Vt. Town Hires Livestock To Save Money, Go Green

Play associated audio

Cities and towns facing tight budgets have often neglected their cemeteries, an oversight that has left many of them in disrepair with broken fencing, crumbling gravestones, overgrown grass and persistent weeds.

But this summer, the Vermont town of Charlotte implemented a new strategy to both save money and keep grass in the town's graveyards under control, and it's a decidedly traditional way of doing it: Let goats and sheep do the work.

Stephen Brooks, who oversees two graveyards in town and smaller plots as chairman of the town's Cemetery Commission, admits it's all rather pastoral. He says it's also a financial necessity.

"Depending on the time of year, sheep and goats can chew a higher percentage or a lower percentage of what needs to be chewed down in direct proportion to how fast the grass is growing," Brooks says.

He figures these wandering animals — two goats and two sheep rented from a local farmer — have reduced the need to mow and fertilize, saving the town at least $2,000 in fuel costs this year.

Before power mowers, grazing goats and sheep were one method towns used to keep the grass trimmed. In England, some towns still leave the work to the livestock.

The move has proven popular here with those who say it's good for the environment. It's also been a hit with people like Charles Russell, who simply enjoy the aesthetic of sheep and goats grazing on a Vermont hillside. Russell is a farmer and seventh-generation Vermonter who also chairs Charlotte's Board of Selectmen.

"I have ancestors that are buried in various cemeteries," he says. "I just think it's a great idea."

Russell says nearly everyone likes the idea of using goats and sheep.

"There was just this one complaint from one person out of state who didn't like the fact that the sheep were urinating and defecating on the hallowed ground," he says.

But, he points out, lawn mowers and fertilizers aren't much cleaner.

"I'd say it's not very respectful to spray gasoline and spray fumes all over the gravestones either," he says.

Many of this town's earliest settlers have been buried for hundreds of years beneath slabs of granite. Now, they also lie beneath sheep and goats grazing on a scenic hillside in the Green Mountain State.

Copyright 2012 Vermont Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.vpr.net.

NPR

At 81, Disney's First African-American Animator Is Still In The Studio

First hired in the 1950s, Floyd Norman is still drawing. "Creative people don't hang it up," he says. "We don't walk away, we don't want to sit in a lawn chair. ... We want to continue to work. "
NPR

America's Real Mountain Of Cheese Is On Our Plates

To help dairy farmers hurt by a glut, the USDA said this week it'll buy $20 million worth of cheese and give it to food banks. But we eat so much of the stuff, that's hardly a drop in the bucket.
WAMU 88.5

Friday News Roundup - International

Italy searches for survivors after a devastating earthquake. Turkey escalates its role in the fight against ISIS. And Colombia and the FARC rebels sign a peace treaty ending a half-century-long guerrilla war. A panel of journalists joins guest host Derek McGinty for analysis of the week's top international news stories.

NPR

WhatsApp Will Start Sharing Data, Including Phone Numbers, With Facebook

It will also test new ways for businesses to communicate with users on the app. The privacy policy changes mark the long-expected move by Facebook to begin making money from the free app.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.