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Local church enlists in help of goats to take care of invasive species troubles


Seventeen mother goats and nineteen kids are calling the backyard of The Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Southwest Rochester their home, just temporarily.

It's not the start of a petting zoo, it's all part of helping to make the area more sustainable, while combating invasive species.

These goats come from Goat Dispatch, a group from Faribault specializing in using goats to eat invasive brush and weeds.

For the next week and a half or so, these goats are posting up at the church, not for show, but to be hard at work.

"We've had trouble with buckthorn on our hillside for quite a few years," explained Pat Espeset, a church member and also the head of Gardening Angels, the church's garden group.

The goats are ready and raring to eat away any and all invasive species along the hillside.

"They're here to eat the buckthorn, they'll also eat our exotic honeysuckle that we have. And the most recent thing, that we've just starting having, is garlic mustard,” said Espeset.

Timing couldn't be more perfect.

"I'm really glad that they came early enough in the season to eat the garlic mustard before it goes to seed," added Espeset.

This type of practice is becoming more and more common, as it is environmentally-friendly.

“I think as people come and see what a difference it makes, that they may go back and decide to do it on their own property,” said Espeset.

Prior to using these furry friends, it was all about the sweat equity.

"Every year we'd have a group of people from the church do a work day when we'd come out and cut the buckthorn down, using saws, clippers, and chemical. And, it was a lot of work, we didn't really accomplish much,” explained Espeset of past ways of cleaning up invasive species.

And though using these goats costs $1950, there's one thing you certainly can't deny.

"You can't put a price on sustainability,” said Espeset.

The goats got to church last Thursday, and already have done major damage, in a good way.

"Originally, before they came, this honeysuckle came all the way down to the ground. And you can see now that they've eaten it up to a certain point, and they'll continue to eat it. They'll even stand up on their hind legs and knock it down so that they can get higher up," demonstrated Espeset.

Pat Espeset said this is a multi-phase project.

"We know that they won't be able to eat all of the buckthorn and kill it, because that takes repetition,” she explained.

The plan is to have the goats come back each year, until no invasive species remain on church grounds.

If you happen to want to visit the goats, look but don't touch, as they are behind an electric fence.

And let's not forget, they're not there to be pet. They are just doing their jobs. 

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