueur, located in the park of Saint Cloud. Until 2018, this educational farm welcomed 30,000 people a year. The ecopastoralism activity started in 2010 with the city of Issy-les-Moulineaux. Thanks to numerous partnerships with municipalities, private groups and public institutions, the Ferme du Piqueur has become a pioneering player in ecopastoralism in Ile-de-France.
After attending the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Marie, her daughter who has always been involved in the farm’s activities, takes over the farm in 2018. The farm moves to Clamart, in the Maison Blanche park, where the Bergeries en Ville association is created.
Total surface: 6 ha in ecopastoralism, equivalent to 8.5 football pitches.
Livestock: 22 sheep, 4 goats (and chickens and rabbits at the educational farm)
Partner cities: Sèvres, Clamart, Meudon, Issy-les-Moulineaux, Puteaux, Boulogne Billancourt and Versailles.
All the land occupied by Bergeries en Ville in eco-pasture
Functional economy :
As a reminder, the functional economy is a concept that “privileges use over possession and tends to sell services related to products rather than the products themselves”. 
Bergeries en Ville offers an ecological mowing service for natural spaces in urban areas. Its herd of sheep and goats replaces the mechanical work of a gardener and his mechanical or chemical equipment (mower, brushcutter, leaf blower, weed killer …).
This service, which is offered to a varied range of customers (municipalities, companies, public institutions, etc.) is therefore a more environmentally friendly alternative since it uses less energy and emits less CO2 compared to tools that consume fuel or electricity. Moreover, since mowing by animals is not a clean cut, it promotes biodiversity within the plots being maintained.
To listen to Marie present the project, you can watch the video at the very bottom of the article !
Eco-grazing, or eco-pastoralism, or eco-mowing, is a method of ecological maintenance of natural spaces and territories by the grazing of herbivorous animals.  Eco-grazing is very well adapted to the urban environment because there are always green spaces that need to be maintained, especially hilly, sloping green spaces with trees, which are difficult to access by green space services.
Bergeries en Ville is made up of three people: Marie, president of the association and two employees, Julie and Claudine. They manage the year-round eco-grazing activity in 6 different municipalities.
Each town has a livestock dedicated to it. This is important from a social point of view since the inhabitants of the town can create an emotional bond with the animals.
Marie and Julie make a visit 2 to 3 times a week to each plot to check that the animals have fresh water, sufficient food and are in good health. The animals feed mainly on the plants on the fields. Hay can be added in winter to provide them with dry matter if necessary, but the quantities remain negligible. Water supply is provided by water points on the land.
The flock stays outside all year round, and huts are installed on each plot for the sheep to shelter. The development is carried out with respect for the sites, some of which are listed as heritage sites.
The livestock of Bergeries en Ville is composed of animals, often old, recovered from neighbouring farms. The older and calmer animals are perfectly adapted for activities with children or the elderly. The association keeps them until their natural death since there is no production activity (milk or meat).
The land maintained by the association belongs to municipalities, companies, research centres, residences, hospitals …
Sheep on a slope in the city center
The city of Meudon wanted to set up a partnership with Bergeries en Ville in 2012, following the association’s partnership with Issy les Moulineaux to maintain slopes in eco-grazing. The technical services of the town hall first targeted the sites to be maintained. They started with land that was difficult to access for human clearing. Then they widened the area to include land close to schools and on the town hall’s lawn in order to communicate with the inhabitants and educate them.
Today, 9 plots of land representing 15,000 m² are maintained by the association’s sheep, which allows them to be fed all year round.
There are several strong points that convinced the town hall to take up this ecopasture service:
Even if this service has a certain cost, the compensation through environmental and social benefits is more than enough according to the town hall. This is why the city council would like to further develop the partnership with Bergeries en Ville, by introducing sheep and goats in addition to sheep to maintain the woody plants. The town hall also wishes to develop a city-wide urban farm with sheep, goats, rabbits and chickens on different sites and, why not later on, beehives and vegetable gardens.
To discover the other projects set up by the town hall of Meudon to develop the circular economy within the city: : click here.
Marie takes care of the sheep several times a week on the different pastures.
Bergeries en Ville manages the Clamart Educational Farm and is developing a nomadic farm to run workshops in schools, hospitals, etc… The activities proposed for the children by the educational farm are very varied and depend on the time of the year: discovery of animal care, milk, wool, summer transhumance …
Offering activities in local schools reduces the carbon footprint and saves money for the schools as it avoids, for example, renting a bus to visit a farm further away.
The association also offers team building activities for companies. The manual workshops offered, such as gardening or building shelters, are a fun way to develop teamwork!
Finally, the association develops therapeutic micro-farms in retirement homes and hospitals. The animals can be a real therapy for handicapped children as well as the elderly. It can (re)open them up to the world, inspire them to spend time outside, and create social bonds.
A goat in the parc of a retirement home
Children discovering farm animals in the educational farm
Eco-grazing has many environmental benefits:
– Management of green spaces in an ecological way: the management of green spaces by animals means that phytosanitary products are no longer used. The sheep-goat association is also very beneficial since they do not eat the same plants, and therefore promote optimal shearing.
– Incentive to respect the environment: many of the lands now under eco-pasture were initially fallow or not used, and sometimes turned into wild dumps. The presence of animals is an incentive not to pollute because people are more careful.
-Natural mowing which favors the quality of the grass: The fact of not mowing the grass to the ground and the natural fertilization brought by the excrements allows to maintain the quality of the grass, even during periods of drought. The grass is thus always green, there is a regeneration of the soil and an increase in biodiversity (insects, earthworms…).
– The valorization of materials: The wool of the sheep is used for the educational workshops proposed to the children. The manure also has a very high valorization. Indeed, it is difficult to obtain it easily in urban areas. Thus, eco-grazing allows cities to source manure to use it as plant mulch or in composters.
– An ethical method of animal husbandry: the animals are outdoors all year round, have access to healthy, quality food and are “used” until their natural death. On the other hand, eco-grazing contributes to the preservation of local hardy species. Bergeries en Ville owns black sheep from Velay and Ouessant, breeds with black wool, which is no longer interesting for industrialists because it cannot be dyed.
– For customers : It is often a more economical solution than maintenance by green space agencies.
Eco-grazing is a work in synergy with gardeners, since it only involves mowing green spaces. It does not replace jobs, but is rather a support.
For the shepherd: As breeding is not a breeding for production purposes (milk or meat), the necessary contributions are not the same and the expenses of the shepherd are clearly reduced compared to a traditional breeding. Indeed, all the nutrients and minerals are naturally present in the grass.
In Ile-de-France, there are many companies or associations that offer eco-pasture services:
Supply has increased significantly in recent years due to the growing demand from cities and companies for this type of service. For example, the SNCF wants to use more and more eco-pasturage to weed its tracks. Thus, more and more green space management companies are offering eco-grazing services, due to a fad but do not have the appropriate skills to take care of animals. One must therefore be very careful when choosing a company offering eco-grazing and make sure that the animals’ well-being is well respected.
Eco-grazing in an urban environment is completely reproducible in any city, since a city always has many green spaces to maintain. However, care must be taken when choosing land so as not to put animals on bad land, especially polluted land.
On the other hand, one must be careful about new dangers that are not present in the countryside or in the mountains: dogs and other animals that could attack goats and sheep, animal thefts, over-feeding or poor feeding by visitors (which can be solved through pedagogy), cars and traffic jams (especially during the movement of animals on foot) …
The association wishes to create new partnerships with neighboring municipalities and institutions. It also aims to develop therapeutic micro-farms in FAM and EHPAD.
Copyright CirculAgronomie 2020