COON RAPIDS, MN—Peace Lutheran Church, May 11, 2022. Nonprofit We All Need Food and Water is renting goats from Midwest Goat Mitigation to eat the weeds in Peace Lutheran Church’s community garden.

The garden committee and the community gardeners at Peace Lutheran Church are fed up with the invasive, noxious, and sometimes just obnoxious weeds ravaging their 3.5-acre empty lot turned nature area and garden. One might say that the weeds are really getting their goats. Their solution? To hire some goats to eat these awful weeds!

This weekend, May 13-15, 2022, Midwest Goat Mitigation out of Ramsey, Minnesota will be bringing thirty goats to munch down noxious leafy spurge and spotted knapweed, persistent Siberian elm, and painful nettles and sandburs. To ensure safety, the goats will be supervised around the clock—even overnight—by community volunteers and scouts. Twelve-year-old Tenderfoot Scouts Will, Mason, and Ryan from Northern Star Council, Troop 639 were bursting with excitement about the opportunity to do some camping. After all, they haven’t camped since early February in below zero weather when they made their own quinzee snow shelter.

Why Goats?

Goats are an environmentally friendly way to remove invasive weeds without chemicals and with less labor than manual pulling or spraying weeds. Another benefit is that the goats’ digestive systems break down plant seed so there is little re-germination, unlike mowing where there is a lot of seed that is dropped to the ground. Prescribed grazing projects such as these manage unacceptable levels of weedy species to promote desirable plant growth, reduce erosion, increase water infiltration, and improve wildlife habitat. Other benefits of using goats are the fertilizer they leave behind and that they can help sow seeds with their hooves as they graze.

“We are a congregation of do-ers,” explained Senior Pastor Valerie Brown-Greenly, “our mission is to ‘Listen, Serve, and Live God’s Word’ and our Peace Garden embodies how we are serving the community by providing a respite on a busy corner, and a place to grow healthy food for many community members.

A life-long member of the church and We All Need Food and Water Executive Director Dawn Pape says her work at the garden barely counts as work because it’s so rewarding. For the last couple of years, the nonprofit has partnered with Peace in coordinating the community garden. “Our little Peace Community Garden helps solve big problems like food insecurity, obesity, pollinator decline, and even climate change,” says Pape. “This community garden also provides a place for people to gather, walk, or just enjoy watching the killdeer from a bench made by Eagle Scout Liam Lucore,” she added. This year We All Food and Water will help the garden committee add more pollinator-friendly plants after the weeds are greatly reduced so the beneficial plants can root.

The goats will graze for about three days within a fenced-in area. Goat owner Tom Sonenstahl commented, “These goats are professional. I don’t allow the public to pet them because when they’re socializing with people, they’re not doing their jobs.” The public is welcome to observe them from outside the fence. Sonenstahl noted that the goats themselves are his “marketing department” because they attract so much attention. “Goats are also great employees because they love their work, don’t take bathroom breaks, and work as a team section by section, efficiently eating their way through the plot of land,” offered Sonenstahl.

About The Partners Involved in this Project

As the name implies, We All Need Food and Water is an equity-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization rooted in environmental education and action. They host monthly family-friendly F.U.N Events (Future Unfolds Now) around the Metro. Although they educate about many issues that impact our food and water, they are focusing on climate issues since the climate is the driver of all other ecosystems—and every other human pursuit.

For over 60 years, Peace Lutheran Church has been an active, welcoming, and inclusive congregation. Peace is particularly known for uplifting and diverse music, understanding that humor and fun are central to what it means to be Christian, and their devotion to caring for others.

Midwest Goat Mitigation is a member of the Ecological Service Livestock Network, a group tailored to conservation, which uses livestock as a way to combat invasive species, manage land, and restore ecological functionality by reducing the use of pesticides and fossil fuels.