18 Nov

In a new twist on long-distance adoptations, sheep lovers can now select their pick of the flock over the Internet. a $154 contract entitles adoptive “parents” to a year’s supply of their chosen one’s merino wool and fresh cheese, as well as a photograph and adoptions papers.

The less sentimental can also choose to receive their adopted was created by a farmer’s cooperative in a medieval village in Abruzzo, a mountainous region in central Italy that has become one of the more depopulated parts of the country as traditional sheep farming dwindles and young people move to the cities.

People have tended sheep in this area for the last 2,000 years, and we want it to continue for another 2,000 – said Manuela Cozzi, who with her husband’s family tuns an organic sheep cooperative and an “agriturism” inn in Anversa degli Abruzzi – Sheep around here are in danger of becoming an endangered will help prevent that.

The cooperative farm Mrs. Cozzi runs whit her husband has 1,300 sheep. The local sheep farmes’ association has 40,000. In all, Abruzzo has 350,000 sheep; at its height, before World War I, the region boasted more than 3 milion.

Mrs. Cozzi, who sells her organic, hand-made, smoke ricotta and wool socks by fax and over the Internet, said she senther rae wool to her hometown, near Florence, to be spun or worked by local arisans because that cottage industry has all but died out in her area of abruzzo. Her flock is tended by three shepherds from Macedonia, immigrants whom she credits whit saving the farm since Italians are no longer willing to do the work. Her sheep feast on juniper and wild fennell, mint and oregano across vast, brambled pastures in the foothills of Mount Cocullo, part of Abruzzo National Park.

We feel a little isolated out here, which is why we wanted to use adoption to bring clients closer – she explained.

She said she encouraged new “parents” to visit their sheep and stay at her inn to learn how to make fresh ricotta by hand. Since she started the adoption campaign last month, Mrs. Cozzi said, more than 100 applications have been received, ranging from a Muslim butcher to a college student.