Greece Is

BY Greece Is

| Jan 26, 2017

Life

Starting a New Life as a Sheep Farmer in Greece

The inspiring true story of a young woman who left London to pursue a new, improbable dream

If a few years ago a fortune teller had told 31-year-old Marianna Nikologianni ­– a Statistics graduate from the Athens University of Economics and Business (AUEB) and actress with studies in Athens and London – that she would be working professionally as a sheep farmer she would have probably laughed.

And yet, in 2015 she abandoned the life she had made for herself in London and, together with her British husband, moved back to the motherland and her hometown Aitoliko, in Western Greece – to raise sheep.

Nikologianni moved to London at the age of 25 after graduating from University, which she was attending along with a drama school. She had enrolled at the London International School of Performing Arts, but after her parents’ family business back home was afflicted by the financial crisis and they could no longer assist her financially, she had to get a job as a waitress.

 “By day I would rehearse and improvise and by night I would be serving clients who were always keen on offering their opinion on Greece’s financial situation.”

She worked in the food service industry for approximately three years, during which time she met her future husband. By then, London life had began to take its toll on both of them. “The long distances, the rise in rents, working nonstop and longing for that occasional day-off or Christmas vacation made me reach my limits. That wasn’t a life!” Nikologianni began looking for other career options and started her own thing: a canteen called “Mana Greek” – preparing homemade Greek food ­– that she would operate alone inside open-air markets at the weekends.

Exhaustion, however, soon replaced her initial enthusiasm. It was then that her husband, who was already learning Greek, suggested they move to Greece. And so they did. With no concrete plan, but with the full support of her parents, they settled in Aitoliko, open to try anything new and get all the training required.

One visit at a family friend’s sheep farm, however, marked the end of any uncertainties. “We were thrilled. My husband loves animals and so over the months that followed we started paying regular visits to the farm.” Soon they realized that the everyday contact with nature was calming, and that the dairy farming sector had many prospects. So they began learning as much as they could on the subject, asking vets and other scientists for information.

They then went to Spain, where they visited contemporary facilities, and proceeded to buy 220 sheep of their own, with all the necessary certifications.

Their life now involves rising up early in the morning, milking, cleaning meticulously, but also filing: “We keep files on all the animals, making records of their genealogical tree etc. Despite the responsibility that comes with the job, we always have more time on our hands than we used to when we lived in London.”

Nikologianni even has time for her big love, the theater. “I teach drama to young adults twice weekly at the cultural club of Aitoliko,” she says with enthusiasm.

Nikologianni may have never imagined her life unfolding the way it did, but, as she says, “in life, you need to make many circles before you find what it is you need.”

*Originally published in Kathimerini