(Beyond Pesticides, May 27, 2014) Bridgehampton’s Vineyard Field on Long Island, NY is joining the ever expanding movement of communities that are enlisting goats to help manage their land without the use of harmful herbicides. The Friends of Long Pond Greenbelt hired goats to manage the 40-acre field, which stretches from Ligonee Creek in Sagg Harbor to Sagg Pond in Sagaponack. With complaints from residents of overcrowding weeds on hiking trails, but not wanting to resort to using toxic herbicides, which harm sensitive species that live in the preserve, the volunteers looked to goats on May 17 as an answer. Goats are a great tool for managing invasive plants, because they add fertilizer and aerate the soil while they eat and physically remove the unwanted vegetation, creating healthier soil conditions.
The Long Pond volunteers have come together to help pay for fencing, assist in its installation, and monitor the goats. The town board authorized the work and agreed to pay up to $3,500 for the project. Rhinebeck farmers Annlilita Larry Cihanek, who have 65 goats, rent out half a dozen of their Nubian dairy goats. In Bridgehampton, the goats will be fenced in on a few acres of the field at a time, where they will eat the unwanted vegetation.
The volunteers expect the goats to work their magic over the next three years, with the potential to be the long-term lawn care solution for this preserve. “We’re watching with real curiosity and anticipation. If it’s effective, absolutely, we’ll look at it in other contexts,” Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming told CBS News NY.
With the help of goats, the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt are hopeful they can manage the difficult to remove shrub, Elaeagnus umbellate, also known as Autumn Olive. Dai Dayton, president of the Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt, said that when her group first tackled the shrub, the property was completely overgrown. “There were 12-foot olive bushes…solid olives. It was a constant battle,” she said. Once the goats are finished grazing, native vegetation will be planted.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said to Newsday that, if the goats prove effective, the town might try using them for another job ””eating the vegetation that grows around the fragile headstones in the town’s historic cemeteries. This would not be the first time goats are being used to protect gravesites. As a matter of fact, just last summer the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C. employed over 100 goats to control the invasive species which threatened large mature trees, which can fall and damage headstones.
Goat grazing is sweeping the nation! Communities across the nation, from California, Colorado, and Chicago, to Carrboro, NC, have discovered that grazing goats is a great option for land that suffers from unwanted plants, low organic matter and soil compaction. If you are interested in learning more about how goats work to remove weeds and create a healthy, natural ecosystem, watch Beyond Pesticides board member and goat grazing pioneer Lani Malmberg’s talk from the 32nd National Pesticide Forum, Ecological Land Management with Goats. For more information on natural, non-chemical land management strategies see Beyond Pesticides’ Lawns and Landscapes and Invasive Weed Management pages.
Image Source: Green Goats
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides