Article by Sydney Gaeth | Photography by John Morin | Owl Staff
Randy, a 250-lb white Saanen goat, contentedly chomps through a pile of weeds in an overgrown field. There are many others like him who spend their days eating to their hearts’ content and clearing field after field of dense brush.
This lovable, eating machine calls Stratford Farm in Whiteford, Maryland home. Randy and other goats reduce the carbon emissions and chemical usage of typical weed clearing practices by putting their teeth and large appetites to use.
Owner Dawn Yurkiewicz has nearly 25 goats that travel Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to clear areas that humans cannot clear manually. Stratford Farm isn’t the only company implementing this new landscaping method.
Rent-A-Goat, “cost-effective, eco-friendly, and super cute weed removal,” operates in California, Colorado, Maine, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, and some parts of Canada.
Most people use weed whackers, lawn mowers, and countless toxic chemicals to manicure their lawns. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one hour of lawnmower use expels the same amount of pollutants as driving a car 200 miles.
The Ecological Society of America mentions that outdoor chemical use reduces biodiversity and prevents foliage from coming back healthily. So, instead of a diverse ecosystem, species disappear completely. The extinction of one species means no food for another – it’s a deadly cycle.
Additional eco-friendly methods of weed removal include hand-powered reel mowers, electric mowers, and slow growing or dwarf grasses.
Unfortunately, chemicals and machinery remain the standard; however, thanks to goat-raising pioneers like Yurkiewicz and Rent-A-Goat, the landscaping norm is changing.
Goats also provide natural fertilizer for the area they are clearing. According to gardeningknowhow.com, their manure is especially beneficial to farmers because “it [manure] doesn’t typically attract insects or burn plants as does manure from cows or horses.”
“The goats get the large part of the area cleared, but they don’t eat everything,” says Yurkiewicz. For one, they don’t eat debris such as tin or aluminum cans. It isn’t their preferred consistency and could damage their stomachs. Goats usually prefer to eat weeds and small shrubs over grass.
So, instead of a heavy, gas guzzling, carbon-emitting lawnmower, consider hiring a group of goats to handle your landscaping needs.