Goats in the city are a rare sight to see. That’s why the group of 56 goats providing lawn care at Heritage Heights pull double duty, acting as entertainers for residents and other locals.
“It’s really brought people out,” said John Enns, a resident at Heritage Heights. “And not just from the neighbourhood here. During COVID this has been a great way to entertain and we’ve just been thoroughly amused by them. They’ve got such personality and character, so they bring us a lot of laughs, a little bit of joy in the downtime. It’s been good.”
Daryl Martin, CEO of South Country Village where Heritage Heights is located, believes in trying to make environmentally conscious decisions. He explained the resident’s building incorporated three different types of green thinking, including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels on the roof and a type of plumbing that will re-use grey water before sending it all to the city water treatment plant. That’s why the desire for an environmentally friendly lawn came naturally to Martin.
The idea to plant the field in front of Heritage Heights with a mixture of native grasses instead of the usual grass generally seen on residential lawns came from Roxanne Doerksen, owner and founder of T.R.A.D., a local worm company that specializes in regenerative agriculture. Doerksen’s mother lives in South Country Village and Doerksen “wanted her to have a beautiful place to live that honoured being good stewards of our earth.”
Doerksen says she chose the seed mix so the lawn would look natural to the area, with varied colours, textures and types.
“The mixture of grasses was very carefully chosen,” said Doerksen. “We have a mixture of warm weather grasses and cool weather grasses.”
Doerksen believes in “the beauty of a managed green space,” and still uses the principals of regenerative agriculture she is personally and professionally so interested in.
“We are going to try to use this (experiment) as a benchmark to show that civil and municipal reclamation using regenerative agriculture processes is realistic,” Doerksen explained.
The field in front of Heritage Heights was seeded in the spring of 2020. Along with a healthy variety of native grasses, noxious weeds came up in the mix as well. That’s when Doerksen came up with the idea to involve goats in the process of developing the lawn without the aid of synthetics or fertilizers. Doerksen got in touch with her long time friend, Heather Hart, of Hart Goat Ranch, which Heather runs along with her husband Rob and their four children.
“Roxanne contacted us to ask if she could use our goats as lawnmowers to come eat up all the grass and weeds,” Hart said. “Especially the weeds. And goats think weeds are candy, they love them.”
In the cycle of eating and re-fertilizing the ground they are gleaning, goats are especially useful in the process of ridding the lawn of the weeds, Hart explained. Their unique digestive system breaks down the seeds of the weeds so they will not re-seed once back on the ground.
There is always someone at the field helping to manage and move the goats around the gated area, and the Hart family has noticed many people enjoying them.
“We have lots of regulars that come every day,” Hart said. “We have people that just grab a Tim Hortons or a Starbucks and they just come and sit for hours. There’s people from the South Country Village that bring all their chairs down and come have a visit.”
One couple living on the front side of the building enjoys watching the goats from their balcony, as well as coming down each evening, as the goats become more active during the cooler evening hours.
“Not only are the goats cute, I think it’s a great idea that they’re here,” said the tenant. “All the grass that’s planted out front is native and having these guys come and just eat it and mow it down, I think that’s a wonderful idea rather than using chemicals. We get free entertainment plus we’re being friendly to the earth.”
Lauren Thomson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News