A herd of goats came to the city today to munch on nuisance vegetation on a steep slope in Polish Hill. The practice known as “eco grazing” is starting to catch on in the eastern states, where invasive species are taking over most of Pittsburgh‘s hillsides.
Tree Pittsburgh contracted with Erik Schwalm, a goat owner in Saxonburg, to begin an 18-month eradication and reclamation process. The guy in the photo above is Brian Knox, who came in from Maryland as a consultant and goat tender. He operates Eco-Goats, a business in Maryland that got a jump on what was no competition six years ago.
He still has little competition with about six other grazing businesses scattered among several states. There is so much unwanted vegetation in concentration that several goat grazing businesses could operate in western Pennsylvania without stepping on each other’s hooves.
From the information I have, there is nothing not to like about using goats to keep control of overgrowth. They have to eat anyway and they love almost everything we don‘t: poison ivy, thorny stuff, vines, knotweed. They do the job without chemicals and they aerate and fertilize the soil as they move over it without displacing it.
In addition, a farmer gets some extra money for taking a grazing gig and the public, especially the urban public who rarely get to see farm animals, gets to see how cute, goofy and fun goats are. The charm factor is not to be scoffed at.
The city was completely amenable to the grazing event and workshop at West Penn Park today and contributed fencing and manpower to prepare for it, Danielle Crumrine, executive director of Tree Pittsburgh, told Walkabout.
But to ensure this isn’t a one-time thing, we would all benefit if the city would establish a friendly process for people to put their goats to work on solving a big nuisance in the city, whether in a park, a public right of way or a neighborhood.
Look for story in today‘s Pittsburgh Press and tomorrow’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with photos by Darrell Sapp and a video by Nate Guidry on this web site.